Northeast Ag Classroom Assignment Based on Real-Life Farm Issues

Published on: November 9, 2018 ,

A student in the Water Resources class at Northeast Community College is using a situation on his family farm to help teach other students about soil and water conservation.

Jacob Sprunk, of Columbus, is a freshman enrolled in the College’s Precision Agriculture program. He and other students in the Water Resources class at Northeast were asked by their instructor, Sarah Sellin, to research a water-related conservation issue, give a 15-minute online presentation and then share what they learned with their peers.

Sprunk, together with Marshall Lutjens, of Columbus, and Caeden Pierce, of Linwood, chose the topic “Preventing Agricultural Erosion.” During the research phase of the project, Sprunk shared photos of a large washout that developed in 2016 on his family farm, and the students decided to use the photos on their presentation poster.

Sprunk explained that, after the 2016 event, his family filled in the washout and planted it to grass, still thinking they may farm the area again. He said the research he, Lutjens, and Pierce conducted for their presentation helped convince his family to leave the area in grass.

“Leaving that grass, losing a couple acres, is not really a big deal,“ Sprunk said, “versus thousands of dollars to fix the washout again.”

Sprunk said his father is open to suggestions from he and his brother, Dillon, also an agriculture student at Northeast.

“Dad wanted us to go back to college to learn how we can improve farming and make yields better and management better. Jacob said. “He wants to listen to us.”

Northeast Water Resources students Jacob Sprunk (center, pointing at poster) and Caeden Pierce (center, left) speak with their classmates about their research project, “Preventing Agricultural Erosion.” (Courtesy Northeast Community College)

Several other students from the Water Resources class are sharing information on using best practices to improve yields while preserving natural resources with their families.

Lutjens is urging his family to consider cover crops, and Bladen Nichols, of Broken Bow, said he has learned how important it is to conserve water and has been sharing that focus with his family. Nicholas Pelster, of Petersburg, said he would like to implement variable rate irrigation on his family farm if it would be cost-effective.

Kyle Noble, of Albion, shares his classmate’s interest in water conservation.

“One of the things I think I should apply at home is checking all of our irrigation wells, see if there are any major leaks, and then tell Dad ‘Hey, we have to fix this, we’re losing so many gallons because of runoff and not really being applied to the field.’”

The Water Resources students’ posters are on display in the Ag and Allied Health building, and Sellin said she hopes other students take time to look at them and ask questions of her students. She said the research and presentation project not only provided an opportunity for students to learn more about conservation, but also helped hone their communication and critical thinking skills.

Water Resources is a required class for Precision Ag majors, and also available as an elective class for other students. The Northeast Precision Ag program is in its third year, and has been named the sixth best two-year Precision Ag program in the nation by PrecisionAg.com.