Krista McCoon has a reason for doing what it is that she does.
The Coordinator of San Joaquin County’s AgVenture Program – which welcomed 3,800 third grade students to the Manteca Unified School District farm on Thursday morning to learn about all things agriculture – said that she hears all too often kids tell her that milk comes from the grocery store.
With agriculture being the No. 1 industry in San Joaquin County, McCoon – who is also a staffer at the San Joaquin County Fair office – said that it’s beyond beneficial for kids to learn exactly where it is that their food comes from, and what it takes to create it.
“I would say that 95 percent of the kids that we get at these events have never been on a farm before,” McCoon said. “And as a result of that they don’t get to see, smell, touch or hear agriculture – when they come here they get to do all of those things.
“They learn about the animals and they learn about the crops and some of them may never get the chance to do something like this ever again in their life – it’s a great learning tool.”
For the last 10 years, AgVenture – a San Joaquin County program that is supplemented by the Specialty Crop Block Grant – has been giving students from throughout the county the chance to visit working farms in Manteca, Stockton and Lodi to see where their food and their commodities come from.
Every third grade student in Manteca Unified along with students from Tracy, Ripon, Escalon, Mountain House, Banta and New Jerusalem school districts were on hand at the Louise Avenue farm site to walk through a series of presentations that focused on healthy eating, crops and commodities and water and soil conservation – 10 minute segments that summarize each of the elements in a fun, collaborative and hands-on environment.
In the eyes of San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools James Mousalimas, seeing the kids learning about where their food comes not only enables them to make better decisions about what they eat, but also opens the doors to future careers in a burgeoning industry.
“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry here in San Joaquin County, and there’s a lot of technology and science that goes into creating the food that we eat,” Mousalimas said. “It’s become much more than just the ideal picture of the farming standing out in the field, and this is a great way to reinforce the idea of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs while giving students a hands-on experience which may be their first ever exposure to something like this. I think that it’s a great program.”
And when you have almost 4,000 students on site, volunteers and donations become a critical component of making everything work.
According to McCoon, there were a total of 517 volunteers working on Thursday, and donations from individual business and entities like Manteca Unified – which provided complementary bottled water to all who needed it, and had nutrition services provide fruit to all 3,800 students in attendance.
Bonnie Plants of Linden also provided each student with a cabbage plant to take home, and those that grew it and entered it into an online contest would become eligible for a $1,000 scholarship from the company.
The Manteca event is the first of the three that will be held this year to allow every third grade student in San Joaquin County the chance to participate.
“It’s fun to be out here,” said New Haven student Anna Smith – clutching a piece of freshly-shorn wool from a sheep. “I got to learn about bees and how they cover up their hives when they’re done making honey, and I learned about electricity and how to be safe with it.
“It’s a lot of fun being out on the farm.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.