Ivy Tech students, faculty, and alumni today (6-7-16) completed a third and final planting of sweet corn on the Ivy Tech Agriculture Plot off Davis Drive, that has not only presented Ivy Tech students the opportunity to be involved in a local, regional and state-wide project – but also will help to feed families who don’t always have access to quality, nutritious food, said Ivy Tech Chancellor Jonathan Weinzapfel.
“We are proud to be able to offer Ivy Tech students the opportunity to not only learn about precision agriculture – one of the fastest growing fields of study with the potential to make farming more efficient and profitable – but to also encourage the growth of students’ humanity and compassion, by being a part of a project to feed the hungry,” Weinzapfel said. Working closely with Catholic Charities, Wabash Valley Master Gardeners, Ivy Tech Community College, Westminster Village and a variety of other partners, when harvested later this summer, the sweet corn will be distributed to food pantries across the Wabash Valley. In addition to Wabash Valley locations, Catholic Charities will work with its statewide partners to share any additional remaining product
David Will, dean of the School of Technology, said the equipment used in this project is the latest in precision agriculture with GPS capability including auto steer, split row planting capabilities, computer monitor/display, planting software, etc. “These precision agriculture additions to Ivy Tech’s New Holland tractor, allow precise and accurate planting, the ability to track planting of hybrid seed and software to manage yield calculations at time of harvest, among other benefits,” he said.
He pointed to the many that have helped or been a part of this project including Ivy Tech Alumnus Justin McKain, Bane Welker precision ag specialist – who not only planted the first round of corn with loaned Bane Welker equipment – but who also was a trouble shooter along the way. Ceres Solutions provided the fertilizer and crop protection chemicals and Syngenta Seeds provide sweet corn seed.
Becky Miller, executive director of resource development for Ivy Tech Wabash Valley, said the idea for this project was birthed several years ago as Ivy Tech looked for an opportunity to establish a community learning garden – and a way to expand these types of educational opportunities across academic programs. Westminster Village had 6 acres of land they were managing and through discussions, gave it to Ivy Tech to use. “What developed, is what we are experiencing today,” Miller said.
Because 22 acres close to the Agriculture Program’s home at the Center for Workforce Development was procured to use as an outdoor lab for Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology and Ag programs – the Westminster plot was freed up to do this sweet corn project, Will said. “John Rosene, Ivy Tech’s Agriculture program chair, developed the idea to use this amazing resource to feed the hungry in our community. We quickly realized that 6 acres of sweet corn will yield about 150,000 ears of corn and we would need help with distribution. Our community partnerships will be vital to ensure the corn feeds as many Hoosiers as possible with little to no waste.”
“The sweet corn project is an opportunity for students to experience agriculture in a way that isn’t possible in a classroom, or even traditional field experience,” Rosene said. “Some aspects of the project relate directly to the subjects we teach every day like soil science, crop production, agricultural economics and ag mechanics.” But, he said, the majority of applications of those concepts are with commodity crops like field corn, soybeans, and wheat. “This project allows students to gain experience in growing a specialty crop on a large scale – and evaluate the pros and cons from a management and economic perspective.”
Rosene said not only did students help with the third planting of sweet corn today – but they have been involved in soil sampling to analyze the soil test results and to calculate fertilizer recommendations; were involved in the seedbed preparation prior to planting; and will be involved in the harvest of the sweet corn later this summer. “We will also utilize the plot as a field crop scouting tool in the fall, as well as an opportunity for students to gain experience in planting cover crops once the sweet corn has been harvested,” Rosene said.