FFA to farm 10 acres of community park land

The Watertown City Council approved an agreement with the Watertown-Mayer Future Farmers of America (FFA) during its May 12 meeting that will enable the organization to farm part of the Community Park site near the elementary school at no cost under a year-to-year arrangement.

The 10-acre portion of the park site located behind the Luce Line Trail has been farmed by Jerry Berg ever since he and his wife donated 40 acres to the city in 2008 for a Community Park. Berg continued to farm the property in exchange for mowing and light maintenance on the remainder of the park until it was developed in 2012.

Now that major grading in the park has been completed, Berg has relinquished his maintenance and farming interests in the site.

Left with 10 acres of tillable land and nothing to do with it, the city council discussed options during a May 7 workshop, when councilor Steve Washburn suggested working out a license arrangement with the FFA. City staff began discussions with FFA chapter adviser Jim Kocherer, and a deal was quickly reached.

Kocherer said the land would be farmed using FFA alumni resources. All profits from crop production will be reinvested in farming activities and FFA organizational growth, as well as scholarships.

The plan is for corn to be planted on the land. Kocherer said it has yet to be determined what the full potential for the land is, but said it could provide a great opportunity to demonstrate a crop plot to the community and to the students at the adjacent elementary school.

“We’ll be able to demonstrate this to the elementary school kids and do certain programming,” Kocherer said. “To pick up an extra 10 acres from and do that for the city is a win-win situation for everybody.”

Under the license, the agreement will be reviewed annually as the park continues to develop. The FFA will present a planting plan to the city each year, and will present a year-end crop report at the end of each year. The city will allow the FFA to install one sign on the site recognizing the group’s work.

Washburn was excited about the potential for the site and the work the FFA could do there.

“I think this great for (the city) and I think it’s great for the FFA,” Washburn said. “I’m hoping over time that we can really evolve this and grow this into maybe doing some things that are very forward thinking and give the FFA a chance to explore sustainable agriculture and some of the things that could really help us and help them continue to put our community on the map for being a hub and a center in valuing agriculture. I’m very excited by this.”

Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]