August 04, 2021

State Ag Director Naig learns of educational corn plot

CORNING - Even with school not in session, lessons were learned Wednesday in Corning.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig was a guest of various Adams County groups involved in the corn plot located at POET’s Biorefinery, an ethanol plant that uses about 23 million bushels of locally-grown corn to produce 65 million gallons of ethanol a year.

“This is our sixth year for the plot,” said Steve Sonntag who leads Southwest Valley School’s FFA program. The project is called Watch Me Grow.

The plot involves certain students throughout a corn growing season.

“In the spring fourth graders help plant the corn,” Southwest Valley FFA member Sarah Shipley told Naig. “This year it was May 5.” The corn was planted by hand and rows were labeled with names of the students who planted.

FFA members inform the elementary students about the growing process of corn. The same students who were in fourth grade, learn about the harvest the following fall in fifth grade.

Ethan James, another member of Southwest Valley FFA, told Naig how FFA members went to the fifth-grade classroom to educate the students about corn harvest and how corn is used including ethanol. Students are given a tour of POET’s facility.

Adams County Farm Bureau contact the students about the plot and corn growing through mailings from late May to October.

“Information is about corn and ethanol production and a small gift,” said Nick Wetzel, from Adams County Farm Bureau.

Harvesting the plot is treated like a celebration.

“We get the students and their families to come and have a catered meal,” Sonntag said.

Last October, Southwest Valley FFA members told the students about the corn, how it grew over the summer and showed a video on how POET turns corn into ethanol. The event included Monty Douglas, a farmer from Adams County.

Naig told the students in attendance Wednesday how he grew up helping his dad and uncle run their crop and livestock farm. He is from northwest Iowa near Cylinder. He is still involved in the operation today. Mike graduated from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake with degrees in biology and political science. He and his wife, Jaime, have three boys.

Watch Me Grow is provided by Southwest Valley FFA, Adams County Farm Bureau, Nutrien and POET.


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.