Fresno County third-graders get a closer look at farming

The Fresno BeeMarch 21, 2014 

Third-grader Noah Trevino was in awe Friday as he stared curiously at a brownish-red bird.

But this was no exotic animal. It was a chicken, something Trevino had only seen in pictures.

"Wow," said Trevino, who attends Fancher Creek Elementary in Clovis. "This is the first time I have seen a chicken up close."

For many students like Trevino, Friday's trip to the ninth Fresno County Farm and Nutrition Day was full of discovery.

This year, more than 3,400 third-grade students from nine county school districts toured the Fresno Fairgrounds where they watched demonstrations of cow milking, horse training and sheep herding. They got to plant lettuce in small pots and sampled raisins, olives, milk and frozen peaches. In the livestock area, students got to see live farm animals including, chickens, goats, sheep and pigs.

More than 50 booths staffed by various organizations provided information on topics including nutrition, water conservation and composting.

Teacher Jackie Wilkins of Jefferson Elementary in Clovis said Farm Day provides a valuable lesson for students who have limited knowledge of agriculture -- the central San Joaquin Valley's largest industry.

"A lot of our kids live in suburban neighborhoods and they don't get to travel very much," Wilkins said. "So if this is the only way to introduce them to agriculture, then what a great opportunity."

Parent Denise Boyd said she appreciated the reminders for students to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and limit snacks.

"It is so important to teach your children to be healthy eaters," said Boyd of Clovis. "And the more that message is reinforced, the better."

Her daughter Heather, a Cole Elementary student, liked the horse and sheep dog demonstration as well as planting lettuce.

"I am going to take it home and give it plenty of water," she said. "This is so cool."

Les Wright, Fresno County's agricultural commissioner, said that despite living in one of the most productive agricultural regions of the world, many people in the county have little knowledge of how food is produced.

"We have really separated ourselves from farming and as a result, a lot of kids have no connection to agriculture even though it is right here in our backyard," Wright said. "This event gives them an opportunity to see it."

Fresno County Farm and Nutrition Day is sponsored by the Fresno County Farm Bureau and The Big Fresno Fair.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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