Smiles were abound as more than 2,000 inquisitive kindergarteners and first-graders learned about agriculture while spending an hour of their Thursday at the first annual Ceres Unified School District Fall Harvest Festival.
"We want to expose the kids to the largest industry and employer of our community," said Central Valley High School agriculture teacher Ken Moncrief. "I don't know of any other school districts that do something of this size and scale."
The event was staged between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the six-and-a-half-acre Ceres Ag Center, a student farm located behind Hidahl Elementary School.
Sinclear Elementary kindergarten teacher Desirae Uhte accompanied her students as they cycled through different workshop stations.
They guessed the weight of a pumpkin prior to receiving facts about the fruit.
They planted radish seeds.
They learned about bugs and insects.
They posed for pictures with tractors and other farm equipment on display.
"The kids are extremely excited," Uhte said. "It's all they've been talking about for the past month. Some of their parents work in the Ag industry."
Central Valley High School senior Wilber Arellano was among the 70 agriculture students to serve as presenters at the Fall Harvest Festival, working at the "Bugs All Around" exhibit. Wilber kept children interested and engaged by singing a song about lady bugs, bees and praying mantis.
"They're having fun and learning," said Arellano, who is also the CVHS FFA president. "That's the best combination when you want to learn something new."
"It's absolutely amazing," Uhte said. "Our students are teaching our students."
"They did all the workshops for the kids," Moncrief said.
Every student received a pumpkin to take home prior to heading back to their respective school sites.
The majority of students were bused to the Ceres Ag Center.
"We've created a district-wide event for our kids," Moncrief said. "We wanted to have an event where more students in the district could have hands-on agricultural experience during the harvest season. We plan to try to do this every October."
Van Groningen and Sons donated 2,500 pumpkins to the Fall Harvest Festival.
Producers Dairy donated milk consumed by students as they nibbled on pumpkin cookies made by the CUSD food service program.
Belkorp AG provided tractors and other equipment for display.
"We got a lot of community support from businesses in this area," Moncrief said. "It's really rewarding to know our industry cares about kids."