Several Solanco FFA students from the high school and middle schools have been learning firsthand about conservation in a project that is helping a local farmer prevent erosion on his East Drumore Township farm.The students have been spending most of their school days since last Thursday working on land Dan Hershberger owns at 132 Center Road, which was once owned by James Kreider. Hershberger grows corn in strip fields on the land, as well as alfalfa and rye.
The FFA students have been rolling out 1400-feet of matting that is 8-feet wide and 100-feet long. The mats are made with hay and have grass seed in them that will help prevent erosion once the grass grows into a strip on the netting.
"They're learning a little bit about conservation and what it means to keep the nutrients on the farm," said Axel Linde, Solanco Young Farmers advisor who is overseeing the project.
Once the students laid the netting down, they used hammers to drive metal stakes into the ground so it stays in place.
There is already a man made terrace in the field, which feeds into the waterway, Linde explained. With the terrace and the netting, the rainwater will flow differently rather than create gulleys in the field.
"We want the nutrients to stay in the root zone," said Linde, who called the project a bmp, best management practice.
"This is a conservation practice and an efficient way to transport excess rainfall off the fields and it gets the high school and middle school kids working together."
The project came about after Carey Kalupson, chairman of the ag department at Solanco, received a call from one of his former students. Blake Huber, who is part owner of Morrison Excavating. He called to ask if any of the FFA students would be interested in providing the labor for the project, which saves the farmer from having to pay an excavator to do it.
"The students are seeing hands on how to implement newer conservation practices," said Kalupson, who added that since the students are providing the work for free, a donation is being made to the FFA chapter.
The students laid their last pieces of netting to complete the project on Monday. Six students from Swift and one from Smith Middle School helped to roll the netting over the ground and pound the metal staples into the ground.
Abbie Rineer, a seventh-grader at Swift, said she decided to help with the project to get out of school and because "it's fun." She and her brother Tyler "Teddy" Rineer, a junior, who was also there, live on a crop farm on Bridle Path Road in Kirkwood.
"My grandpa's big into conservation," said Tyler.
Neal Lefever, recording secretary for FFA, said he participated in a similar conservation project last year at Bob Wagner's farm.
Lefever, a senior who works on Scott and Clair Mull's farm, said he is considering a future in farming. He plans to join a wheat harvest crew out west after he graduates.
Cody Strawser, a senior who is sentinel for the chapter, said the conservation project was fun but "time consuming."
Seniors Josh Waltman and Jake Holzhauer also helped with the project as did Brad Wagner and Austin Walton, both from Smith Middle School, and John Burton, a student at Swift.