Clear Lake FFA members get into combine, learn about harvest
CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) — More than 20 bright-eyed Clear Lake High School FFA students climbed upon Charlie Norris’ combine for a group photo earlier this month.
All Norris had to say was, “Be careful.” About five times.
No students lost leg or limb, and the photo was taken. The young learners were at the Clear Lake FFA’s 8-acre corn plot just east of the Mason City Motor Speedway at the fairgrounds to learn about production agriculture.
Norris, along with his wife, Louise, donated the planting and harvesting equipment for the second-year program. Seeds were donated by Muff Ag Services and the land was made available by the North Iowa Fairgrounds for no fee.
The grain will be transported to Golden Grain Energy in Mason City, and Clear Lake FFA will receive the profits.
“We use it as one of our two main fundraisers for the year,” FFA adviser Elisa Russ-Poggemiller told the Mason City Globe Gazette.
The proceeds will be used for trips to national and state conventions, FFA blue jackets, scholarships, competitions and other activities.
Charlie Norris said he and Louise got involved in FFA because of their daughter, Jennifer Cash, who passed away in 2019. Cash was an instrumental part of founding Clear Lake’s FFA program.
“Our involvement is kind of legacy for her. She was very passionate about it, and we are too,” he said. “Our youth need to learn more about agriculture, and some of these youths will be involved in agriculture.”
The Norrises still farm on land between Mason City and Clear Lake, but most of the students live in town.
“We have a lot of students that don’t come from a farming background and don’t have the opportunity to experience what production ag looks like,” Russ-Poggemiller said. “So just getting them out here for a day, I hope that they learn more about where their food comes from and what it takes to actually grow the crops and tend to the land.”
The students had the opportunity to ride in the combine during the harvest. Charlie Norris pointed out the technology used today is much more advanced than when he started farming decades ago. Today’s combines can basically drive themselves, sense yield, measure moisture and map the harvest in real time.
“There’s a lot of nice technology in the equipment these days. A lot nicer than the equipment when I started,” he said.
His equipment can harvest around 15 acres per hour.
Junior Alexis Hauge was there at last year’s harvest. She said there’s only so much you can learn inside a classroom. Hauge said it’s important for Iowa youths to understand what makes the economy and culture click.
“I think it’s been a really great experience for students. I didn’t grow up on a farm, so for people like me it’s really great to be out here and be learning about this part of agriculture,” she said. “If you look at Iowa’s economy and what Iowa’s based on, it’s agriculture. It’s really great.”
Students were able to speak with and ask questions of experts in multiple fields of agriculture during a roundtable discussion after lunch. They were able to learn about everything from ag banking from Clear Lake Band & Trust Senior Vice President Pat Goedken, to ag communications from Amy Fleming, Sukup Manufacturing’s community and internal communication coordinator.
Russ-Poggemiller said the roundtable was an opportunity for students to learn that there are jobs directly related to agriculture that may not require one to ever set foot in a field. Hauge said she is considering using a marketing degree in the ag sector. She said she hopes to already have her associate degree in marketing by the time she graduates high school.
“It’s really opened doors with career paths,” she said. “I think that’s definitely something I’d be interested in looking more into.”
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