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River Falls High School students, from left, Sara Lysne, Zac Pechacek, Kelsey Johnson and Tiffany Hanson help prepare the school district cropland on Dry Run Road for seeding. <i>Submitted photo</i>

Farmers mentor students

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River Falls Journal
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Farmers mentor students
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Many people within the River Falls community are unaware that the school district owns cropland, says local farmer and Future Farmers of America (FFA) alum Tim Jennings.

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Before last year the school district would rent the land, located on Dry Run Road by DeSanctis Park on the west side of River Falls, to farmers to cultivate. This in turn earns revenue for the district.

Last year the FFA alumni approached the school board with an idea to rent the land and make it "available for high school ag students to come out and learn a bit more about it (agriculture)," said Jennings.

Seeing the learning potential, the school board agreed to rent the land to the FFA Alumni for student education.

After renting the land for fair market value, the FFA alumni, including Jennings, helped students from RFHS agriculture teacher Kyle Igou's class prepare and seed the land.

"We did rough soil testing, picked rock and cleared a fence," said Jennings. "It (the land) will be worth more when we are done."

According to Jennings, "About 90% of the net profits will go back to the school for trips, scholarships and workshops."

This year they planted the 33 acres with corn and soybeans. To observe how each seed performed, different varieties were planted in approximately 6-12 rows.

Students planted the following donated seeds: Pioneer, Dekalb, Channel, Croplan, Northrup King (NK), Golden Harvest, Mycogen and Sygenta.

The goal says Jennings, "is to teach the kids that ag is not just cows and cooking but soil science, agronomy, chemistry, corn hybrids, genetic engineering, marketing and business practices."

Jennings thinks it's very important for students to learn about agriculture since a lot of jobs can be traced back to farming.

"People don't realize how pervasive ag is," he said. "With 33 acres, we can cover every aspect of ag business."

The students who have worked on the school district crop land have benefited from the "influx of knowledge of local agronomists, local seed companies, local farmers and national companies (most of whom donated time and materials)," said Jennings.

With school out and summer upon us, the students will continue to work on the cropland. They will be scouting for weeds and then, come fall, Jennings is hoping to have a harvest day, when families can come to watch what a harvest entails.

The FFA will also be participating in various community events, such as the tractor pull on June 15 and River Falls Days.

In the future, the FFA alumni would like to see classroom participation expand.

After rock picking the field, there are a lot of extra rocks.

Jennings would like anyone that would like some of the rocks for landscaping to give him a call at 651-248-6038.

To donate time, materials or equipment to the project call Jennings at 651-248-6038, visit "River Falls FFA Alumni" on Facebook or email rf.ffa.alumni@gmail.com.

See more in the May 31 edition of the Journal.

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Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
(715) 426-1046
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