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District Ag Farm cultivates opportunities for youth
Work day 5
Agriculture teacher Krista Vannest of Pitman High Schools FFA program shows enthusiasm as she operates her tractor with a brush fork at the District Ag Farm cleanup. - photo by Photo Contributed


When most students perform field work it typically means they are gaining experience in a particular area of study, but for Turlock agriculture students this is a literal term.

With the recent acquisition of a 10 acre parcel of land off of Taylor Avenue for a District Agricultural Farm, community high school Ag students will be able to hone the skills they are learning in the classroom and apply them to real-life situations.

On Veteran’s Day a number of students from both Pitman and Turlock high schools, their parents, school staff, and Ag industry volunteers spent their time and efforts to clean up the farm. The farm is almost equidistant between the two high schools and is currently in a stage of redevelopment. The volunteers were able to clear out and take down old buildings as well as remove trees and concrete in order to create a blank slate for future planning. The District Ag Farm received equipment and service donations from Turlock Scavenger and Garton Tractors among other local companies.

“Agricultural education is experiential. Kids need to get their hands dirty and for some kids that’s how they learn. This laboratory component is really important,” said Mark Bender, agricultural farm consultant for the District and endowed chair of agriculture at California State University, Stanislaus. 

Detailed plans for the farm have yet to be determined, but Bender says that at least one more clean-up day is in order. The future of the land is under discussion, though the creation of livestock units, extensive gardening, and a crop component for the students to tend to remains on the table. Teachers are working on a physical plan for the land, which will be submitted to an Industry Advisory Committee for refinement, a process which Bender hopes to be completed by the end of January. No date has been set for the operation of the farm and that will largely depend upon the donations the program receives.

“The Turlock District has a long history of excellence in agriculture and FFA and this is a community where a lot of people have benefited from these programs so we know people understand that this is an excellent opportunity to enhance students’ education and teach them important characteristics such as team building and hard work,” said Bender.

The upcoming projects for the District Ag Farm include digging a well and remodeling a caretaker’s residence. The public is welcome to volunteer and donate. Those interested in more information or looking to help can contact Mark Bender at . All donations are tax deductible.