Windsor FFA students learn farming in test plot
For the Fence Post
WINDSOR – Megan Vickers said she didn’t mind crawling out of bed to go to work at 7 a.m. this summer, which is a lot to say for a 16-year-old. And it doesn’t bother her that on some school days, she has to rise and shine an hour earlier to get to her farm job that involves changing irrigation in a corn field.
Vickers, a junior at Windsor High School, is one of eight Windsor FFA students whose Supervised Agriculture Education program is in the corn field east of town, under the shadow of the Kodak of Colorado facility.
“I have family who farms in the Eaton area, so I’ve been around farming. But this is the first time I’ve had to get out here and do the whole nine yards,” Vickers said. That started toward the end of her sophomore year when she participated in planting of the 51 acres of a research test plot that has 42 varieties of picking corn.
Since planting, Vickers, along with Andrew Bennett, 17, a senior, and six other school mates have spent the summer months irrigating, and later this year, they will help harvest the corn. None of them live on a farm.
For their efforts, each of the eight will get paid $500, plus a bonus once the corn is harvested.
The program is a joint effort between the Windsor High School FFA Chapter and the Thompson Valley Young Farmers, a chapter of the Colorado Young Farmers Educational Association. Windsor dropped its vocational education program in 1985, but it was re-instituted in 2005 at the urging of school district farmers and others. Since then, it has grown to 150 students and two teachers, Nathan Clark and Melinda Fury.
Randy Schwalm of Windsor is an adviser to both groups.
Schwalm said the program is now in its third year. Two years prior to that, the test plot was an empty field that was growing weeds which resulted in problems for Martin Lind, who owned the land. So a deal was worked out between Lind, the town of Windsor, and the two educational groups.
“He (Lind) gave us the field rent-free. Thompson Valley provides all the equipment needed to grow the plot and the FFA provides the irrigators and other labor that is needed. It’s worked out well for everyone involved,” Schwalm said. The program also is assisted by Agland of Eaton, CROPLAN, Colorado Equipment and other agribusinesses.
But Schwalm said the students involved were responsible for setting their schedule.
Andrew Bennett, 17, a senior, has been involved with the program since its inception. The first year, he said, he realized a bonus of $370, last year, with a poor crop, it came out to $170, but admitted that’s not bad for about 30 hours of labor over the spring, summer and fall months. This year’s crop has avoided hail and the corn is maturing nicely.
“We scheduled planting on a Saturday so none of the kids had to miss school,” Schwalm said. He said the corn will be harvested in late October, early November, once it dries, and has been sold “for a pretty good price.”
The Windsor FFA will get one-third of the proceeds from the sale of the corn, with two-thirds going to the Thompson Valley Young Farmers, he added. The money will be used to fund educational experiences for members of both groups. Schwalm said he would like to expand the number of students involved in the program next year.
Bennett and Vickers don’t see farming in their future. Vickers said she is interested in animals and would like to become a veterinary assistant in the future, while Bennett, a member of the Windsor football team, is hoping for a athletic scholarship.
“I’m not sure yet. Once I get to college I’ll have to decide,” he said.
But both have enjoyed their experience.
“It’s been fun and I’ve learned a lot,” Vickers said.
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