Cows, and pigs, and chickens, oh my! When agriculture and students meet, it’s always a good time! On Thursday, February 04, 2016, third-graders from around Monterey County enthusiastically arrived at Driscoll’s for Salinas Farm Day. It’s a day many had been looking forward to for years, as the institution of Farm Day is established throughout the county. During their half-day visit, students learned about farming, animal husbandry, healthy eating, exercise, and much more with hands-on exhibits and interactions.
Annually, the agricultural industry of Monterey County comes together to provide an outstanding educational enrichment program for all third graders in the county. This program is a successful example of business, industry and community joining with education for the benefit of students; it is also unique in the United States. The respect for The Farm Day Experience by agriculturalists throughout the state is especially noteworthy.
The Farm Day Experience is Monterey County Agricultural Education, Inc.’s primary program and in the first twenty years the program has reached approximately 130,000 third graders, 26,000 parents (as chaperones) and hundreds of third grade teachers in Monterey County. During each school year, every third grade class in Monterey County is invited to attend one of three events, reaching approximately 6500 students annually.
The Farm Day Experience has its roots in the mid-1980s, as a mobile program that went from school to school, when industry leaders realized that the majority of students lacked knowledge of the basic concepts regarding the origin of their abundant food supply. The requests for the program became so numerous that it was necessary to develop a program that had the capacity to reach many, many more students. The first Farm Day Experience was held in 1991, and has since become a permanent component of county third grade curriculum.
Every year the local agricultural industry, operating through Monterey County Agricultural Education, Inc., provides over 700 volunteers to make the series of three events a memorable, hands on learning experience for approximately 6500 third grade students, at a cost of almost $100.00 per student. All expenses, including bus transportation, are funded by Monterey County Agricultural Education, a non-profit organization. Funds come from a variety of sources including the agricultural industry, private citizens, the Office of the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner and various local foundations.
The Farm Day Experience provides basic, current facts about the agricultural industry of our county, gives students and teachers the opportunity to become familiar with food production, and makes the important, personal contact with farming that has been lost through increased urbanization. It also gives those involved in our industry a chance to interact with the enthusiastic and interested children – and adults.