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WIU ag students, from l-r, Brian Dallam, Cassie Kelly, Lindsay McQueen, Jake Baylor, and Aubrey Krug spent part of their holiday break in Louisiana helping farmers rebuild after Katrina's wrath.
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WIU ag students Aubrey Krug, middle, and Cassie Kelly, right, work with Larissa Rice, a Kansas State student, left, to rebuild a section of fence damaged by last year's hurricane.
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Ag Students Help Farmers Affected by Hurricane Katrina

January 22, 2007

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MACOMB, IL -- While many college students across the U.S. were enjoying sleeping in and relaxing during their holiday break, five Western Illinois University agriculture students went straight from the rigors of finals week directly to working on hurricane-ravaged farms in the Gulf Coast.

Seniors Aubrey Krug (Davenport, IA); Brian Dallam (Amboy, IL); Cassandra Kelly (Dwight, IL); Lindsay McQueen (Franklin, IL); and Jacob Baylor (Cuba, IL), all members of Western's chapter of Alpha Zeta, a national professional agriculture honor society, worked in Louisiana Dec. 17-22 as part of an Alpha Zeta national service project.

The five Western students were among only eight college students from Illinois -- two from Southern Illinois and one from the University of Illinois -- participating in the project with students from such colleges and universities as California State University-Chico, Cornell, North Carolina and Oklahoma State. Thirty Alpha Zeta members converged on Vermillion Parish in south central Louisiana for the five-day volunteer project, which consisted of mending fences, rebuilding barns and clearing debris.

"I participated in last year's project after Hurricane Rita and I knew I wanted to go back to help restore the lives of the people affected by Katrina," McQueen said. "When you get an opportunity to help not only one person, but an entire community, you can't allow it to pass by."

McQueen's group assisted the Bussard family, and said that the education they received just by listening to the family members was compensation enough for the work.

"I could not have asked for a better way to start my break. We all worked together to get something accomplished for these farmers and families that were affected," she added. "You can see the stress this has caused them, and how they have had to change their way of life to make ends meet. A lot of fields that were once rice or crawfish are now being used for herding land for cattle due to the soil being polluted by the salt water."

Dallam said he saw the trip as a chance to begin to understand how the hurricanes affected that region and for his group to make a difference in the lives of others.

"It was an eye-opening experience because no matter how many pictures that I saw on the news after the hurricane, it was completely different to be driving down the road and look out in the middle of a field and see a home in the middle because that's where it landed," he explained. "I came home with a new sense of respect for the people of Louisiana who have overcome so much since Hurricane Katrina."

Kelly said the experience was "amazing."

"I had no idea that the damage would still be that great," she said. "It was a terrific feeling to actually be able to held someone get his farm back in operation. So many farmers are working second jobs trying to make up for the loss of their ranches, and just didn't have the time to work on their own farm."

Krug, who also participated in last year's Alpha Zeta's service trip to Hurricane Rita-ravaged areas, said this year's work experience was as fulfulling as the 2005 trip.

"Meeting all of the new people was a fantastic part of the experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat," she said. "It was inspiring to talk to the farmers and listen to them talk about making it through the hurricanes and just taking it one day at a time."

Alpha Zeta is the oldest national professional honor scoeity for men and women in agriculture and natural resources. Founded in 1897 at the Ohio State University, Alpha Zeta has grown to 73 chapters and initiates more than 1,000 of the best students in agriculture annually at universities nationwide. The organization is dedicated to recognizing scholarship, developing leadership, building character and fostering fellowship.

For more informaton about Western's Alpha Zeta chapter, call the agriculture department office at 309/298-1080 or visit

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing