Youngsters get plenty of food for thought at 19th Ag Day

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 14, 2013 

More than 1,000 students sampled the area's agricultural bounty at the 19th Ag Day at Henry Miller Elementary School.

FFA members, businessmen, public employees, farmers and dozens of volunteers showed youngsters what may be in their futures if they pursue jobs in ag.

Paul Borba, a Los Banos High School FFA member, displayed a 3-month-old female Holstein and explained its role in the making of ice cream.

"I've been doing demonstrations since the fifth grade," said the 17-year-old junior, who grew up on a farm.

Susan Younce, a speech therapist at Henry Miller Elementary School, said she drew volunteers from Los Banos' two high schools as well as from area farms and processing plants. While few of the 1,020 students at Henry Miller grew up on a farm, Younce said area industry touches their lives.

"We have a lot of parents that work in the ag industry," she said, including in processing plants and ag mechanics.

Jean Landeen, the Department of Education's agriculture program consultant for this region, said her office has tracked what it calls "program completers" since 2004. Not having all the hard numbers, Landeen compared completers in the Los Banos Unified School District to other districts

"I would say they have a higher than average interest of going into the industry," Landeen said.

Out of the 3,817 students who have graduated from Los Banos High since 2004, there are 263 program completers, seniors who have been in an agricultural program for three or more years. One hundred of those students reported having ag-related majors or ag-related jobs in their first year out of high school.

Of the 263 completers, 186 went on to college, including non-ag majors, or the military.

Dozens of high school students at the March 8 Ag Day gave many future graduates their first taste of ag life by sharing lesser known facts about their respective wards -- cattle, swine, rabbits, goats, etc. After being asked, Amelia Leonard, a 16-year-old junior, showed one group of children how to check the sex of a rabbit, which elicited giggles.

Area business owners and others working in the industry also held classes. Howard Berman, a guide for the state Department of Water Resources, talked to children about water levels in the San Luis Dam. Unlike Midwestern farms, Berman said, California farms need irrigation.

Berman then related water to many children's favorite food, a cheeseburger.

"Now, what's the arithmetic?" Berman asked students, after running down the gallons used for a bun, patty, lettuce and slice of tomato. "I'll do it for you -- 698½ gallons for this one cheesburger. So, next time you go have a cheeseburger, think about how much water it takes."

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at

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