October was agriculture month for students of the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today (TLT) program. The Sonoma County Farm Bureau planned and hosted three agriculture tours on October 5th, 12th and 26th. The first two tours hosted high school students from Santa Rosa City Schools and the third tour included students from West County Schools; each tour presented aspects of agriculture to approximately 40 students.
The TLT program aims to teach Sonoma County issues through hands-on learning, critical thinking and communication. The program is geared towards high school juniors who have begun thinking about future careers and allows them to meet decision-makers and discover how Sonoma County works.
Aside from an agriculture tours, students have the opportunities to learn about criminal justice, natural resources, human services, community service learning, government, health, planning and development and business and tourism.
The first stop on the TLT ag tours was a dairy. The first group of students stopped at Valley Ford Cheese while the second two groups of students stopped at McClelland’s Dairy. Students had the opportunity to learn how cows were milked, what it meant to be organic and how products such as butter and cheese are made. Throughout the dairy tours, it was evident that all the students loved the opportunity to see the animals up close.
The next stop on the tour was Singing Frogs Farm where students met Elizabeth Kaiser. Kaiser talked to the students about what it meant to be a CSA and a no-till farm. Students were impressed with the farm’s beauty, biodiversity and its ability to feed so many people.
For many students, seeing Charlie the Llama and Mocha the goat was a huge hit. Students were entranced with the llama and all wanted the chance to take their photo with him.
“My favorite part of the day was when we visited Singing Frogs Farm. It was such a beautiful farm, and I was amazed by how many different plants they had. It seemed like such a small space, yet they had a very diverse and productive farm,” said Jennifer Lopez, Santa Rosa High School.
Dutton Ranch was the next stop for the students. Steve Dutton talked about both apple production and wine grapes. He shocked students by saying that only 6% of land in Sonoma County was planted with vineyards.
While at Dutton Ranch, students ate a lunch consisting of all Sonoma County products. Locally sourced meat and bread were paired with a salad containing items all purchased from the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers’ Market. Clover ice cream and butter were also part of the meal. The goal of the lunch was to show students how bountiful Sonoma County is and that a whole meal can be produced from local products.
Immediately following lunch, Pegi Ball the market manager for the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers’ Market spoke to student’s about the market. She explained that certified meant all the food was grown in Sonoma County and how she became a market manager.
The final stop for the TLT ag tours was Gourmet Mushrooms. Justin Reyes led tours through the building where they grow mushrooms. Students saw the beginning stages of fungi growth to near completed mushrooms. It was intriguing the company grows eight different varieties of mushrooms and is one of largest growers of those varieties. Most students found it fascinating to learn how the mushrooms were grown versus traditional mushrooms that are found growing in the wild.
“This [TLT’s Ag Day] showed me that there are so many more jobs in the agriculture sector other than farmers. Sometimes they can incorporate skills from other job qualifications like scientists, business management, marketing/public relations and much more,” said Sienna Wuu of Maria Carrillo High School.
“TLT is so grateful to have the partnership of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau for our annual Agriculture Days,” said Lauren Taylor, Tomorrow’s Leaders Today Program Coordinator, “the day would not be half of what it is without the Farm Bureau’s support and facilitation.
“It is so great for the students to be able to learn about one of Sonoma County’s largest sectors and actually experience it first hand with some of our community’s leading farmers, growers and business owners. Of course, as a coordinator of the program my challenge for the rest of the year is making our other seven industry specific days as exciting, informative and engaging as the Ag Day put on by the Farm Bureau- I mean how do I top the local farm fresh BBQ…I can’t compete with that.”