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FFA and AGCO: Groundbreaking Progress

At the upcoming Farm Progress Show, FFA and AGCO collaborate on turning exhibition ground into productive farmland.

By Bill Lewis

ABOVE: The story behind last year’s exhibit.

It’ll definitely be a different kind of year for members of the Decatur, Ill., Heartland FFA. They have the opportunity to work directly with a Fortune 300 ag company, developing and providing stewardship for AGCO’s plot of land at the nearby Farm Progress Show (FPS) this August.

After a successful relationship with the Gilbert, Iowa, FFA chapter at 2014’s FPS (the exhibit won a prestigious 2014 Best of NAMA award), AGCO is partnering with Heartland to prepare its next exhibition site. The difference is “We’re bringing them in earlier this year,” says Phil Jones, segment strategy manager for AGCO. “They’ve already been involved in soil testing and stewardship, working cooperatively with local farmer David Brix.”

Brix’s farm is contiguous with the FPS property, and is used for demonstrating equipment during the show. Brix “brings the equipment and expertise” while FFA delivers a “measure of stewardship the farmer can’t provide,” says Jones.

While last year was production-focused, this time the expanded time frame will allow additional emphasis on science as well. Steve Carlson, ag science instructor at Heartland Technical Academy and FFA adviser for 16 years, says the AGCO program “allows the students to understand the agronomy of agriculture and how those scientific principles can be put to practical use. They are also actively involved in the process with critical thinking skills.”

One of the big issues in Iowa last year was soil compaction. Heartland members will be analyzing soil density to determine “whether ripping up the soil is called for,” says Carlson.

“The second item [is] to take a few composite soil samples. The plot is not large [less than an acre]; however, AGCO wants there to be at least three different crops planted at the site. So, we will take the samples and prepare them for shipment to a local soil-testing laboratory. I’ll share the results with my FFA students and have them make suggestions or recommendations for fertilizer applications for the specific sites where individual crops will grow.”

The project benefits both FFA and AGCO. Students learn from practical experience and expand their understanding of the ag industry. AGCO gets the chance to connect directly with future agriculturalists and help reduce the gap between a corporation and grassroots producers (not to mention getting great assistance in preparing its innovative FPS exhibition site).

“It’s very hands-on,” says Jones. “They get the practical side but also a window into the world as to how a company like AGCO works. We’re a solutions provider across the entire spectrum of the farming cycle. We expect the FFA members to learn that everything has a direct bearing on the stewardship of the land and on the farmer’s productivity. They will have the chance to face the same opportunities and risks that every farmer in the area has.”

See it for yourself. Visit the 2015 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill., September 1–3.