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Ag leaders feted
Moncrief, Berryhill honored for ag roles
Ken Moncrief.tif
Central Valley High School agriculture teacher Ken Moncrief was honored by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce as Agribusiness Man of the Year on Thursday. Moncrief is the main force behind the new Ceres Unified School District agriculture center which is situated behind Hidahl Elementary School. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Ken Moncrief's role in promoting agriculture among the students of Ceres and Central Valley high schools earned him the honor of being named by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce as the Agribusiness Man of the Year on Thursday.

Triana Berryhill's role in the family grape operation earned her the Agribusiness Woman of the Year.

Moncrief planned to enter swine production at the time he studied at Cal Poly but he became an animal science major who wanted to teach. He puts all of his time and effort into improving the district's ag program and also at Central Valley High School. In 2003 he helped implement an ag program when CVHS was being constructed.

He also led construction of the Ceres agricultural center behind Hidahl Elementary School. Moncrief also invests a lot of afterhours in the development of the center. He was noted as putting shingles on a building during his Thanksgiving break.

Before he was presented his award, Central Valley High School Ag Director Moncrief spent some time explaining the role of the CVHS Ag Center, which is a farm run by students on ground behind Hidahl Elementary School in Ceres.

"This is really a shock - I didn't know this was happening today," said Moncrief. "This isn't just a career; this is something that I really love to do. It's really a passion so this is really great."

Approximately 750 students at both Ceres and Central Valley high schools participate in activities at the center.

About three years ago the idea came forth from the Ceres Unified School District Child Nutrition and Business Services director to start a facility. CUSD owned an excess amount of property behind Hidahl School and the idea was to have ag students grow crops on the land. An irrigation system of 2,000 feet of pipe was installed - all by students.

"One of the things that I am truly proud of is every part of this facility has been touched by kids," said Moncrief. "They did all of this stuff."

The farm was planted first with 150 fruit trees donated by local nurseries.

"This product that we are producing on this facility is going into student lunches. So the students not only grow it but they eat it at lunch."

A grape vine was also planted by donated vines.

Moncrief said he is inspired how the local ag industry has "worked side by side with my kids."

Row crops are also cultivated and last year 44 Ceres students exhibited produce grown at the farm. They brought in $9,500 in premium money earned at the farm.

Moncrief said students had a beautiful crop of strawberries and said "then we had that rain." The crop was a loss in two days "so we got to experience the reality of agriculture."

Industry representatives are also teaching students about how the acidity soil affects the production of blueberries.

Superior Fruit Ranch has donated a 3,000 square foot metal shop acting as a storage facility and instructional center. The Ceres Rotary Club provided funding for the concrete foundation and slab. Volunteers have turned out to construct the facility. The shop will allow students to process the produce. Currently produce goes into boxes and straight to the school kitchens.

"The ladies in the kitchen are not too happy when I show up with a box of carrots that are covered with soil," said Moncrief.

Elementary school students are also receiving education on the farm.

Moncrief noted that the lettuce served at Thursday's luncheon came from the student farm's hydoponic greenhouse.

Funding is being sought to connect the metal warehouse to electricity and Moncrief wants to see construction of cattle/sheep pens and a swine barn. Most FFA students in Ceres do not have their own property for the raising of animals for the County Fair.

He wrapped up his talk on the center, saying "it's a work in progress" and adding "great things are happening."

"I believe that this is the best thing that I have done in 26 years in this district," said Moncrief. "This is just truly an outstanding experience for kids."

Triana Berryhill was honored for her role in agriculture when in 1991 she married Bill Berryhill, a Ceres grape grower. She was called a "quick study" for her understanding the basics of crop production, contract negotiations, record keeping, and employee relations.

"She also became a cracker jack at dealing the banking community according to her partner," said Jill-Marie Purdy, last year's recipient. Triana did all this while she raised three "lively, intelligent, civic-minded children, each of whom maintains a solid work ethic and commitment to the traditional values they were taught," said Purdy.

Mrs. Berryhill has also been active in the Soroptimist International of Ceres, the Relay for Life, Young Farmers & Ranchers, Sober Grad Night, school site councils and precinct walks for local candidates. She also served on the California Association of Wine Grape Growers and has discussed agriculture at Walter White School.

When Bill Berryhill served in the state Assembly, Triana would not hear talk of hiring an outside management group but took the reins of the ranch and managed Berryhill vineyards as well as wine grapes and walnuts grown near Lodi. She managed personnel and oversaw new plantings.

"When her husband Bill returned home after two terms in the state Assembly, he said he spent most of his time just finding the extra 300 acres she added to the ranch in his absence," said Purdy.

Berryhill was quoted as saying: "Farming is fun and the people around me are just the nicest people. You do the job because you love the land. I am very lucky."

The luncheon saw the 2014 Legacy Award given to Diamond Bar Arena. Other nominees were Bronco Winery and Stanislaus Farm Supply. Diamond Bar Arena is host to many events all year long and draws crowds for championships, shows, riding clinics and barrel races. The arena hosts the annual Imperial Knights jousting event, which is a fundraiser for Ceres high schools.

The first-ever Grant Lucas Memorial Award was presented to Scott Long. The award, named for the longtime Ceres rancher and community servant who died on April 26, is being given annually for a leader in the ag industry. Long was praised as one who gives his time tirelessly to coordinate the annual Ceres Agribusiness Luncheon all while running Superior Fruit Ranch. Long also is instrumental in helping develop the CUSD ag center.

The luncheon also included the awarding of $2,000 in scholarships donated by Jim Bear to agriculture students. The money went to Marlen Diaz, Haille Margarite Donart, Ernesto Cuevas and Esteban Villafan.