By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
900 third-graders learn about farming
• Annual “Farm to Factory Tour” resumes for first time since pandemic
Jocelyn Hernandez holds rabbit
Jocelyn Hernandez, a third-grader from Carroll Fowler Elementary School, wasn’t too sure how to feel about holding a rabbit. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Approximately 900 Ceres third-graders got an up-close look at barnyard animals and manufacturing industry jobs on Thursday when the farm came to the Ceres High School campus.

Third-graders from all Ceres elementary schools were bussed to the Ceres High School campus for the annual “Farm to Factory Tour” to view robotic demonstrations, hold rabbits, see how they measured up in a giant tractor tire, learn about farm animals like cows, horses, hog, goats, sheep, rabbits, ducks and chickens, and hear about career options.

According to Ceres High agriculture teacher Mardel Runnels, the event began in 2015 and skipped the past two years of COVID. It is designed to familiarize youngsters, even in a relatively rural city like Ceres who have little understanding how food makes its way to the market, with agriculture.

The event involved Ceres High School students in agriculture/FFA, the Manufacturing, Production and Green Technology (MPGT) Academy and criminal justice classes.

Third-graders also experienced and explored some of the Career Technical Education opportunities available to them at Ceres High. The event coincides with the agricultural unit which third-graders complete during the spring in their regular classrooms.

While some elementary students attend “Career Day” events at their respective schools, the Ceres High Career Technical Education (CTE) team is able to expose students to a wide variety of careers and pathways. It also provides high school students a chance to share their work and potentially inspire other students to pursue careers in ag, criminal justice and manufacturing.

“The intent is to just educate them and share with them about the ag industry, the manufacturing industry, the programs that are offered here at Ceres High School,” said Runnels. “We actually have a lot of students who come as third-graders and then they come back as ninth-graders and this is the one thing that they cannot wait to participate in.”

Students rotated through stations staged on an area behind the Phil de la Porte Gymnasium. Dominating the blacktop was a large Case Steiger 580 tractor loaned out by Belkorp Ag of south Modesto. Garton Tractor also supplied equipment for the display.

While some students were watching a welding demonstration – while wearing protective eye gear – other students were learning about cows at a table manned by the Mid Valley Cowbells. The group of women ranchers enjoys educating students in Stanislaus, Merced and Mariposa counties about raising cattle and their care. 

“We’re all cattle women,” said Judy Elam, an Oakdale member of the Cowbells. “Some of our members just are promoting beef. We do a lot of ag days. It’s informative for the kids. We’re just getting back into it. Last year, of course ,it was nil.”

Members like Barbara Silva of Ceres explained the various tools used in raising beef, such as syringes for medicinal injections and a metal device to place pills in the back of a cow’s mouth.

A popular hands-on activity was the robotics exhibit where students like Gael Garcia of Sinclear Elementary School had fun guiding a vehicle around the blacktop.

The event also allowed CHS to introduce project to students of the Manufacturing Production & Green Technology (MPGT) Academy. 

Students watched a display of torch welding and some got a chance to pound nails into a board and use a portable screwdriver.

Although they were the smallest animal on display, the worms inhabiting a worm bin drew student interest. The word vermiculture may have been a new one learned Thursday; it is the process of using worms to decompose organic food waste, turning the waste into a nutrient-rich material capable of supplying necessary nutrients to help sustain plant growth.

Students were allowed to take home squash seeds they planted in a small Dixie cup and encouraged to start their own home gardens.

Another fun activity for students was creating their own rockets out of paper and seeing them shot out of an air cannon. Many of them sailed for distances that caused jaws to drop.

Other businesses on hand were Central Valley Concrete which displayed a giant concrete truck on hand.

“How many times do kids get to walk around a concrete truck?” asked Ceres High ag teacher Brian Mortensen.

“Unless your dad pours concrete or they’re pouring concrete at their house.”

Lance Goblirsh brought a dump truck to the campus for kids to see.

Ceres High School student Nick Campbell proudly showed off the 1947 John Deere tractor owned by his boss which he uses in tractor pull contests in California and the Reno, Nevada area.

The tractor’s weighted to compete in the 6500-pound class.

“It’s been restored,” said Campbell. “It’s all souped-up for tractor pulls. This one actually runs on aviation fuel. It’s about $130 for a five-gallon tank. Airplane fuel’s not cheap.”

“It’s whoever has the farthest distance in your class,” said Campbell.

The criminal justice students conducted a mock crime scene and demonstrated the lifting of fingerprints.

Olivia Solkah, a teacher at Sinclear Elementary School reported that her third-graders were excited.

“This is our first field trip in three years,” she said. “Some of them have said they had never ridden a bus before.”

Miguel Chavez and Luis Rubio
Third-graders reach in to touch cows under the control of Ceres High School ag students Miguel Chavez (at right), and Luis Rubio (center in back). - photo by Jeff Benziger
Gael Garcia
Gael Garcia of Sinclear Elementary School had fun guiding a vehicle around the blacktop in hands-on robotics demonstration. - photo by Jeff Benziger
Nick Campbell
Ceres High School student Nick Campbell displayed a 1947 John Deere tractor with which he competes in tractor pulls. - photo by Jeff Benziger
Barbara Silva of Ceres, a member of Mid Valley Cowbelles display items used in ranching, such as a metal device used to force pills into the back of a cow's mouth. - photo by Jeff Benziger