For the last 30 years, high school students from Cambridge, Huxley, Kelley and Slater attending school in the Ballard Community School district have had to take a bus to North Polk Community Schools in nearby Alleman for ag education courses.
But school schedules never matched up, and with travel time factored in, ag education classes took up more than a single period, students sometimes had to eat on the bus.
Now, Ballard is getting its own ag education teacher in Jenny Lichty a former Estherville ag teacher and Iowa State University alum. Lichty says Ballard having its own ag program just makes sense.
"It's a very rural area. A lot of the community is engaged in agriculture, whether it's working down at Monsanto, or production agriculture on the farm." She says, "A lot of the kids are interested in it, so to get them, to continue their interest, teaching them to grow their knowledge, there's tons of ag careers we have to fill. It's just offering them the opportunity."
Lichty says students have been clamoring to sign up for the course, with 15 students already onboard, mostly underclassmen.
She says, "A lot of them are interested in hunting. That was the big thing; I started during homecoming week and half of them show up in camo! So that's their big interest, but a lot of them are interested in the cattle production. There's some that are in grain production as well. It's kind of all across the board, which you'll notice from any program."
According to Lichty, the program has three parts; classroom and lab education, FFA Organization activities, and hands-on supervised agricultural experience (SAE).
Lichty says the final hurdle before Ballard can have its own FFA chapter is administrative red tape, after which she hopes the ag ed program will join the other 220 fully-realized programs across the state.