INDEPENDENCE, Iowa —Independence High School students started the year with a new school and a new agriculture education program.

The new FFA officer team said things are going well and they couldn't be happier to be taking agriculture courses. Independence FFA hosted a Harvest Celebration Oct. 19 to thank the community for its support. Students also had the chance to watch Indee Ag Ed volunteers harvest their corn plot.

The nonprofit organization rents 50 acres of land from the school. Supporters donate the inputs, labor and machinery, and corn sale profits pay for the ag program.

"This will be a really good opportunity for high school students," said senior Molly Gustafson, who is chapter reporter. "There are a lot of chances to get to know people, make connections and do internships."

Mark Thompson, a sophomore and FFA vice president, plans to take all the agriculture education classes he can. For his supervised agricultural experience he is working for two older farmers.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Hope Staker is a sophomore and chapter sentinel.

"I didn't really know anything about agriculture, but my classes and FFA have really sparked my interest," Staker said.

Cecily Corkery, a junior and FFA treasurer, will take animal science next semester.

"I used to live on a farm when I was younger and we had a lot of animals, and I loved it then and I love it now," she said.

Chapter president Stephanie McMillan has relatives who farm and her father is a veterinarian. Her interest in agriculture really grew when she participated in the World Food Prize last year.

"I realized what a big role Iowa plays in agriculture and I also saw how many opportunities there are for women in agriculture," McMillan said. "I came back and wanted to apply to be an FFA officer and get involved."

McMillan is a little sad that the program is just starting this year.

"But as a senior I want to help get it off on the right foot," she said.

McMillan's SAE is working with Pets and Plants, a business she and Gustafson started when they were in middle school. They care for people's pets and plants when they are on vacation

"We have 30 clients and we built our business through word of mouth," she said. "It's been very successful."

Brittney Fuller, a senior and chapter secretary, is excited about agriculture education coming to Independence.

"FFA is a natural next step in developing skills and knowledge of the agriculture business," Fuller said. "I'm learning more and classes are going well."

Just 12 weeks into the school year, the chapter is completing its fruit sale. Six FFA members and instructor/advisor Rachael Emig attended the National FFA Convention last week. The chapter hosted Brandon Costello, a National FFA officer, in September.

"He gave the first presentation in our new auditorium, and he put on workshops in every ag class," Gustafson said. "He talked about how to be prepared for all kinds of situations. He was good at getting everyone involved."

At the Harvest Celebration, Mark Engelbrecht, of Farm Credit Services of America in Manchester, presented FFA members with $2,000. They will use the money for a greenhouse that will built south of the high school.

Emig said her students have a strong interest in connecting youth with food production, and the school's garden and greenhouse will be a great way to do that.

Out in the corn field, Matt Frye was combining corn, and his brother Jay was driving the grain cart. Tanner Dale was riding along. Dale works for the Fryes for his SAE.

"It's good to see FFA back and to see the kids taking an interest in ag," said Jay Frye, who raises corn and hogs.

Thank you to the 2013 plot donors

Many businesses and individuals donated to the 2013 Indee Ag Ed FFA Plot. Jim and Lisa Duffy provided chopping and chiseling; Julie Osborne, field cultivating; and Jerry Franz, planting.

Marcus Norman and IAS donated 12 bags of DeKalb seed and Brett Vogel donated 12 bags of Pioneer seed.

Starter fertilizer was donated by CPS and Tony Rouse. Chemicals were from Monsanto, CPS and Rouse. Spraying was donated by Pine Creek Custom and Rouse. Pre-plant nitrogen was donated by J.J. Krob and Lee Cherry. Side-dress nitrogen was donated by Indy Crop Care and Mark Miller. Scott Frye donated side-dress nitrogen. Jim, Sue, Matt, Mellissa and Jay Frye combined the plot. Hauling and drying was donated by IAS and the John Zieser. Crop insurance was donated by Smith D & L and Denny Donnelly.