Nestled next to Central Lakes College is a field dominated by rows of crops and farming equipment. At first glance it appears to be like any other rolling farmland so commonly seen in the area. However, this field in particular is a foundational zone of learning utilized by the Ag and Energy Center. Every year agriculture professionals gather at this farm to share advancements in research and farming during the annual field day.
The field day serves as a meeting of the minds, an exhibition of research being conducted at CLC, and an opportunity to share agriculture based careers to children. The day was filled with events both informational and hands-on. Drone flights kicked off the morning along with tractor rides for kids.
A major component of the days events centered on nitrate reduction and preserving the water in the region. Positioned on the edge of the large field was a demonstration area focusing on water testing. Water experts from AgXplore and Northwest AqwaTek Solutions were in attendance. They were on a mission to discuss the importance of nitrate reduction in the soil and ground. AgXplore staff were also promoting their product, NZONE MAX which is designed to decrease the level of nitrates moving through the soil in addition to improving yields.
“That's our mission for producers, protect the environment, decrease the amount of nitrates in the groundwater without loss of production,” said Brandon McMillan, director of product research for AgXplore international. He and other representatives stressed the importance of soil and water management. Recent legal standards require producers to control the amount of nitrates actively moving throughout the soil. Products created by AgXplore are designed to make farming safer and more environmentally friendly.
Nitrogen trials were just started in the last year and are a part of a major water testing experiment in association with Central Lakes College. “I don’t know of another field in the United States except for here in Staples, that's going to this length to measure nitrates moving through the soil,” explained McMillan. The testing field at CLC has been equipped with measuring devices at varying depths to track the nitrate content of the soil. According to McMillan, instruments have been placed at 6 ft, 4 ft, and 2 ft to allow for a wide spread of data unlike anywhere else in the country. The site also has access to groundwater so staff members can monitor nitrates in the soil and water simultaneously.
Farming for the future
The field day is devoted to better farming practices but also introduces youngsters to possible careers in the industry. On the periphery of the field, Judy Barka, assistant director for Agcentric, was busy teaching kids how to use a 3D printing pen. Kids filed into a specialized trailer to try their hand at crafting shapes and other designs. The pens utilizes the same filament as 3D printers. With a steady hand, kids were able to feed the filament through pen which came out as a colorful strand on paper. Using these pens teaches the guiding principles of careers often found in the agriculture industry like welding. “We wanted to show young people some of the tools that are used in agriculture careers today,” said Barka.
In the kids garden, children ran up and down rows of wild flowers, clipping, pulling, and prying vegetable prizes from the earth. Each new potato or onion received a regaled gasp of excitement. That excitement is the purpose of the kids garden which is maintained throughout the summer for this special harvest. Trevor Johnson made his way up the rows assisting kids with their flowers and vegetables. Johnson is a student intern working as a farm tech. This is his third summer helping out on the research field at Central Lakes College. Currently he is a student at North Dakota State University majoring in agriculture economics. He explained that the small plot of land is devoted to children during the field day. They learn about the crops then get to harvest them. Once removed from the ground, they take them home to enjoy. Anything left over is donated to the local food shelf.
The field day offered a wide range of activities. An edible bean presentation, sunflower research, and tours of the Living Legacy Garden just to name a few.