Posts Tagged: Elkus Ranch
Curious goats milled around the masked elementary school students who were raking out the livestock stalls. After a year of social distancing due to COVID-19 precautions, the goats were enthralled by the youngsters who visited UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in San Mateo County.
“The animals were missing kids, they're used to getting more loving,” said Beth Loof, 4-H youth community educator at Elkus Ranch. “Goats are really social. They get distressed when they are alone.”
Tucked behind the rolling green hills of Half Moon Bay off state Route 1, Elkus Ranch is a working landscape that, in a normal year, hosts people from all over the San Francisco Bay Area for field trips, conferences, community service projects, internships and summer camps.
During the pandemic, UC ANR has limited visitors to “social bubbles” of children and adults for outdoor education at the 125-acre ranch, which has implemented a variety of COVID protocols for the safety of visitors. During Adventure Days, young people spend four hours caring for animals, tending gardens, making a nature-themed craft project and hiking around the property.
“We would love to bring children from urban areas of the Bay Area to Elkus Ranch,” said Frank McPherson, director of UC Cooperative Extension for Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and San Francisco counties. “So they can learn where food comes from, before it gets to the grocery store.”
On a sunny spring day, 11 students from Share Path Academy in San Mateo visited for Adventure Day, as their first field trip of the year.
“Coming here and having the hands-on learning, being able to hold objects, touch objects, interact with things, it's all part of learning,” said Erin McCoy, a Share Path Academy teacher. “In science, you can talk about certain things in classes, but when you come out here and you actually apply it to what they're doing and it's tactile for them, at this age, it's really important.”
The group – composed of McCoy, nine fifth-graders, a fourth-grader, a sixth-grader and a couple of parents – spent the day outdoors petting the donkeys, goats, chickens, rabbits and sheep and learning about the animals that live at Elkus Ranch.
“I think it's been a great opportunity for our children to be outdoors and to enjoy nature, to reconnect with the environment – animals, plants, just the outdoors,” said parent Christina Cabrera. “It's great for the children and the adults accompanying them.”
Inside the barn, Loof invited the students to sit on straw bales – not the hay bales, which are food for the livestock. She showed the students how wool that is sheared from sheep's coats is spun into yarn. First, they carded the wool. “You're going to card it like this. It's like brushing your hair, but it has a little resistance so it can be a workout,” Loof said, cautioning the students wearing shorts to be careful not to brush their skin with the sharp, wire teeth of the tool. “Get all the fibers nice and flat, lined up, going one way. Fibers are what we call all the strands of wool.”
After twisting the wool by hand into yarn, the students fashioned the natural-colored fuzzy strands into bracelets.
“We love Elkus,” said McCoy, whose son has attended summer camp at the ranch. “This place is awesome.”
Taking a break for lunch, the group walked down the dirt path from the barn past the livestock pens to wash their hands, then sat at primary-colored picnic tables to eat next to a garden.
After lunch, the students exercised their creativity with buckets of clay to mold into animals or roll out and cut with cookie cutters.
In the chicken coop, Loof, who is one of four community educators who work at Elkus Ranch, shared animal science facts such as, “Eggs are viable for two weeks after the hen sits on them in the nest.” She also told funny stories such as how Dora, the white bantam, escaped the coop and ate all the chard in the garden.
“I wish this was my school,” said one student as he held an egg-laying hen.
The visit ended with a garden tour and a game of hide and seek among the raised beds of onions, squash and other vegetables.
“Being outdoors is an important counterbalance to being on a computer,” said Cabrera, who is also a San Mateo High School wellness counselor. “It's a great addition to what we're doing. Just to be with animals.”
Elkus Ranch is still offering Adventure Days for children; the cost is $425 for 10 people. Small groups are also invited for 90-minute visits.
“If all goes well, we plan to offer a three-day mini-camp Monday through Wednesday of Thanksgiving week,” said Leslie Jensen, Elkus Ranch coordinator.
Homeschooling families are invited to venture out to a new learning environment at UC Elkus Ranch in Half Moon Bay. UC Elkus Ranch is an environmental education center, providing unique hands-on learning experiences for Bay Area youth. Due to COVID-19 precautions, UC Elkus Ranch has temporarily opened to the general public for private family tours only.
UC Cooperative Extension educators lead small groups on a remote-learning walk through the pastoral fields, vegetable gardens, historic barns and animal pens at UC Elkus Ranch.
“Families can feed our sheep while learning about wool processing, hear how predators and prey adapt, view our impressive animal bone collection, take selfies with our goats and miniature donkeys, and plant a seedling to take home,” said Frank McPherson, director of UC Cooperative Extension for the Bay Area.
Tours must be scheduled in advance and all statewide and San Mateo County Health Department restrictions are being enforced. Current information on San Mateo County health restrictions can be found at https://www.smchealth.org/health-officer-orders-and-statements. For information on scheduling and pricing, please visit http://elkusranch.ucanr.edu/Visit/Family_Tours.
Elkus Ranch, property of the University of California, conducts educational outdoor programs for urban, disabled and inner-city youth in environmental science, California history, animal care and agricultural programs year-round.
Located on the central California coast in Half Moon Bay, the ranch offers diverse programs including those specifically designed for students with special needs, allowing participants to learn about the inter-relationship of the environment and themselves in a rural setting. Under normal circumstances,Elkus Ranch hosts more than 9,000 youth and adults each year from all over the San Francisco Bay Area including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.
Elkus Ranch also has a conference center that can be leased separately. The 4,400 square foot educational and conference facility is available for daytime retreats, meetings and workshops year-around. Current COVID-19 restrictions may affect availability. Additional information about the ranch and conference center, can be found at http://elkusranch.ucanr.edu/Visit/Conference_Center.
Each year, about 9,000 kids visit the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Elkus Ranch in Half Moon Bay for hands-on educational experiences in urban horticulture, nutrition, food safety, pest management, livestock management and food preservation, reported Sara Hayden in April 2018 issue of Half Moon Bay Magazine (the article begins on p. 16).
Hayden visited the ranch with photographer Jaime Soja when a group of preschoolers descended to explore the garden and meet the farm animals.
"They can taste and touch and smell things - feel the wool of a sheep or an egg, know where their food is from, where the clothing fiber comes from," said Kathi Baxter, UC Cooperative Extension environmental science educator at Elkus Ranch. "Ideally, kids would get the idea that space is necessary to grow food. We're hoping to plant that seed of stewardship here."
The Elkus family donated the 125-acre ranch in the 1970s as a gift for youth. The ranch's operating budget depends heavily on grants and donations.
For more, visit the Elkus Ranch website at http://ucanr.edu/sites/elkus_ranch.
The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center near Half Moon Bay is making plans to expand its conference center to offer more flexible facilities for conventions and team-building exercises, reported Julia Reis in the Half Moon Bay Review.
The ranch was donated to UC in 1975 and hosts more than 6,000 youth and adults from all over the San Francisco Bay Area each year. UC ANR presents 4-H programs at Elkus Ranch for children from preschool through high school to explore the processes of producing food and fiber, nutrition programs, community service days and special events. The site is also available for daytime retreats, meetings, workshops, weddings and other special events.
Elkus Ranch director Virginia Bolshakova send a request for qualifications to area planning firms which are due this Friday. The proposals should include potential project scope and plans for improved overnight accommodations, new field laboratory areas and new walking trails.
Program coordinator Leslie Jensen took the reporter on the tour of Elkus Ranch's facilities and shared the staff's vision for improvements. The staff envisions adding yurts for student housing or replacing or renovating the building where students currently sleep. The ranch's water system is also in need of updating and the staff wants the education center to be "greener." The study is to be completed by Sept. 1.
According to the CDFA (2012 statistics), he wrote, the Top-10 commodities produced in California are, in order, included milk, grapes, almonds, nursery plants, cattle and calves, strawberries, lettuce, walnuts, hay, and tomatoes.
Pitahaya must be WAY down the list, but worth a taste, Blake wrote.
Other recent news:
- UC Cooperative Extension hosted an "Insect Blitz" on Sept. 13 at UC Cooperative Extension's Elkus Ranch, which featured the opportunity to consider bugs as a delicious food source, reported the Half Moon Bay Review.
The event also included a "bio blitz," in which participants were encouraged to venture off on the 150-acre site and collect samples of plant and insect species. Elkus Ranch Director Virginia Bolshakova, UC Cooperative Extension advisor and San Mateo-San Francisco County Director, said the event gave the public a chance to learn about the biodiversity of the area.
- The San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times reported on the spread of bagrada bug to the San Francisco Bay Area. The pest was introduced into Southern California six years ago and has been marching northward and eastward ever since.
"This bug is highly nasty," said entomologist Shimat Joseph, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey County. "It can make a crop unmarketable.
The story also quoted Virginia Bolshakova.
"Everybody is keeping their eyes open as it travels up the coast," she said. "It is likely just a matter of time" until it reaches the rural farms along the edge of the Pacific."