With over 700 participants, 100 volunteers, and 19 organizations involved, the Farm-to-Preschool Festival was a huge success!
Nearly 125 local high school FFA students from Calexico, Imperial, Southwest, Holtville and Brawley high schools visited Farm Smart, located at the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center (UC DREC), in September for the first annual AgVenture Field Day. The program was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the work of Roberto Gonzalez, USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program Region Director for Southern California and AZ.
Presenters from the University of Arizona(UA)- Yuma, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), and the University of California Farm Smart exposed the students to potential careers in agricultural, opportunities for camps and internships, and availability of agricultural project loans. Tanya Hodges, Academic Programs Coordinator at UA-Yuma, and Beleshka Brenes, Director of Agriculture Programs at UA-Yuma, highlighted the USDA AgDiscovery program, a two-week summer camp for high school students interested in an agricultural career. UA-Yuma student and AgDiscovery intern, Armando Baranda, shared his experiences as a transfer student from Imperial Valley's junior college, Imperial Valley College(IVC), and his experience as an intern for the AgDiscovery program.
Students participants also learned about the different opportunities within the USDA. Rosa Singh, Executive Director of the USDA-FSA in Imperial County, Rogelio Araujo, Program Technician for USDA-FSA, and Marina Arballo, Program Technician for USDA-FSA, offered information about USDA youth loans for agricultural projects including fair animals and the internship opportunities within USDA.
Students then boarded hay wagons and were given a tour of UC DREC, including the research plots, feedlot, irrigation projects, information on Imperial County agriculture, and the top 10 commodities. Students finished the tour with honey tasting, colored carrot research and colored carrot tasting, and a nutrition lesson featuring smoothies and shaker salads.
Farm Smart staff and the UCANR Director, Jairo Diaz, sat down with long-term partners from the Imperial Irrigation Dirstrict (IID), Mike Pacheco and Tina Shields. This partnership has been fundamental to increase agriculture, STEM, and environmental literacy for California-Mexico-Arizona boarder citizens and visitors from around the world.