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By Staff | Feb 22, 2015

TAYLOR KNUTE, a senior at Laurens-Marathon High School, has sent a design from the computer to the plasma cutter. She watches the cutter at work.

LAURENS – Sparks fly and a fog appears in the ag shop at Laurens-Marathon High School.

From across the shop, the sound of power tools and someone tapping on metal makes it hard to carry on a conversation.

Students wearing “Tall Corn FFA” T-shirts and safety glasses is a common sight.

But it’s everyday life for FFA students at LMHS, as they work together to keep Tall Corn Productions going-an entrepreneurial metal sign business that is both student-run and student-based.

The business provides primary funding for FFA activities, such as trips to state or national FFA conventions and other learning-based trips.

CLYDE JOHNSON said he brought the idea of a student-run metal signs business to the L-M School District. Here he talks to them about cleaning up a sign before it goes to be painted.

Tall Corn Productions makes metal signs and objects, including yard signs, house number signs, light switch plates, framed art and target practice pieces.

Signs can be personalized with names, and with hundreds of designs available on its software, there is something for almost anyone’s taste-including farm-related designs, camping, western designs, military, flags and flowers.

Parts of some sign designs have been pulled occasionally to create a new designs for customers who want a more personalized piece.

The project began in 2011 when FFA Adviser Clyde Johnson wrote a $10,000 grant for a plasma CAM, which arrived in April of that year.

The following year, the FFA chapter purchased the plasma cutter at a cost of $2,400.

AUSTIN STETHERN and FFA Advisor Clyde Johnson show off a sign in which the Lauren-Marathon FFA Chapter said it takes pride. This sign will hang over the driveway of a local cattle producer.

“There were a bunch of old computers here at the school that would run our software for the plasma cutter, so we got one of those,” he said.

Johnson said it took from April 2011 to January 2012 to get up and running.

“2012 and 2013 were good years for us,” Johnson said. “We cut out a lot of signs in two years.”

The most popular sign is one featuring butterflies.

“We sold around 50 of those particular signs and, at $80 each, that alone brought in about $4,000,” he said.

To date, Tall Corn Productions has raked in an estimated $20,000 for the FFA chapter. Its expenses include purchasing metal, designs, spray paint and tools,

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