Growing with Defender Crops

A group of students talk with Professor Vos in a field

Defender Crops, a new agriculture technology class, gives students a chance to manage 80 acres of crop land at Dordt’s Agriculture Stewardship Center (ASC) This class provides students with the opportunity to make all kinds of decisions on how best to steward the land, from production to business to marketing management.

“The students decide on all inputs with the advice of the agronomy team at Hull Coop,” says Dale Vos, instructor of agriculture technology.

The class pays rent for Dordt’s land and custom rates for the equipment used. “This is a new approach to the class 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 ASC were typically made by the farm steward. With this new program, students gain more responsibility and hands-on learning experiences at the ASC.

Andrew Eisenga participated in Defender Crops this year. He grew up on a family farm in McBain, Michigan, so he’s very familiar with farming.

“Our main crop is potatoes, but we also grow wheat, corn, black beans, green beans, and hay,” he says. “I hope to go back to my family farm and start full-time there.”

Thanks to Defender Crops, he was able to continue honing his skills. This past year, he enjoyed being able to plant 20 acres of corn at the ASC.

“My favorite part about Defender Crops is that we as students get to make the decisions and do all the work that goes with it,” he says.

Sophomores like Eisenga determined what seed to use, figured out the tillage plan, and picked the fertilizer. They then sent the plan to the freshmen, who—working alongside Vos—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.

“It was a blessing to watch the students grow in their knowledge and abilities over the course of the year,” says Vos. “This class helps our students gain the skills they need to succeed in the ever-changing agriculture industry.”