Article and Photo by Rachel LaFranchi, Farm News Production Editor
Published December 1, 2015
|Steve Dutton talkes to students about apple farming.|
Agricultural education is important to students of all ages. From younger children realizing apples are hand-picked to older students understanding how organic differs from conventional farming, there is always something for students to learn.
Even high school students in agriculture classes can learn from visiting a working agricultural operation.
During the last week of October, Dutton Ranch hosted four classes ranging from kindergarten to high school. Steve Dutton led the tours, teaching each age group different aspects of apple production and vineyard management.
Two agriculture classes from El Molino High School were brought out by their instructor, Sarah McMaster. Mostly freshman in intro to agriculture classes, the students had the opportunities to learn about apple production as well as pick apples that would be used for vinegar.
Students were encouraged to ask questions such as whether the Duttons were farming conventionally or organically and learn the difference. Students also asked about varieties of apples farmed, pests to worry about and how large Dutton Ranch is.
Dutton demonstrated how apples were properly harvested and collected. He also talked about how dry farming both apples and vineyards as well as the H2A program he is involved with to legally hire and provide housing for workers from Mexico.
Despite that all these students were enrolled in an agriculture class, many of the students did not have agriculture backgrounds or know whether they wanted to pursue a career in agriculture. While at Dutton Ranch, students also had the opportunity to learn about Farm Bureau and how they could become involved in the future.
In addition to two classes of high school agriculture students, Dutton also hosted 3rd grade students from Oak Grove Elementary School and kindergarten students from Marin Country Day.
While the younger children didn’t learn as much technical information about the agricultural operation, the kids loved to stomp around in the orchard and watch the apples get picked in front of them. They learned the apples on the tree would be used for apple sauce while apples on the ground would be used to make Apple Cider Vinegar.
The younger students saw different aspects of Dutton Ranch, learning that it wasn’t all about the orchard. Kids loved all pilling on the large truck scale and learning what the students weighed versus the teachers. Third grade students, learning similar things in class, all knew 2,000lbs made up a ton, while kindergarten students learned something new.
Third graders and kindergarteners all had fun seeing the large cold storage refrigerator at Dutton Ranch where they could run inside and see apples stored in large crates. While this was a popular activity for younger students, all of them enjoyed also seeing ranch dog Tough and following him to the cooler.
Dutton is also involved in Tomorrow’s Leaders Today agriculture tours and knows that educating the next generation is important. He encourages other agriculture leaders to reach out to schools and plan tours for local students to come out and see what happens on a working ranch.