Ag 450 farm celebrates 60 years

Tracy Tucker

The snorts and grunts of hungry pigs snap through the barnyard.

The farm is quiet, save for the faint voice of Larry Trede, professor of agriculture education and studies and Ag 450 teacher, floating out from the walls of a small building labeled “classroom.”

A red grain truck bounces down the drive, a cloud of dust disappearing into the corn field to the east. Greg Vogel, farm operator and ag specialist, climbs down from the cab and enters the classroom. He has information from the grain elevator to discuss with the class.

The big white house is accompanied by a blue sign that announces the farm as the home of Ag 450.

The farm, which has been student-run for its existence, will celebrate its 60th anniversary Saturday. The farm will hold an open house Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Lunch will be served, and the open house will feature a recognition program and self-guided tours.

The groundwork for the farm was laid in 1943 by William Murray, economics professor and founder of Living History Farms in Des Moines. Trede said Murray’s principles have swung open the door for every Ag 450 class since the farm’s creation.

Murray believed students should have the opportunity to experience managing a farm before they graduate, Trede said.

Over the past 60 years the farm has changed drastically, Trede said. Originally it was made up of 187 acres that were plowed by horses in 1943, but the farm today is 1,200 acres.

The farm is self-sustaining and rarely receives funding from Iowa State, Trede said. Today the net worth is just over $1 million, he said.

“Our goal is to make profits about 80 percent of the time,” Trede said. “That way the extra profit can be put back into the farm.”

While the Ag 450 students are required to do some farm work on the property, which grows corn and soybeans, the majority of the labor rests on Vogel and the hired help. Vogel handles the day-to-day operations of the farm and lives in the farm house.

Vogel said although he makes sure the routine tasks are accomplished, it is up to the students to do the rest.

“When it comes time to make calls to places like the [grain] elevator, I hand them the phone,” Vogel said, “For some of them it’s different because they are used to having dad make all the decisions.”

Scott Snider, senior in agricultural studies and Ag 450 class coordinator, said having the hands-on experience is extremely valuable.

“It’s where we put the theory we’ve learned in all our other classes to use in real situations,” Snider said.

The farm epitomizes the typical Iowa farm and has been visited by international students, 4-H and FFA clubs and Ames Middle School students, Trede said.