About 40 teachers from San Benito County schools devoted a recent Saturday to learn more about agriculture and to have a better understanding about where our food comes from. The topic for this year's EATs (Educational Ag Tours) was “Science and technology in agriculture."
The workshop allows teachers to see in-person the cross-section of science and agriculture. There were hands-on activities about food cultivation. Those who attended received STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Common Core state standard lessons based on the theme of science and technology in agriculture.
The morning session opened with an activity about extracting the DNA out of a strawberry. Then, eight stations of Grab-n-Go’s were set up for the teachers to learn and receive resources on lessons they can take back into the classroom to teach their students about agriculture.
These Grab-n-Go topics included agriculture writing ideas, invasive species, parts of a flower, Harvest of the Month, seasonality, the value of soil, and why people need plants. For example, using STEM with an invasive species lesson called “Stop the Invasion," the science part focused on heredity variations of traits and predicting patterns. Teachers were shown how research is done with technology. The engineering segment looked into how pests multiply and ways to control them. Teachers used statistics and probability in the math portion and teacher were able to extract DNA from strawberries.
Mindy Sotelo, the San Benito County Farm Bureau's executive director, explained that the bureau provides teachers lessons prior to heading out to the field. “It is a chance for a lot of questions and answers. They were really interested today and raised some great questions,” Sotelo said.
Phil Foster, owner of Pinnacle Organic, gave a tour of his operation on Santa Ana Valley Road. He pointed out huge piles of black plastic strips, explaining hat it was drip tape, used to transport water in the fields. Foster has been recycling drip tape which is then used for other products, since he started in the business. Nearby there were piles of dark, luscious soil.
Foster asked Manuel Estrada to demonstrate the compost process to teachers. Estrada handles about 2,000 tons of compost a year. “Why doesn’t it stink?” someone asked. Foster explained that by managing the right chemical balance, in his case by adding gypsum and lyme, and by turning it over frequently, some of the smell is reduced.
Foster pointed out a weather station next to him in one of the fields. He explained how it helps them keep an eye on the crops in extreme weather conditions. Foster Farms has a policy of calling it quits and heading inside to handle other tasks when it gets too hot in the summer months.
The group visited several farms and packing facilities throughout the day. The majority were women and all were offered the outhouse being pulled behind white farmworker transportation buses put in use for the tour.
Caesar Romero gave a tour of the Tanimura and Antle plant where red onions are packed and shipped. He explained that onions can be tracked back to the specific farm with information on the bags.
Sotelo organizes the tour every year with the help of local farmers, ranchers and volunteers. She said they have been offering the EATs tour for six years.
The Farm Bureau hosted a barbeque lunch at the Tanimura and Antle onion processing facility. Educators also toured Sabor Farms and TopFlavor Farms. San Benito CattleWomen and Cattlemen, Top Flavor and American Ag Credit contributed to the teacher’s meals.
At the end of the day the teachers were given vegetable transplants to take back to their school gardens or classrooms.