By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Excellent AgVenture: From almonds to Shire
California Milk Advisory Boards 2010-11 Dairy Queen Stephanie Brazil shows her display about dairies at the county fairgrounds where the AgVenture event was held. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The third graders from El Dorado Elementary School in Stockton listened wide-eyed as Charles Rivara held up a small bag of Doritos.

Their eyes widened even more when Rivara informed them that among the ingredients in the popular snack food is a familiar vegetable at their dining table – tomato.

“They are really surprised that there’s tomato in Doritos,” said Rivara, director of the California Tomato Research Institute in Escalon and one of the featured presenters in Wednesday’s AgVenture event held at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.

Such nuggets of information are exactly what the AgVenture program is all about – to teach young students the fundamentals of agriculture and help their young minds formulate the connection between the food that they eat and the crops that are grown in the area where they live so that they become aware of the impacts that agriculture has in their daily lives.

The ag-infused field trip, which targets third graders in San Joaquin County, is held several times during the school year at various sites. Wednesday’s venue was the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. The more than 3,000 third graders who were treated to the roughly four-hour field trip came from various schools in the Stockton Unified School District plus three private schools. Different ag displays, from tractors and other farm equipment to animals in the farm and crops that are grown in the fields, helped drive the message home to the students.

Stephanie Brasil, the 2010-2011 California Milk Advisory Board’s Dairy Queen, focused her presentation on dairies and how milk is produced. Part of her spiel was “to tell them that milk doesn’t come from the store; it comes from the dairies,” said Brasil who is in her second year as a volunteer AgVenture presenter.

“Some of them don’t even know what a dairy is,” she said of the reaction she gots from the third graders.

The Modesto Junior College sophomore, who works at the Subway restaurant in downtown Ripon, said that after being crowned Dairy Queen, she was recruited by AgVenture program coordinator Janet Dyk to become part of the volunteer crew. This is her second year as a presenter for the California Milk Advisory Board. Talking about dairies is second nature for Brasil who grew up and lives in a dairy. Brasil & Sons Dairy was founded in Escalon by her late grandfather. Her father, George, is one of the company’s three sons – the other two are her uncles, Victor and Gilbert – who now run a dairy on Lone Tree and another in Manteca near the Airport Way-Farmington area.

AgVenture’s young volunteers included MUSD FFA students

Many of the volunteers at Wednesday’s AgVenture were young students like Brasil. They included 14 FFA students from the Manteca Unified School District – eight from East Union and six from Manteca High. Lancers Caitlin King, a senior, and Harlee Finks and Selena Gonzalez, both juniors, gave a presentation on beans. The topic was pigs in the display manned by East Union FFA Makenna Jacobson, Bryanna Martin and Courtney Barker, all sophomores, and Manteca High FFA Maureya May.

Several of the presenters who gave talks on nutrition, exercise and other health-related topics were students from Weber Institute, a campus in Stockton where high school-aged students learn about automotive, medical and technology skills. The school is similar to the Vocational Charter School that Manteca Unified is in the process of developing.

Two of the AgVenture animals that entertained the third graders were Cocoa and Mocha, the names of the pair of alpacas that were brought to the event by Venture Academy students Kim Hunt, an eighth grader, and freshman Marissa Nida. The exotic animals came from the Durham Ferry campus on South Airport Way.

The other four-footed attraction at Wednesday’s AgVenture field trip – and has been since the program began except last year – was a Shire horse from the 40-acre ranch of AJ Kanz in Oakdale. The friendly 17-year-old, which has been with Kanz since it was 18 months old, weighs two tons. When Kanz asked the children what color is his horse, they answered white. Kanz then explained that the horse was born “solid black.” By the time it was three years old, its color turned to gray. At six years old, it was white. So it’s called a gray horse, Kanz explained.

It weighs about two tons, which is how he got its name Tank, he said.

“Nothing gets in his way that he can’t push over,” Kanz said with a laugh.

Other educational displays at the county fairgrounds AgVenture event were presented by the Almond Board of California, the San Joaquin County Historical Museum, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department, and several farmers and ranchers.