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History of Ag 450 Farm

The Ag 450 Farm has been in operation for 70+ years. Thousands of students have experienced the opportunity to manage and direct the operation of a diversified grain and livestock farm by enrolling in the AgEds 450 class. AgEds 450 is the senior capstone course for Agricultural Education and Agricultural Studies majors. Students apply management and production skills learned in their courses leading up to this class. Problem-solving, decision-making, and communication are emphasized throughout the semester.

In 1938, Dr. William Murray, Professor of Economics, developed the concept of the course and farm. He was convinced that while enrolled at Iowa State, students needed the experience of managing an actual farm to better prepare students entering farming or other related occupations. Dr. Murray’s dream became reality when the first Ag 450 class (presently known as AgEds 450) was offered in the Winter Quarter, 1943 with Dr. Murray as the instructor.

A 187-acre farm was purchased for $150 per acre in 1942. A farm herdsman was hired for $75 per month and the first crop was planted in the spring of 1943. The first livestock program included several bred gilts, a team of mules, and chickens. Because of limited capital, University Farm Service was hired to plan and harvest the crop. The first tractor was purchased in 1950. By 1976, the farm was equipped with a full-line of machinery. During the 1960s, the swine enterprise was expanded and beef cattle were added to the farm. The 1980s brought more specialization to the farm with the acquisition of more land and further expansion of the swine enterprise. Forty-eight acres were purchased in 1984 and 32 acres were acquired in 1992. Today, the farm is representative of a commercial farming enterprise with corn, soybeans, a custom fed 360 head nursery housing piglets as well as a custom fed finishing hog operation of 1,560 pigs.

Slightly more than 1400 acres are currently farmed. Students manage approximately 365 acres of corn, 235 acres of soybeans, and custom farmed 759 acres (mostly corn and soybeans). The land base consists of land owned by the farm, cash rented, crop-share rented, and custom farmed. Students are exposed to a variety of land leasing alternatives. Ag 450 crop yields follow state patterns and were excellent in 2004 (corn - 192.93 bu/ac and soybeans - 47.63 bu/ac). Average yields for the last ten years have been 159.9 and 45.09 bu./ac for corn and soybeans, respectfully.

Market hog performance has remained strong while the operation learns to live with PRRS, although conception rates and hogs sold have declined. The farm markets 1,000+ hogs on a grade and yield basis with an average yield of 76.56% and an average backfat of .70. Students have been working with ISU Vet students utilizing an artificial insemination program that has improved the cutability of hogs being marketed and are developing a new identification and record keeping system to monitor swine performance.

Classroom lectures and discussion continue to emphasize the application of production skills learned in other courses including: risk management, financial management and cash flow, alternative leasing agreements, and decision-making in solving strategic issues related to the farm. Approximately 130 students are enrolled each year. The farm and course continue to develop each year serving as a unique, laboratory farm for students. The mission statement for the Ag 450 farm is to be practical educational resource for the university by demonstrating quality and sustainable production practices on a self-supporting basis.