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Crops raised at CVHS a learning experience while feeding Ceres students
Central Valley High School students Natalie Cercas and Karine Cercas help weed the school garden. The garden teaches them how to care for plants that produce vegetables. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Courier photo

Central Valley and Ceres High students have helped transform a 6.5-acre site donated by the Ceres Unified School District into the Ceres Agriculture Center. It's where they learn all about raising vegetables which in turn help feed Ceres students.

Members of the agriculture programs at Central Valley and Ceres High presented an update of the progress being made at the Ceres Ag Center, which is located behind Hidahl Elementary School, during the Feb. 19 Ceres School Board meeting.

"We've made a vast amount of progress over the year," reports Central Valley High agriculture teacher Ken Moncrief. "That's pretty exciting."

"It's really a tremendous thing," commented CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel.

Students are in charge of planting, tending and harvesting row crops, fruits and vegetables for the district's Child Nutrition school lunch program.
Farm fresh apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, lettuce and peppers will be sold.

Students also learned about such practices as hydroponics and pesticide-free farming.

Future plans include building processing/refrigeration and animal facilities.

"I don't know of any other school district growing product," said Moncrief. "We want the kids to be the integral part. It's opening so many doors. It's incredible."

Approximately 90 students received hands-on experience at the Ceres Ag Center between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays during the 2012-13 school year.

Central Valley students will generate $10,000 through sales at the Stanislaus County Fair.

"We got a huge demand for the kids for the classes," Moncrief said. "Our goal within a year is to take 500-700 students out there. It's exciting the district supports this."

Ceres Unified provided land, which has a value of $100,000, for the farm and assistance in financing for a tractor that cost $25,000.

The Ag Center will be completed in 12-18 months.

"It benefits child nutrition," Siegel said. "The biggest thing is the experience the students get. They're running a business basically. It's a win-win."