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«Unlikely City Steers H.S. Kids to Agriculture | Home | Wet Fields Create Anxiety in Midwest »

Iowa Farmer Uses FSA to Teach, Prepare for Future

Monty collins 
Monty Collins (left) talks to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson about conservation efforts happening on his farm.

Monty Collins thinks, breathes, eats and teaches agriculture.

He lives on a century farm passed down from his family and owns more than 190 acres of land while renting 120 acres that he tends to after a long day of teaching agriculture at the local high school.

“It all keeps me involved with agriculture,” said the Pleasantville, Iowa, farmer. “[School and farming] blend together nicely and helps make me a more effective teacher.”

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For 24 years, Collins has taught agriculture at Pleasantville High School — the same number of years he says he and his family have benefitted from Farm Service Agency programs.

“I was able to purchase my second farm with financing from the Farm Service Agency,” said Collins. “All three of my children are into farming with FFA cow-calf projects and two of them received FSA youth loans.”  

Collin’s son Ross used his loan to purchase two cows. He now owns eight, but plans to sell half of them before he heads off to college next fall. Daughter Keisha used her loan to plant Bittersweet and. sold enough to quickly pay off her debt. She will be a senior in college next fall studying accounting and plans to work for an agricultural firm.

His youngest daughter Trisha never took out a loan, but is in college studying animal science\pre-vet and double majoring in international agriculture. When she graduates, she wants to work for an international livestock research firm.

So it was no surprise that when 120 acres of land adjacent to Collin’s 76-acre family farm became available, he turned to FSA.

“Monty is well known in the Farm Service Agency office,” said Angela Vos, a loan manager with the agency. “He is well thought of in the community and he is concerned about agriculture. It’s a passion for him.”

That passion allowed him to receive a guaranteed and direct loan from FSA and purchase a second farm, which he hopes to turn over to his son, someday. “My son would like to become a farmer and it’s hard to get established as a full-time farmer,” said Collins. “So we mainly bought it to help him.”

The land currently consists of timber as well as a couple of barns and a house. Collins and his wife Renee plan to execute conservation techniques on the property much like they have on their family farm where they raise cattle and plant row crops of corn and soybeans.

“In 1994 we fenced in our cattle so they don’t get into the timber, which helps with erosion,” said Collins. “By 1997 we began rotational grazing and installed an underground watering system. We also use red clover, which provides nitrogen to the soil, and planted grass and pasture to help protect the soil.”

All of this, along with the 120 acres of rented land where Collins plants alfalfa hay and pasture, serves as an extended classroom for the Pleasantville native. Students receive hands-on training and make frequent field trips to Collin’s farms. Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson visited the farm to discuss advances in conservation efforts made over the years. Several of Collin’s students were given the opportunity to attend and meet the Secretary.

“It was a great opportunity to teach and inform the Secretary about what we are doing with conservation and how we are helping to protect the watershed,” said Collins. “It was great to see USDA and EPA together. Hopefully we can learn from each other.”

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