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Third-graders see how farm = food
Local manufacturers show how ag items are used in food products
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Ceres High School FFA members Jasmine Awan and Madison Zamaroni educate third-graders about baby chickens during the Feb. 28 Farm to Factory Tour held on the campus. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

For years Ceres High School has held a "Farm Day" event to coincide with National FFA Week. This year Farm Day became the first annual "Farm to Factory Tour."

Dark rain clouds - which ordinarily would be a welcome sight for those understanding farming - posed a threat to the Feb. 28 event in which approximately 900 third-graders were bussed in to see and hear about farm animals as well as gain a better understanding how food is grown and processed. The event allowed Ceres to showcase locally grown products, such as dairy and almonds.

Students also were able to see tractors and other farm implements.

Approximately 20 to 30 vendors - including Frito Lay and Seneca Foods - showed up to tell about their products. Seneca handed out products. Steve Dacuyan of Frito Lay, which operates a plant in the Beard Industrial Tract northeast of Ceres, explained that how grain and corn goes into their chips. The Modesto plant uses 225 million pounds of potatoes - primarily grown in the Bakersfield, Stockton and Klamath areas - for the annual manufacture of potato chips. Frito Lay also purchases 30 million pounds of yellow corn annually for the Modesto plant to make Doritos. He helped hand out complimentary bags of Sun Chips and Doritos to students.

The Dairy Council of California brought its mobile classroom and used Snickers, a live dairy cow, to illustrate facts about milk production.

Tim Holveck, owner of the Denair-based Rolling H Carriage Co., brought along draft horses. He explained how the large horses are cared for and all about various items of tack.

Agricultural teacher Mike Patterson said the event was "designed to raise ag awareness at a young age."

Inside classrooms, third-graders were also allowed to extract DNA from strawberries.

In the petting zoo area contained by walls of baled hay, FFA members educated students about their animals. Jasmine Awan and Madison Zamaroni held days-old baby chicks that are being raised for the veterinary science program. As the chickens grow they will be studied for weight and development on the basis of feeding.

"Did you know that a chicken is the closest thing to a T-Rex?" asked Zamaroni of the students.

Students also were allowed to see the solar projects of the Ceres High Manufacturing Production and Green Energy Academy. The academy has 160 students.