Carroll Area FFA provides tours of the corn and soybean crops at the Test Plot Day.
Carroll Area FFA provides tours of the corn and soybean crops at the Test Plot Day.
September 12, 2013

Speaking about the Carroll Area FFA chapter was a refreshingly different experience for him, veteran farm radio broadcaster Von Ketelsen said Tuesday night.

Ketelsen, who joined Carroll Broadcasting this year, was featured speaker at Carroll Area FFA's 22nd annual Test Plot Day.

He told the audience that he's used to speaking to school officials where FFA programs were struggling for support. He's touted the importance of vocational agriculture.

"It's nice to not have that problem here," Ketelsen said. "I think you have a good thing going with sharing your FFA chapter between Kuemper (Catholic) and Carroll high schools. And we want to keep that going strong."

Ketelsen added, "Why should we care about FFA? I always told those superintendents and school-board members that FFA is a part of rural economic development. Building Our American Communities has been a program FFA has been involved with, adding value to rural American communities.

"And if we don't support our young people now, why should we expect them to move back after they graduate from whether it's DMACC or Iowa State or maybe after leaving for awhile? Why should we expect them to move back if we don't support them now in FFA?"

With the Test Plot Day drawing nearly 120 visitors including strong presence of the FFA Alumni, which served a free hamburger supper, Ketelsen said, "But I'm preaching to the choir. You're doing all the right things here. You have a very strong chapter. I'm glad to see all the parents here tonight. The parents' involvement is absolutely vital."

Schools' sports booster clubs have traditionally enjoyed strong support, Ketelsen noted, "I've said why not for FFA? Well, you've proven it's done here and done very, very right."

Ketelsen said agriculture has changed dramatically from his days as a youth on the farm in the 1960s when it was primarily sows, cows and plows.

Today, he said, "It's about marketing. It's about technology. There are a lot of opportunities in agriculture whether it's marketing or sciences. There are many different fields. There are very good careers you can carve out for yourself. ... So FFA is about rural economic development. It's about communities like Dedham, Carroll and all the others surrounding here."

Test Plot Day visitors on Tuesday could view the performance of 55 varieties of seeds altogether planted to about 11 acres of soybeans and 7 acres of corn on land rented from Paul and Ron Fricke a mile east of Carroll High School, at the northeast corner of Noble Avenue and 30th Street.

In addition, FFA planted corn on about 12 acres east of the Kuemper field house, east of Grant Road and north of East Anthony Street, and 5 acres south of Carroll Cemetery, west of Grant Road and north of East Anthony.

At Tuesday's program, plot managers Jason Berg, Tyler Hagan and Tyler Soyer reviewed the crop year, which began with a wet spring that held off planting until May 16-18, but then turned into a dry summer capped by extreme heat. They noted this apparently was the first time the demonstration plot has been planted to both corn and soybeans. The field was planted entirely to corn last year.

From Sept. 4 through 6, agronomy and introduction to agriculture students conducted yield estimates for the seed varieties at the test plot, and those results were provided in a packet handed out to visitors Tuesday. Corn-yield estimates ranged from 94 to 199 bushels an acre. Soybean estimates ranged from 16 to 85 bushels an acre. Carroll Area FFA adviser Kolby Burch says the yields will actually fall between those high and low numbers but that the estimates are accurate for the particular locations where measurements were done. He said differences in seed traits and fertility where seeds were planted are key reasons for big yield-estimate differences.

The crop should be more productive than last year when corn yielded only about 60 bushels an acre, Burch said. Growing conditions were more favorable this year, he said, after spring rains replenished some of the subsoil moisture.

Profit from the FFA's crop marketing account for about one-third of the chapter's budget for the year and is used for participation in competitions, trips to conventions and leadership events, membership recruitment and other activities. FFA students also undertake a number of community-service projects during the year.

The test plot is a valuable classroom for agricultural-education students to study different seed traits and tillage practices as well as evaluating pressure on crops by pests and diseases.

The plot managers recognized the contributions of the many businesses that provided services and donated seeds for the crops.

The Test Plot Day featured a display of equipment from Haley, Reuter and Schenkelberg implement dealerships as well as Frank's Repair and Tiefenthaler Spraying.

During his speech, Ketelsen pointed to the lineup of machinery and said, "Look how farming has changed. When I was a kid it was a big deal when we had AM radio put on an open-cab 560 International tractor. You could hear my brothers before they even came over the hill. If you heard The Guess Who, the Monkees and those groups, you knew it was my older brothers.

"We've seen a lot of changes. We can look around here and see the equipment, air-conditioned cabs, big beautiful machinery. There have been a lot of changes in agriculture, and FFA has been a part of those changes and growing with those changes."