Area Students Take Part in FFA Field Day

Ag/Outdoor, News

July 13th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

More than 40 area FFA students gathered at Monsanto Company’s Atlantic Research Farm last Thursday for a hands-on learning opportunity. This is the second year a handful of the company’s employees have invited students to enjoy the facility as a 50-acre classroom. “The only bad thing about the growing season is that it takes place while we’re out of school, so it’s great to be able to get together and experience this part of the year as a class,” said Kevin Blair, Griswold FFA Advisor. “A lot of what we do with FFA is based on horticulture in the present rather than in production so it’s great that the kids can still have opportunities to learn about and grasp those concepts.” Griswold is one of eight FFA chapters who took part in the 2nd annual field day. Students and advisers from the Adair-Casey, Corning, Creston, Guthrie Center, Harlan, IKM-Manning and Shenandoah FFA chapters also participated. To kick things off, students attended sessions addressing some of the main factors of crop productivity: weeds, insects, crop development and soils. They examined actual samples of common crop-stressing species, learned about their life-cycles, how to identify them and methods used for preventing or removing them. Students also focused on the attributes that contribute to plant health and productivity. Following the sessions, students toured the Atlantic facility to learn how the company develops plants to produce higher yields and tests the effects of variable cropping systems and environmental conditions. The hands-on lessons offer students a chance to actively engage with their studies and provide a real-world view as chapters prepare for agronomy and soil judging contests later this year. “This was a great hands-on experience. A volunteer who helps with the Iowa soil judging contests spoke to them about plant development and showed them how they could actually see the nodes on the corn plant itself,” Blair said. “Something like this sparks their interest. I can talk about these concepts, but if they see people who work with them every day, they see a real career opportunity for a job beyond being in the office every day.” Bill Backhaus, a Monsanto territory sales manager who helped organize the event, said this time the team tried to tighten its focus on practical and hands-on activities with the aim of developing students’ interest in agriculture and encouraging them to ultimately pursue ag careers. “These kids come from a variety of backgrounds and knowledge levels, but most of them are really focused. Their minds are like sponges, ready to be filled with information,” Backhaus said. “The experiences they have now will help them find where their passion is and what they want to do.” (Monsanto Press Release)