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Ord in the Grand Island Independent Paper

Cornfield is classroom for Ord FFA

By Amy Schweitzer | Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 2:00 am

Cale Svoboda, an Ord freshman, carries an armful of corn that was missed by the combine Wednesday. As moisture tests were run to determine if they could continue with harvest, freshman members walked the field to get any leftover corn. (Independent/Amy Schweitzer)

ORD — When the Ord FFA members learn about corn pests and diseases, they don’t have to rely on a picture in a book.

They have more than 80 acres of the crop they planted and cared for that provides a hands-on example.

“When the kids find a worm in the ground, they are much more excited about it than when they find the worm in the picture in a book,” Cory Beran, one of Ord’s FFA advisers, said with a laugh.

For three years the FFA, which currently has about 50 members, has been farming about 30 acres of dryland north of the Green Plains ethanol plant near Ord and this year the school added about 55 acres of irrigated land next to it.

The dryland field, which has been rotated in corn and soybeans, came from the Ord Economic Development Board and the irrigated field is owned by the ethanol plant.

FFA students have done nearly all the work on the crop, Beran said.

They planted it using seed donated from local seed dealers and equipment from local implement dealers. Two FFA seniors spent the summer irrigating the one field and in exchange will be awarded a scholarship toward the college of their choice. A custom fertilizer applicator takes care of those applications.

Then on Wednesday they were ready to pick the corn, again using donated equipment, filling in with local farmers’ equipment when it isn’t available from the dealers.

“We get a lot of support from the community,” Beran said, adding that it’s not just the use of the land and donations from the seed and implement dealers. The whole community of parents, local farmers and business people are on board to help.

“The kids are what really make it work because they come out here and do the work. They really are the ones that make this relationship work for us,” he said.

Besides the actual farming experience, the fields have been used to teach the kids about various insects and fungi that can attack corn, as well as estimating yields.

“Not all of them get to necessarily run the equipment, but they all come out here to look at the corn and have done field tests,” Beran said.

Freshman Cade Svoboda remembered the day they had a scavenger hunt to find items in the corn such as corn worms and smut, a type of corn fungus.

“We had to find different diseases in the corn,” he said, adding that they also learned about different parts of the corn plant.

“It is so hands-on, especially for those who have never worked in a real cornfield,” Beran said. “You would think that living in Ord and rural Nebraska they would all know what it’s like, but some of the kids live in town. Maybe their parents don’t farm, but they like farming. And they not only learn agronomy and how to market, but they learn what hard work is.”

“It’s real life, not just sitting in a classroom learning about it,” Svoboda, whose parents ranch, said, adding that being out in the field is more fun than in school.

Senior Blake Bandur, who helped run the combine Wednesday, said the project was “pretty cool.”

“It’s not often you get to do such hands-on learning,” Bandur said. Although he has been helping in the fields on his family farm since he was 12 or 13, he said he has learned from the project. “You always learn something new, but especially for the younger kids who don’t experience (farming) every day.”

Freshman Dalton Coufal, whose parents farm, said he likes harvest time the best because they get to find out how well the fields they had been watching all year did.

Beran said the yield counter in the combine estimated anywhere from 230 bushels per acre to 20 or 30 bushels per acre in the area that hadn’t gotten much rain.

With the corn being sold to the ethanol plant right next to the field, Beran said it gives them a chance to see the whole process.

“They see the seed go in the ground, then to it being harvested and all the corn goes to the ethanol plant so they get to see it go through the plant and turn into ethanol and distiller’s grain,” he said. “It’s kind of a full circle effect that they get to see.”

Beran said the profit from the grain sales goes to pay for FFA contests or conventions that the club wants to attend.

Currently, Dave Ference, the head FFA adviser, is with five members at the National FFA Conference in Indiana. Two more members will join them after the football playoff game Thursday.

“We get to send our kids to any type of contest they want,” Beran said, adding they have attended many events, including range judging, livestock judging, state contests and national conventions. “It’s all about getting that opportunity for those kids to be able to go out and participate.”

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