Ag 450 Farm – Student-Powered for 75 Years

Story by Melea Reicks Licht

Images by Christopher Gannon

The course Agricultural Farm Management and Operations, or Ag 450 as it’s come to be known, began with the purchase of 187 acres south of Ames in 1943.

The late William Murray, professor of economics, wanted to provide students with the experience of managing a farm operation and developed the initial course. It remains the only completely student-managed farm at a land-grant university in the nation.

Robby Frutchey (’15 agricultural studies), instructor-in-charge of Ag 450, says the course is designed to function as a diversified livestock and grain operation similar to most Iowa farms.

“This includes record-keeping and accounting, negotiating and making decisions related to buying inputs and capital projects. The students market and sell farm products. And, they provide the daily care of livestock and maintenance of farm facilities and machinery. A huge part of the class is learning to maximize their time and be ef cient,” says Frutchey.

Approximately 150 students are involved in the management of the farm each year. The Ag 450 Farm nishes 4,000 head of hogs annually and operates a 1,400-acre corn and soybean system. It serves as the capstone course for the agricultural studies major, but Ag 450 is open to other majors as well.

The class has evolved to keep pace with agriculture, according to the farm’s operator Greg Vogel (’78 agricultural business), who has been with the program since 1992. Vogel has announced his plans to retire next year, and upon retirement he’ll be Ag 450’s longest-serving farm operator.

“We teach more than farming. Ag 450 prepares students for the changing world. The class has evolved to include more communications and how to decipher information. We add reality to the theories they learn in class,” Vogel says. “Students discover there isn’t a black or white answer. They learn to use critical thinking to work in the gray areas.”

The experiential course uses a team- based learning model. Topics are covered in seven modules: nance, marketing, safety, crops, machinery, swine and custom operations. Major decisions regarding farm management are determined via student vote.

“Ag 450 is unique in that they gave us students the power to tailor our learning to our interests, and the professor and farm operator work side-by-side with us,” says May graduate Tim Sadler (‘18 agricultural studies). “The course gave me the experience to be a part of a farm of my own for the first time. I experienced real-life scenarios of working with a team, and it gave me the opportunity to learn and apply my knowledge.”

To mark the Ag 450 Farm’s 75th anniversary, student farm managers are planning a celebration September 21-22 including a banquet, farm tours, a silent auction, merchandise sales and the premier of their anniversary video.