Local students get agriculture introduction with first Nevada County Farm Day | TheUnion.com

Local students get agriculture introduction with first Nevada County Farm Day

Local students from area schools in first through third grades will learn about agriculture during the First Annual Farm Day on Sept. 24. Teachers can get ideas for ag-related curriculum in the classroom from more than 30 presenters.
Laura Petersen |

Four months ago, a Farm Day for youth in Nevada County was nothing more than a seed of an idea Agricultural Commissioner Chris Flores planted in the local farm resource community.

She called her connections in El Dorado and Amador counties, where she spent years participating and training others. After introductions, tours and collaborations, Nevada County Ag in the Classroom was born and plans were launched for Nevada County’s First Annual Farm Day.

“This has been a long-awaited event,” said Flores. “Many people have wanted to do this for years. Teachers can incorporate an event like this into their different subjects and it’s a low cost field trip for schools. Local food, agriculture and the environment are important in this community.”

Next week, more than 700 school kids in first through third grades, accompanied by teachers and parents, will visit the Nevada County Fairgrounds to get a close-up look at where their food comes from.

With the goal of encouraging educators to teach about Nevada County and California agriculture, newly formed Nevada County Ag in the Classroom (NCAITC) will host its First Annual Farm Day from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 24. More than 34 organizations are coming together for the event.

“We want this very curious age group to learn about all different aspects of agriculture, environmental resources, nature, etc. and how it all interacts together,” said Flores. “They will take this knowledge with them into adulthood, and hopefully be better stewards of the land.”

Local elementary school students will visit more than 30 booths presented by area farmers, ranchers and ag-related land managers to learn about local food, fiber, flowers and forest products. Upwards of 100 community volunteers from local ranches and farms will help to keep things running smoothly including FFA students from Bear River High School and Nevada Union High.

So far, organizers are blown away by the response.

“We have about 700 kids coming. The reaction from teachers and principals has been overwhelming,” said Executive Director of Nevada County Resource Conservation District (NCRCD) Janet Blake, the lead organizer of NCAITC and Farm Day. NCRCD has been operating since 1944.

Blake received a flood of emails from teachers and principals who wanted their school to be involved with the expo of agricultural-related curriculum possibilities. Organizers had to put a cap on attendance numbers and turn some schools away after getting more sign ups then originally bargained for.

“Every aspect of our lives is touched by agriculture,” said Blake. “There’s a need, a hunger, a thirst and a desire to know about Ag. Everyone wants to be there and participate. It’s amazing. It’s absolutely the most wonderful thing.”

In conjunction with the opening day of the Draft Horse Classic, students will rotate between stations to view and learn about: a variety of animals; an active bee hive; “Dozer” the pest detection dog in action; the Dairy Council of California’s Mobile Dairy Classroom; a mule-packing demonstration; soils, seeds, wool spinning and more.

Nevada County Resource Conservation District, Nevada County Farm Bureau, Nevada County Agricultural Commissioner, Placer-Nevada Cattlewomen, the Sierra Foothills Research and Extension Center and Sierra Harvest are sponsors of the event.

Keeping Agriculture Alive

Federal and state programs provide curriculum models for Ag in the Classroom. Beyond Farm Day, Nevada County organizers say it remains too early to know what the program will look like here. Already, nonprofit group Sierra Harvest has an established program enrolling thousands of students in farm-to-school tours, tastings, farm carts and chefs in the classroom.

For 17 years, Myra Davies of Placer-Nevada Cattlewomen has read books like Hank the Cowdog and The Cow Said Moo to third grade “buckaroos” in similar Placer-Nevada Ag in the Classroom and “Stampede to Read” programs.

Over the years, she has witnessed fewer and fewer children with connections to the farming life.

“We’re finding less and less that kids are involved with agriculture,” she said.

During Farm Day, Davies and the Cattlewomen will bring their vintage red chuck wagon and a real cowhide for kids to sit on while they listen to a story.

She sees great promise in the way that Farm Day brings so many stakeholders together for one united cause.

“It’s not just one group being represented, it’s all the groups. This just might evolve. It’s keeping agriculture alive,” she said.

While multigenerational Nevada County natives are well aware of the strong agricultural roots of the area, many newcomers are unfamiliar with the regions’ rich ranching and farming history. Today, 14 farming and ranching families are still working the same land their ancestors from the 1800s first homesteaded.

“All around you is agriculture. The Gold Rush brought people here. Agriculture sustained them. These ranchers have been on the land 100 years — it looks gorgeous because it’s managed. They know how to sustain the land,” said Blake.

Farm Day is in line with the educational outreach mission of Nevada County Farm Bureau, said Farm Bureau Manager Debora Totoonchie. Now entering its 97th year, the locally supported nonprofit with 430 members will have many board members participating in Farm Day as presenters and support staff.

“As we educate both the young and grown up citizens about locally grown resources, grow our economy and support our neighbors, we learn to appreciate keeping agriculture here at home,” said Totoonchie.

For more information visit, http://www.ncrcd.org.

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at laurapetersen310@gmail.com or 530-913-3067

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