Defender crops develops agriculture management skills (Posted Monday, June 20, 2022)
The Dordt University Agriculture Department has initiated a program change called Defender Crops, which allows students to manage 80 acres of crop land at Dordt’s Agriculture Stewardship Center. The students make production, business, and marketing management decisions regarding the land. All farming operations from planting to harvesting are completed by the students.
“The students decide on all inputs with the advice of the agronomy team at Hull Coop,” says Dale Vos, instructor of agriculture technology. Vos shares that the program pays to rent the land from Dordt and pays custom rates for the equipment used. The students also make tillage decisions.
“This is a new approach to the program and makes it very realistic. Students will learn to manage profits and losses throughout the years,” says Vos.
In the past, all decisions at the Agriculture Stewardship Center (ASC) have typically been made by the farm steward. With this new program, the department has adjusted the curriculum to give students more responsibility and hands-on learning experiences at the ASC.
“My favorite part about Defender Crop is that we as students get to make the decisions and do all the work that goes with it,” says Andrew Eisenga, a student from McBain, Michigan. “What I most enjoyed about it this past year was that I actually got to plant about 20 acres of corn.”
Eisenga has appreciated that the Agriculture Technology major fits a lot of material into a short time—which is what he had looked for in a program.
“The program also has classes that are meaningful to me and courses that are important to take if you want to learn how to farm,” he says.
Eisenga shares that the sophomores chose what seed to use, determined the tillage, and selected the fertilizer. They then sent that information to the freshmen, working alongside of Vos, who made sure the plan was ready to go for the spring.
“The students decided the crop rotation based on profitability, not popularity,” says Vos. “That was a struggle for them because many of them just wanted to plant corn, but that wasn’t the best management decision. They decided on tillage practices. That was another struggle because they like to run tractors in the field.”
The students also had to learn about sharing equipment as well as how to adapt to weather and other challenges.
The program is designed to help students gain experiences that they can take to their future roles in the industry—whether at family farms or elsewhere.
“I hope to go back to my family farm and start full time there,” says Eisenga. “Our main crop is potatoes, but we also grow wheat, corn, black beans, green beans, and hay.”
To learn more about the Agriculture Department at Dordt University visit Dordt.edu/agriculture.
About Dordt University
As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. Dordt, located in Sioux Center, Iowa, is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by U.S. News and World Report, Forbes.com, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review.