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Ripon High school farm productive thanks to ag support

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Ripon High school farm productive thanks to ag support

Student tractor drivers pause for a picture after parking their vehicles Thursday morning in front of the high school gym just feet away from their Agriculture Department building and shop. School...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED February 24, 2012 8:54 p.m.

RIPON — The harvest from 80 acres of almond orchards supports the Ripon High School student farm on North Ripon Road at South Clinton Avenue.

Ag instructor and farm manager, Ryan Patterson, said the agricultural program is supported by the Ripon School Farm Agricultural Advisory committee made up of area farmers that harvest the nuts and make sure that the students have what is needed to succeed.

“Without the money we get from the almond crop next to the school farm, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we do here,” he said of the Ag mechanics shop and the farm facility.

A seven-year Ripon High teacher, Patterson said the ag committee members are always there when we tell them we need a piece of equipment, adding that a lot of what they do mimics the agricultural industry.

The members of the committee are Dave Phippen, Mike Ballatore, Bob Brocchini, Dale Kuil, George Loogman, Sam Travaille, Craig DeJong, David Hoogendorn, Steve Fredriks, Dave Luis, Ripon Fire Chief Dennis Bitters and Bryce Perkins of Tuff Boy Trailers.

Patterson and his wife first lived in the older farm house located on the school farm when he signed on to the Ripon Unified School District.  His wife, Katie, is employed by the California Farm Bureau involved with water issues and farm Ag policy.

The Ag department had a water issue with its 30- by 50-foot green house this week when a main water pipe had broken.  Plants are normally irrigated three days a week and a water brigade of students with buckets took over until maintenance personnel could correct the problem.

“One good thing with an ag class, you are never short of manpower,” Patterson chuckled.

Teacher Celeste Moreno added that all of the flowers seen on the athletic field during graduation exercises in May come from the student-planted green house that she oversees.

Patterson is one of three Ag instructors at the school, all teaching five classes a day.  The others are Celeste Moreno, who is assigned to student projects with sheep and dairy heifers, and the greenhouse operation; Sherry Johns, whose specialty is swine which is said to be the most popular animal with the majority of the students.  Patterson works with students who have projects growing beef animals and goats.

There are some 240 students in the school’s Ag program with about 30 of them involved directly with the school farm. 

“The farm is great for kids who live in town and don’t have a place to keep a farm animal,” Patterson said.

The farm has 10 stalls for beef and dairy cattle and 10 stalls for hogs with a total of 40 hogs grown each year.  There is also a show ring and a livestock scale as well as show ring panels used in preparing students for the county and state fair competitions.

Currently Nick Ratto has just completed building a lift attachment for use on the school farm and Joe Barslund is constructing show racks to be used in the preparation for showing animals in competition at the fairs.

Third graders visit

school farm in May

Dino Arnaudo is just completing an almond super hauler for his dad John for use on their French Camp Road orchards.  The large, two-wheeled trailer, is Dino’s second year project

“We bring all third graders from the district to the school farm on Farm Day in May,” Patterson said.  “There are kids today in high school who remember their third grade trip to the school farm.  In October the Ripon elementary schools also take part in the AgVenture day at the Manteca School Farm also designed for third graders.

Ashley and Stefanie Hofman have been breeding heifers on the site for several years and are now at Modesto Junior College and Fresno State in their Ag programs.

Student Gabby McDonough is slated to compete in the upcoming FFA Creed speak-off at the regional Ag meeting in Merced with the California Ag Teachers Association and the FFA.  If she ranks in the top four Ag students in the region, she will be going on to state competition, Moreno said.

The three Ripon Ag instructors will be accompanying her in addition to a student teacher and delegates Francesca Arnaudo and Krista Tyhurst.  Regional officers will be elected at the meeting.  The delegates will be listening to six candidates speaking prior to the voting for the regional officers.

The Ag instructors agreed that some of their students are from families who are looking for leadership training and experience – many of the youth hearing about the value of Ag from their siblings.

“I like to think they want experience in the classroom as well as outside,” Celeste Moreno said.  “Our goal is to give them hands-on experience.”

In November of 2009 advisory board member Dave Phippen went before the Ripon Unified School District Board of Directors asking their permission to put funds earned from the school farm back into the upgrading and replanting acreage at a cost of $63,000.

He noted that after a review his committee recognized a decreased production in the crops he was asking to buy young almond trees for 15 acres that year and for 20 acres the following fiscal year. 

Phippen noted that a section of the farm had been targeted for a new school that had delayed making improvements to the farm.  With the downturn in the economy the groundbreaking on another school would probably be in the distant future.

The FFA Creed pretty much sets expectations for well-rounded youth in agriculture:

“I believe in the future of agriculture with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.

“I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.

“I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others.  I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.

“I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so – for others as well as by self; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.

“I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”

— Glenn Kahl
staff reporter

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