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MTI, Davison County renew farm partnership with 'land lab'

Students studying agriculture at Mitchell Technical Institute will continue to benefit from a county agreement for five more years.

Rick Kriese, an ag instructor at MTI, asked the Davison County Commission on Tuesday at the courthouse for a new five-year contract to allow students to continue using county-owned land for educational purposes, a program MTI calls its "land lab."

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Since April 2001, MTI has held a crop-sharing agreement that allows the school to farm county-owned land. The new five-year agreement, which was adopted unanimously by the commissioners, extended the agreement through March 2019.

"Our enrollment has more than tripled in the past three years in our ag program, and a lot of it has to do with the county land lab we have with you," Kriese said at the regularly scheduled meeting at the courthouse in Mitchell. "They know we're going to come out and get hands-on experience."

With the land lab, students conduct all parts of farming on the acreage. After harvest and crop sales, some of the students report to Davison County commissioners and tell them how much yield the acreage made.

"I think this is a fantastic program," Commissioner Denny Kiner said. "I would love to hear a report in the spring as well."

Last year, MTI had access to four fields totaling 88 acres, all of which are near city limits.

Three MTI programs, Ag-Tech, Farm Power and Precision Tech, used the land. In total, 170 students were involved with the lab, Kriese said at a commission meeting last fall.

The current five-year agreement ends next month and states that 25 percent of the income from the crop sales is paid to the county. No rental rate is charged to MTI. The commissioners agreed to renew the contract with the same crop-sharing plan.

MTI President Greg Von Wald also attended the meeting and thanked the commissioners for renewing the agreement.

"It's a huge deal to us," he said. "We have a lot of young ag people who are getting education with this."

Other business

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

• Noted the absence of Commissioner Gerald Weiss.

• Heard a complaint from Mitchell resident Wanda Kobes, who claims her neighbor — Paul Jerke — is operating a business illegally without a necessary permit; Planning and Zoning Administrator/Emergency Management Director Jeff Bathke said Kobes has made four calls to county officials since the beginning of the year, none of which have resulted in proving Jerke's alleged illegal behavior.

• Reviewed changes to the tax increment financing (TIF) district guidelines that were covered at a meeting Jan. 28; the guidelines packet, which was approved by the commissioners, is available on the county's website,

• Approved a motion to allow Nathan Wegner, deputy of planning and zoning/emergency management, to drive a county-owned vehicle to and from work.

• Heard a report from Civil Deputy Kathye Fouberg, of the sheriff's office, on year-end civil income that showed a grand total of $68,152.66; and showed there were a total of 2,582 papers served for civil cases for a total income of $30,204.32.

• Approved a raffle request for Natalie Piehl, an employee at Poet, to help fund a mission trip.

• Held and executive session on personnel matters with Corrections Administrator Don Radel, which resulted in an approved motion to suspend a county employee two days without pay.