Independence approves return of ag education after 50 years - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Independence approves return of ag education after 50-year absence

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INDEPENDENCE (KWWL) -

After a 50-year absence, agricultural education will now be back in Independence Community School District classrooms.

"As a rural farming community, it is imperative to recognize the importance of agriculture in our daily lives and to educate future generations," said Superintendent Jean Peterson. "For this reason and many others, the Independence Community School District Board of Education recently approved curriculum for an Agricultural Education Program."

Indee schools had no agriculture education program or FFA chapter since 1963, when the ag instructor at the time died.

Despite the district's strong ties to agriculture, a replacement instructor was not hired.

The new program will officially begin this fall during the 2013-2014 academic year, and the district is actively searching for a program instructor, officials said.

The district owns 92 acres of land on the western edge of Independence. Approximately 40 acres is being developed for the new Junior/Senior High School campus.

The ag-ed program's fields will be located on the east side of the new building, providing easy access from the classroom to the field and adjacent greenhouse.

The program will also be somewhat unique in how it is funded.

"It is our goal to make this a self-funded program, which means the district would be provided funds for operations," said Scott Frye, program volunteer.

Program supporters have built relationships with area farmers and agriculture product suppliers who have already pledged to donate seed, fertilizer, equipment and labor to plant and harvest the crops.

Indee Agricultural Education, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, will farm the district's remaining 50 acres of land.

All revenues will be deposited and held by the Mustang Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) entity that supports district initiatives. Those revenues will be given to the district to help pay for the program.

The district leased the farm land in 2012 to get a one-year jump start on funding. Supporters donated the 2012 year rent, the inputs and the labor. All profits from the 2012 crop's harvest have been rolled over to 2013 to pay for the 2013 rent.

When the program starts this fall, the Mustang Foundation, Inc. plans to advance funds to the district to cover the expenses of the program, such as the instructor and supplies, officials said.

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