Plotting his education

Humboldt High School grad developed an agricultural test plot with help from the school's FFA. The goal is to educate students about farming.

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July 17, 2020 - 3:17 PM

Cooper Jaro shows off the FFA test plot north of the Humboldt Sports Complex. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Humboldt can now boast of its very own student agricultural test plot, developed by graduating senior Cooper Jaro and the high school FFA.

Located on the north end of the Humboldt Sports Complex, the 5.1-acre area has just been drilled for soybeans which should be ready for harvest early this winter.

“We started in November. That’s when I got it approved by the school board,” explained Jaro, who is bound for K-State in the fall to study agricultural economics.

Cooper Jaro shows off the FFA test plot north of the Humboldt Sports Complex.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

“There’s always a need for crop insurance. I want to help out farmers, give them a little sense of security,” he said of his career plans.

The idea for the test plot took root after Jaro saw a similar project at another school.

“I jumped on it as soon as I could, doing all this research,” he said.

Regarding where to place the plot itself, Jaro said “it was brought to my attention by my neighbor, Josh Wrestler, we could actually start something here,” north of the sports fields.

Within a short time, Jaro was presenting the idea to the Humboldt school board, who after only a month or two of deliberation, gave the go-ahead to move forward.

“The whole point of this is to educate kids,” Jaro explained, especially because at present “there’s only me and another senior that know anything about farming.”

The test plot therefore provides “something to build upon” in terms of providing students opportunities for being taught certain agricultural basics.

“Why not make [working the plot] a class itself?” Jaro asked. “Or incorporate this whole test plot into the horticulture class?”

“Students will be able to dig up soil samples to see how they’re doing.”

Cooper Jaro scans the horizon as he walks across the Humboldt FFA test plot.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Agriculture isn’t just about planting, he explained. When it comes to soybeans, for example, “You have to care for it. You have to have the right weather for it. You have to have the right nutrition for it.”

“There’s so many things that I still don’t know about farming,” Jaro said, and it’s clear he’s eager to continue absorbing everything he can.

“My adviser, Jerome Riebel, has been here every step of the way,” Jaro added. “And he’s learning just as the kids are.”

Along with Riebel, Jaro credits several others for helping him realize his vision.

For instance, the original plan was to work the 17-acre field east of the current plot, owned by Joe Works, and to grow both beans and corn.

Jaro approached Works with his idea and “he wanted to hear me out. I was pretty excited about that.”

Cooper Jaro kneels in the soil to inspect a newly sprouted soybean plant.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

However, “[Joe] let me get through my whole spiel, before he told me: ‘Well I see you did a lot of work, but actually I’ve got plans for that,’” Jaro explained while laughing.

Nonetheless, Works was supportive, and encouraged Jaro to keep moving forward.

“Beachner Grain, they’ve been a huge help with this,” Jaro noted. “They donated the chemical and the fertilizer, and they actually just sprayed [the plot] a couple days ago.”

Jaro’s father, Craig, also donated seed for the plot’s first crop.

“Our community has our back on this as well,” said Jaro, and is grateful for all the support he’s received.

Soybean plant.

Gazing out across the field, Jaro said he’d gone from “wondering if I’d get the program passed through the school board … Now we’re standing here with drilled beans and they’re starting to grow.”

“I’ve seen a couple little beans popping up already. … I’m pretty proud of it.”

And this is only the beginning, for as Jaro explained, “I want to build upon that. I don’t just want to stop here. There’s so many things that we could do.”

“In 15 to 20 years, I’d like to look back and it still be here.”

“That’s my plan anyways. I hope everything follows through.”

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