A high school that has its own corn field that turns a profit each year is giving a valuable hands on farming experience for high school students. Not only is the corn field healthy and profitable, but it is equipped with irrigation equipment, allowing students to experience real world farming.
At Midwest Central High School in Manito Illinois,corns has been planted on the school’s 14 acre field for the third season.
Mason County is known as the Imperial Valley of the Midwest by the economic development folks, where agriculture is king. The variety of crops that spring from the soil here include popcorn, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and tomatoes.
The Mahomet Aquifer, the underground freshwater sea, supplies water to farmers who tap into that source to boost yields.
Ag is big here. Out of the high school’s 350 students, almost 100 are involved in agricultural courses, said Steve White, one of the school’s two ag teachers and the adviser for the local FFA chapter.
As a result of the irrigation, Midwest Central’s corn field has been bountiful. Yields topped 250 bushels an acre in both 2012 and 2013. Due to fluctuations in the price of corn each year, the economic harvest varied.
In 2012 (a drought year when irrigation was needed) as prices topped $8 a bushel for a period, the FFA raised $17,000 from their corn crop. Last year, when prices dropped back to the $4 range per bushel, the result was a $13,000 harvest.
Student plot managers help make the whole corn growing experience a learning one, said White, adding that all of that money funds FFA programs in Manito.
A sign posted on site notes that the school is the only one in the state known to have its own irrigation system, a system that cost about $50,000 to purchase.
Thanks to the efforts of local farmer J.D. Proehl, money flowed like water to support the school project. Proehl said he raised the money needed from area farmers in just two to three months in 2011.
“It was the easiest project I’ve ever undertaken. Farmers in this area were fully supportive. I had to turn guys away at the end,” he said.
Mason County farmers back the program on an on-going basis, said White. “Seed is donated by community seed dealers. We set up different test plots and send out the results in the fall,” he said.