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Students get close study of farm life
Third-graders who took Ceres High School's FFA chapter Farm Tour Wednesday found themselves face-to-face with farm animals - many for the first time ever.

FFA member Lance Azevedo chuckled to himself as he watched pairs of students take turns braving the petting of his pigs as if they were ferocious animals.

"We're teaching younger kids the importance of agriculture especially since fewer and fewer people are getting into it," said Carson Henley, president of the Ceres Future Farmers of America. "It's somewhat dying."

Henley brought along her Holstein dairy cow while others brought their project animals. Gary and Kaylene Mortensen, the parents of CHS ag advisor Brian Mortsensen, brought along sheep and spoke of raising them.

FFA member Melissa Pence let students pet her horse while Henley showed her Holstein dairy cow at another station. Baby goats and rabbits were also displayed.

The chapter offered 10 stations at the CHS campus at the west end of the football stadium. Students either walked or were bused to the campus. They were challenged in their first station by sticking their hand in a box and identifying the fruit by feeling. They were shown the fundamentals of welding in a metal shop building.

Joey Gonzales of Stanislaus Farm Supply explained to students how the company aids farmers in growing crops including crops that are consumed by animals, such as corn and alfalfa.

"Almonds can early really grow in the Valley," explained Gonzales. "The rest of the U.S. doesn't grow almonds."

He surprised even teachers when he stated that peaches and almonds are "cousins." He pointed out that both fruits are covered by a fuzzy skin and that a split-open peach pit resembles an almond nut - information he called "useless but it's kind of interesting."

Gonzales touched on the uses of grapes, also grown around Ceres, in wine and raisins.

Students were handed cheese samples and told how cheese is made from milk given by cows.

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

Students enjoyed a fun station which used goodies in an explanation of soil. They were treated to a mixture of crushed Oreo cookies and gummy worms.

"This is a recruitment tool," said Mortensen, "but it introduces lower grades of kids, mostly city kids, to what farm life is about."