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3,900 3rd graders attend AgVenture
Stella Brockman Schools Anthony Lunch meets Dolly during Thursdays Ag Venture program. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

They came from throughout south San Joaquin County to learn about farming, nutrition and much more.

AgVenture once again featured third-grade students from 48 school districts. The estimated 3,900 youngsters were joined by some 100 teachers and chaperons, experiencing the world of agriculture Thursday up close at the Manteca Unified school farm.

They got to see presentations of plants, animals, and even machinery.

“This was the first time (at AgVenture) for me as well,” said teacher Kimberly Bodene of nearby Brock Elliott Elementary School.

Her group of youngsters toured the school farm, checking out the cherry, grape and the various nutrition exhibitions.

Learning about nutrition and the benefits of locally grown produce were part of the objectives for AgVenture, according to Krista McCoon, who has served as program coordinator for this event for the past two years.

“It’s also part of the curricular for (area) third-grade students,” she added.

McCoon pointed out folks here may be unaware that San Joaquin County is the seventh largest ag-producing county in the nation.

Students came from Manteca Unified, Escalon Unified, Ripon Unified, Tracy Unified, Banta, Jefferson, Lammersville, and New Jerusalem school districts.

They made the rounds, visiting various exhibits and displays hosted by various businesses and organizations.

Some were regulars, including Randy Beasley of Bonnie Plants.

He’s the regional manager of the Linden business. Beasley has been involved in this ag event for nearly 10 years.

“I enjoy coming here and supporting our local schools,” he said.

Beasley is also looking forward to taking part in the other two AgVenture events later in the school year. He’ll be handing out small cabbage plants to each of the youngsters equipped with how-to grow instructions.

“We gave out $8,000 in product today – $20,000 for all three Ag Venture events,” said Beasley, who added that youngsters could be eligible for the $1,000 drawing from the upcoming cabbage-growing contest.

While Bonnie Plants was an AgVenture regular, Steve Alongi and his border collies were among this year’s newcomers.

“Each year, we try to get a least five or six new presenters,” McCoon said.

Alongi of Oakdale has long had his dogs – Quinn, Tess and Hope – involved in the various events hosted by the Northern California Working Sheepdog Association and the U.S. Border Collie Handlers Association.

His daughter, Amy Alongi, likens her Border Collies to athletes to similar to that of football wide receivers.

“My dad enjoys putting the dogs in competition. My mom and I are more about the practical side (of using them),” Amy Alongi said.

She has the Quinn and the other dogs trained to tend to the 50 heads of sheep in Oakdale. Amy Alongi is always nearby with a whistle and shepherd’s crook.

Father and daughter fielded questions throughout the morning about the dogs.

AgVenture is made possible by the SJC Board of Supervisors, SJC Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, SJC Office of Education, SJ Farm Bureau Federation, MUSD, and California Women for Agriculture. This joint venture helps educate students on the importance of agriculture while showcasing the county’s agricultural industry and teaching students the benefit of making healthy choices.

“They can pass along what they learned (from AgVenture) to their parents,” McCoon said. “That’s our hope.”

To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, email