TERRE HAUTE —
Racing in wheelbarrows, pushing large round hay bales or grasping a rope in a tug-of-war may not seem like a typical day for about 175 high school students learning about agriculture.
Yet the “barnyard olympics” were part of activities for the inaugural Ivy Tech High School Ag Expo, staged Friday at the college’s Center for Workforce Development, located near the front of the Vigo County Industrial Park. The expo is planned to become an annual event.
“This program provides them with an activity that is agriculture-related, but really is more of a team building type of an exercise,” said John F. Rosene, Ivy Tech associate professor and chairman of the college’s agriculture program.
“We are trying to highlight agriculture as a potential college choice, as a potential career choice, but also as a team-building exercise. One of the things these kids are involved in, at least at the high school FFA (Future Farmers of America) level, is leadership. We are trying to continue that experience through a collegiate FFA chapter at Ivy Tech.”
Students from Owen Valley, West Vigo, Linton-Stockton, Sullivan, Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South high schools toured the Ivy Tech facility, including a greenhouse, and some vendors were on hand to demonstrate agricultural products and professions.
Brady Stockwell is grain buyer for Poet Biorefining in Cloverdale, which produces ethanol. He passed out pamphlets and booklets about “ethaknowledge.” That plant, which began production in March, is to process 90,000 bushels of corn per day or 33 million bushels a year, while producing 90 million gallons of ethanol, Stockwell said. The plant will also produce a byproduct of 250,000 tons of livestock feed a year.
“We are always looking for more corn and some of these kids, their parents may have corn. We also support the youth of the community, the FFA and 4-H, and want to be good neighbors,” Stockwell said.
Darren Dickinson, a sophomore at Linton-Stockton High School, was one of four young men pushing a large bale of hay. Dickinson estimated it weighed about 1,300 pounds. The four were able to push the bale down a marked driveway in 7.2 seconds, beating a record of 9.4 seconds from a previous group.
“It was my first time pushing a round bale. I usually lift square bales, but it was fun,” Dickinson said. The 15-year-old has worked on a farm for four years and said he is considering agriculture as a future job or field of study.
Charity Betts, a sophomore at Linton-Stockton High School, pushed a wheel barrel as Linton-Stockton freshman Hannah Kocker sat inside as the two raced another team. “She’s lighter, so she sat inside,” Betts joked.
“I don’t push wheelbarrows. I am wearing flip-flops,” Kocker replied.
Adjacent to them about 12 students lined up to hold onto a large rope for a tug-of-war. The initial tug caught West Vigo High School junior Tyler Fields off-guard. “My boots were too slippery,” he said, as he fell to the ground during his first pulling attempt.
Candace Minster, garden manager for the White Violet Center at St. Mary-of-the-Woods showed students how bees are helpful in growing organic vegetables during a discussion in a greenhouse, built last year at Ivy Tech.
Jim Luzar, Purdue Extension educator and instructor at Ivy Tech, encouraged students to attend Ivy Tech for the first two years of schooling as an inexpensive alternative and then transfer to Purdue University for further agricultural studies.
That’s something Ed Carmichael, a long-time Sullivan County farmer and an Ivy Tech agricultural trustee on a regional advisory board, said can help students looking at agriculture as a career.
“It would have been great for me, because I didn’t like school very well,” Carmichael chuckled. “Some kids do not want to go to a four-year school or may want to go here for the first two years, as it is economical for people,” Carmichael said. “This agricultural program is a good start.”
Agriculture careers are more than just farming, Rosene said. It includes support industries such as seed companies, agricultural implement companies, and chemical companies.
“We are also trying to promote the idea that you don’t have to be a 5,000-acre producer, but can be a small-time producer that is aiming for a niche market,” Rosene said, such as being a local food producer for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where people or businesses pay for local produce up front.
Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.