Several dozen people gathered last week on a six-acre plot of land on Davis Drive in Terre Haute to carry out what has now become an annual tradition.
It was the third of four sweet corn harvests and the fourth year Ivy Tech Terre Haute has led efforts to not only grow sweet corn for the Vigo County community, but also for food pantries throughout the state with distribution assistance from Master Gardeners and Catholic Charities. The plot also has another important aspect – it provides for an outdoor, hands-on experience for students.
John Rosene, Agriculture Technology program chair; and Darin Kohlmeyer, Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology program chair, were on hand to assist students and give all an opportunity to participate in the harvest of 39,000 ears of corn. The two instructors could be seen jumping on and off tractors, helping those who may or may not have ever driven a farm implement before.
Rosene said that while a handful of experienced farmers could have picked the corn in just a few hours, taking more time and giving Ivy Tech students the experience of using the equipment and working with others is very important to their education. “It’s an opportunity to teach students about field work,” Rosene said. “When you say field work, a lot of it is operating equipment. But some of it is also how do you interact with a group of people with a common goal when you are out in a field harvesting a crop. Most of the agriculture students have not operated a piece of ag equipment. They need to understand how it works, even if it may not eventually be their job.”
The plot of land is owned by Westminster Village, a senior living services complex, which partners with Ivy Tech to offer this experience to students. Each year, the program and reach has grown exponentially, with more and more individuals touched by the project, helping the hungry one ear of corn at a time. There is one more harvest that will occur in about two weeks. The acreage was planted in four increments at Catholic Charities request, to allow for time for distribution to food insecure families, and maximum freshness.
In early August, Ivy Tech announced the opening of its new 26,000 square feet Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology and Diesel Technology laboratory space. The renovation of this space was made available through a $1.2 million matching grant from the Economic Development Administration and ongoing gifts from leading donors including:
- Vigo County Redevelopment Commission
- Bane-Welker Equipment, LLC
- United States Department of Agriculture
- Watrin Truck Repair
- Harlan Family
The campaign continues with many opportunities to give at various levels, including the newest option just in time for harvest season, “Gift of Grain.” Farmers can donate grain from this year’s harvest or prior years’ harvests to Ivy Tech. After the grain is donated, the elevator will sell it, and the proceeds will be donated to the college in support of the Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology program; while the farmer will receive tax benefits. For further details, contact Rachel Mullinnix, executive director of Resource Development at 812-298-2410.