After a long, dry winter, no one was complaining when a powerful storm dumped up to five inches of much-needed rainfall over Sonoma and Marin counties, leaving the participants in Farm Bureau’s Ag Days a bit drenched, if undaunted.
Despite the rain and cold weather, Ag Days was held on March 27 and 28, not only showcasing local agriculture but the resilience and determination of the farmers and ranchers who came together to educate urban school kids about Sonoma County food production, sustainable farming and land stewardship. It also was a lesson in coping with Mother Nature.
“It shows the kids that even when it’s raining farmers and ranchers come through, doing what they have to do to take care of their crops and animals,” said Santa Rosa livestock rancher Christie Stucker-Ennis, who brought an Angus heifer and two Boer goats to Ag Days. It was her first time as an exhibitor at Ag Days but she vowed to return next year to join other ranchers in giving school kids a meaningful farm experience. She said it’s important to educate the next generation about the source of their food and the county’s thriving farm industry.
She said most urban school kids do not have the opportunity to see and touch farm animals. Ag Days provides that opportunity.
Because of the rain, numbers were down slightly from last year’s record 6,000 students. An estimated 5,000 students, 1,000 parents and 300 teachers attended Ag Days, soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of farming while sampling milk, apple juice, cheese, fresh apples and honey sticks.
“Please touch” was the order of the day. There were baby chicks, ducklings and goslings from Western Farm Center and baby goats from the Kracker ranch in Santa Rosa. The Crawford family brought a Hampshire sow and her eight piglets. The children were able to wander through a hay maze created by rancher Norm Yenni of Sonoma and stare down a leggy Wagyu beef heifer from Petaluma’s Spring Hill Ranch & Vineyard, owned by Chris and Karen London. Kids looked up at the giant Belgian draft horses brought from Bodega by rancher Pat Prather and looked down at “Peanut Butter,” the miniature horse owned by James Cannard of Sonoma. The students watched cunning sheep dogs herd ducks and marveled at the dexterity of sheep shearer Judd Redden as he used electric shears to fleece woolly sheep. They petted chickens and ran their fingers through pungent compost.
“It’s important for all of us in agriculture to educate young people about farm life and what it takes to grow the food that we all eat as consumers,” said livestock rancher Joe Pozzi, president of Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
Teachers said Ag Days gives students the foundation to begin the educational journey to understand where their food comes from and the purpose of the farmland they see from the car on Sunday drives. At Ag Days, they can actually touch the old brown cow that they know from their storybooks. They hear baby pigs squeal and smell what comes from the backend of a kid goat.
“At Ag Days, the children begin to see a connection between what is happening on a farm and what is happening in their lives. Hands-on experiences are valuable learning tools,” said Bonny Russell-Larrain, a kindergarten teacher at Apple Blossom School in Sebastopol. She has been bringing her students to Ag Days for years and has her students participate in the Ag Days contests.
Carla Peterson, a teacher at Graton’s Pacific Christian Academy and a longtime participant in all facets of Ag Days, said the Ag Days tour at the fairgrounds is a fabulous experience for her students.
“Ag Days has something for every student. Students are able to find something interesting or learn something new. I like the fact that everything can be enjoyed by all ages,” said Peterson.
“Students are able to see and make connections, viewing the entire process of food production. For example, students can view calves, see cows, learn about how "mammals make milk", learn about by-products and then taste milk and cheese.”
Additionally, she said, “Children can also make the connection between healthful food, nutrition, exercise and health. Students also can see how agriculture relies on other sciences.”
Ethel Tedsen, a teacher at Prestwood School in Sonoma, said fewer and fewer kids come from a farming background, so programs like Ag Days are important in helping them understand that agriculture is a significant part of Sonoma County’s landscape and economy.
“As Sonoma County becomes more populated, an event like Ag Days helps the students see how our farmland is being used, which gives them an appreciation of local food production,” said Tedsen.
In addition to the exhibits and demonstrations, the kids were able to taste the best of Sonoma County. Kids munched on Gala and sampled cheese from Petaluma Creamery, Clover milk and apple juice from Manzana Apple Products in Sebastopol.
“Ag Days is a unique opportunity where we can educate children, parents and teachers all together about the importance of agriculture to their lives and to the community,” said Bodega livestock rancher Walt Ryan, a director of Sonoma County Farm Bureau and chairman of Farm Bureau’s Agriculture Education Committee.
Over the last 32 years, Ag Days has grown into a major event to represent the many facets of Sonoma County agriculture. Farm Bureau and the Sonoma County Fair sponsor Ag Days but many agriculture-related groups and individual ranchers support the event.
Patricia Alexander of Kenwood again organized the horse demonstrations at Ag Days, using kids versed in horsemanship to show what kids can do with horses. Horse trainer Raye Lochert of Santa Rosa was the announcer at the horse demonstrations, using his skills, knowledge and horse sense to educate kids about horses and horsemanship.
In addition to the Ag Days exhibits and demonstrations, Farm Bureau also sponsors a number of contests aimed at making children think about the source of their food and fiber. This year the theme of the contests was “Healthy Farms, Healthy Foods.”
Hundreds of school children entered the contests, which included categories for the best bookmark, poster, essay, scarecrow, mural, farm photograph, farm video and decorated grocery bag. The winners in the various contests were recognized at Farm Bureau’s Ag Days Awards Dinner on March 27. There were more than 650 guests at the Ag Days Dinner where parents, teachers, principals and agriculture leaders came together to recognize the accomplishments of the students who were winners in the Ag Days contests.
Lex McCorvey, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Bureau, was the emcee for the awards program. Awards were presented by Sonoma County supervisor David Rabbitt, Dr. Steven Herrington, superintendent of the Sonoma County Office of Education and Larry Haenel, president of the Santa Rosa City Schools Board of Education.
There were hundreds of entries in Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Ag Days contests, which are conducted as part of the Ag Days celebration held March 27 and 28 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
“Healthy Farms, Health Foods,” was the theme of this year’s Ag Days Contests, which help to promote agricultural literacy in classrooms throughout Sonoma County. Many educators include a lesson plan about agriculture and local food production to prepare students for the contests and for their visit to the Ag Days exhibits and demonstrations at the fairgrounds.
There were eight contest categories: Essay, poster, bookmark, mural, scrarecrow, farm video, farm photography and decorated grocery bag. The winners in the contests were announced at the Ag Days Awards Dinner on March 27 at the fairgrounds’ Grace Pavilion. The awards were presented by Dr. Steve Herrington, superintendent of the Sonoma County Office of Education, Larry Haenel, president of the board of education of the Santa Rosa City Schools District, and Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt.
- Scarecrow Contest – Ms. Yukich’s Special Education Class at Dunbar Elementary School, Glen Ellen
- Farm Photography Contest – Wilder Larrain, a kindergarten student at Apple Blossom School in Sebastopol
- Farm Video Contest – Miss Carla Peterson’s Fifth-Sixth Grade Class at Pacific Christian Academy in Graton
- Poster Contest – Alyssa Hammer, a fourth grade student at Windsor Christian School
- Mural Contest – Mrs. Bernadette Prunetti’s Special Education Class at Kawana Elementary School in Santa Rosa
- Decorated Grocery Bag Contest – Tuitum Israel, a second grade student at Prestwood Elementary School in Sonoma
- Bookmark Contest – Samuel Kulpa of Marquerite Hahn School, Rohnert Park
Essay Contest, Trevor Jones of Proctor Terrace Elementary School, Santa Rosa
- Essay contest - Trevor Jones, a sixth grade student at Proctor Terrace Elementary School in Santa Rosa
“Healthy Farms, Healthy Foods”
In Sonoma County
By Trevor Jones
What is a healthy farm? A healthy farm preserves the environment and produces healthy food. What is healthy food? A healthy food is whole and unprocessed and fills your body with nutrients. Sonoma County has both healthy farms and healthy foods.
Farmers in Sonoma County keep their farms healthy by using pesticides and fertilizers wisely if not at all. This helps protect Sonoma County’s rivers and soils from too many chemicals. Out drinking water also remains healthy for us and the animals we eat.
Sonoma County Farmers are committed to keeping our farms healthy. How does that help? The healthy farms that produce healthy foods make a healthy Sonoma County. Buy local foods and you’ll know it’s coming from healthy farms.
Trevor Jones, a sixth grade student at Proctor Terrace Elementary School in Santa Rosa, was the grand prize winner of the Ag Days essay contest, sponsored by Sonoma County Farm Bureau. His winning essay was based on the theme, “Healthy Farms, Healthy Foods.” Trevor received a plaque and $50 prize. Presenting the award are Larry Haenel, president of the Santa Rosa City Schools board of education; Dr. Steve Herrington, superintendent of the Sonoma County Office of Education and Sonoma County supervisor David Rabbitt.
Ms. Norma Yukich’s special education class at Dunbar Elementary School in Glen Ellen won on the grand prize award in the Ag Days Scarecrow Contest. Ms. Yukich, holding the plaque, is joined by her students and classroom aides. Presenting the awards are Larry Haenel, Dr. Steve Herrington and Supervisor David Rabbitt.
Wilder Larrain, a kindergarten student at Apple Blossom School in Sebastopol, was the grand prize winner in the Ag Days’ Farm Photography Contest. Larry Haenel, Dr. Steve Herrington and Supervisor David Rabbitt present the award.
Carla Peterson’s 5th-6th grade class at Pacific Christian Academy in Graton won the grand prize in the Ag Days’ Farm Video Contest. Peterson’s teaching collegue Vince Boling, far left, assisted in the class project. Larry Haenel, Dr. Steve Herrington and Supervisor David Rabbitt present the award.
Alyssa Hammer, a fourth grade student at Windsor Christian School, won the grand prize in the Ag Days Poster Contest. Larry Haenel, Dr. Steve Herrington and Supervisor David Rabbitt present the award.
Bernadette Prunetti’s special education class at Kawana Elementary School had the grand prize mural in the Ag Days contest, sponsored by Sonoma County Farm Bureau. Mrs. Prunetti, far left, is joined by her students and classroom aides. Larry Haenel, Dr. Steve Herrington and Supervisor David Rabbitt present the award.
Tuitum Israel, a second grade student at Prestwood Elementary School in Sonoma, won the grand prize for her Decorated Grocery Bag in the Ag Days contest. Larry Haenel, Dr. Steve Herrington and Supervisor David Rabbitt present the award.
Samuel Kulpa, a fourth grade student at Marguerite Hahn School in Rohnert Park, won the grand prize bookmark in the Ag Days Contest. Larry Haenel, Dr. Steve Herrington and Supervisor David Rabbitt present the award.