Monday, February 12, 2018
Grants support next generation of ag professionals and education on the importance of stewardship.
Sauk Valley Community College agricultural economic students review their notes last week on the Dixon campus. Through an Illinois Farm Bureau Nutrient Stewardship Grant, Lee County Farm Bureau and the college are partnering on mobile soil testing technology. (Photos by Ryan Anderson, Sauk Valley Community College)
By Kay Shipman
Illinois Farm Bureau nutrient stewardship grants change perspectives and practices – more broadly than originally anticipated.
Through an IFB nutrient stewardship grant, Lee County Farm Bureau and Sauk Valley Community College (SVCC) are partnering on mobile soil testing technology for local farm fields and the college’s new research fields. This year’s farming season hasn’t started, but that hasn’t prevented some SVCC students from exploring the technology.
Ryan Anderson, SVCC’s ag professor, described three ag students who are testing soil samples for nutrients. The students pulled the samples from fields they are considering renting to farm, Anderson added. Such exposure to precision agriculture and technology is influencing the future farmers, crop advisers, soil scientists and agronomists he instructs, according to Anderson.
“Nutrient management is part of their daily routine,” Anderson said of his ag students. “It (the Farm Bureau partnership) has really opened doors for students and the community to look at new trends in agriculture.”
Lee County Farm Bureau Manager Danelle Burrs described the grant partnership as a way to support SVCC’s new ag program and accelerate new technology that will benefit area farmers as well as the students. “We hope the farmers view the college as a trusted resource as they gain information about their fields through testing,” Burrs said.
The partnership already sparked additional benefits. Farm Bureau members in Lee and Whiteside counties were offered a farmer welding class through the college. Lee County Farm Bureau also provided SVCC with some ag speakers for a public event. Burrs connects the closer relationship and expanded opportunities to the stewardship grant.
Farmer education remains a key goal of IFB’s third round of nutrient stewardship grants, while stronger relationships between county Farm Bureaus and community partners ranks second, according to Lyndsey Ramsey, IFB associate director of environmental and natural resources.
“With community college partnerships, we can do both,” Ramsey said. “We reach future farmers and foster synergies with the colleges.”
In some cases, a county Farm Bureau and community college have worked together for years but are branching into nutrient issues through a stewardship grant. Such is the case with Pike County Farm Bureau and John Wood Community College.
In the spring, John Wood students will help test water samples as part of a grant project, said Blake Roderick, Pike County Farm Bureau executive director. Roderick explained the goal is to discuss nutrients and broader issues of water quality with students.
Stewardship grants also expanded interaction and benefits for farmers and community college students in other counties. Kaskaskia College instructors and students are involved with many aspects of Clinton County Farm Bureau’s stewardship grant projects, said Gary Kennedy, county Farm Bureau manager. Students learn and practice crop scouting, soil testing, tissue testing and other skills in farmers’ fields, benefitting both farmers and students, Kennedy explained.
“The farmers look at it (the partnership) as training the next group of farm experts,” Kennedy said.
County Farm Bureau and community college stewardship grant partners include Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau and Highland Community College in Freeport, and Stark County Farm Bureau and Black Hawk College East Campus, near Galva, according to Ramsey.
Given the variety of stewardship grant projects, students are experiencing different nutrient challenges and solutions, Ramsey pointed out. “Each project is different, so students are exposed to different ways to address this issue,” she said. “They are exposed to nutrient management and conservation issues as part of a farm.”
Content for this story has been provided by FarmWeekNow.com.
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