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Research + Education

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Farm Bureau regains research center land, teams up with Kaskaskia College ag program and South Central FS to keep it going

By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

About a decade ago, while going through some Fayette County Farm Bureau documents, Ron Marshel ran across the deed documents for land that the organization donated to the University of Illinois for farm research.

Marshel, who was then the Fayette County Farm Bureau, passed that information onto Ken Cripe, president of the local Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
Marshel and Cripe went to an Illinois Department of Agriculture meeting in Springfield, when the agency was discussing the research centers in the state. “And we showed them what we had (the deed),” Cripe said.
The discovery of the deed was important when it was learned that that land was no longer being used for research by the U of I.
Important, because that led to the land being turned back over to the Farm Bureau, which has worked out a plan to continue research on the 120 acres that was formerly known as the Brownstown Agronomy Research Center.
Not only will that land be used for research that county farmers can use in their operations, but it will also serve as an outdoor classroom for some future farmers in the area.
With support from the Farm Bureau and South Central FS, the Kaskaskia College agriculture program will be using the 60 tillable acres on that property.
Cripe said that when the Farm Bureau learned last April that the land was no longer being used for research, and knowing that the deed specified that it was to come back to the Farm Bureau if research work cease, he thought, “I don’t know why we don’t go after it.”
Reading that deed, and having its attorney look over the document, he said, “It’s clear that they wanted it used for research and that it was to come back to (this) county if it wasn’t being used for that.”
The Farm Bureau purchased the 120 acres along U.S. Route 185 from M.J. Griffith in 1937, with contributions received for the purchase price of $1,800.
The organization purchased that land at the recommendation of Jonathan Baldwin Turner, the local University of Illinois farm adviser who was a legendary agricultural pioneer both in Illinois and nationwide.
Once they regained legal possession of the 120 acres, Cripe said, the Farm Bureau Board of Directors discussed a plan to continue using it for research.
The board knew that both Kaskaskia College and Lake Land College have an agricultural education program, and a board committee of six members approached both schools to find out “whether they would be interested (in using the land) or sharing it,” Cripe said.
“I don’t know why we don’t help these junior colleges,” he said.
Lake Land College was not interested, he said, both because of the distance from the college and the fact that they already have land that they are using.
“Kaskaskia College was very interested, and they’re doing a great job,” Cripe said.
“I think it’s got to be helping Kaskaskia College,” he said. “They’ve built up their (agriculture) education program quite a bit.
Cripe said that the Farm Bureau Board has asked that if KC is able to see a profit come harvest time, it share the profit with the Farm Bureau, so it can recoup its costs.
The college will use its share of any profits to help support its agricultural program.
“It’s got to help their program,” Cripe said, “especially due to the fact that farming is always changing. It’s changed dramatically in the last five years; it used to be every 20 years.”
South Central FS also agreed to be a partner in this project, providing assistance wherever possible.
Stephanie Kraus, manager of the Fayette County Farm Bureau, said that on June 1, KC and South Central FS, along with some local farmers spent the day at the research center grounds, preparing and planting test plots.
She said that the test plots will include varying corn and soybean trials, with the largest plot containing 33 different varieties.
Along with the variety trial, she said, KC and South Central FS are performing a population trial.
The populations range from 26,000-44,000 plants per acre, to determine which population will perform best in Fayette Count soil.
A soybean plot, Kraus said, consists of 22 different varieties, and a population trial for soybeans ranges from 80,000-200,000 plants per acre. The last plot to go in was a herbicide, mode of action trial for soybeans, she said.
“The only stipulation that we had was that we want a report at the end of the year. We just want to know, can we keep this going viably?” Cripe said.
In addition to knowing how the KC program makes out each year financially, the Farm Bureau wants to know the results of its plot tests.
The Farm Bureau plans to share those results as part of its annual crop survey in the fall.
Instead of announcing the results of the crop survey at a dinner at the Farm Bureau building that evening, the organization will hold that meal at the research center.
In addition to giving the survey results, the Farm Bureau will have Bill Waggoner of the KC agriculture department as a speaker, and those attending the dinner will have an opportunity to tour the research center grounds.
“People will have a chance to walk around and see what’s being done out there,” Kraus said.
As always, Cripe said, the public will be invited to attend that dinner.