Farm Day returns to SalinasSALINAS, Calif. — Growers, ranchers and seed and tractor companies spent half a day with third-graders Feb. 9 as the annual Farm Day Experience returned to Salinas, Calif.

More than 2,800 third-graders came to Growers Street Cooling to follow the steps their food takes from farm to table, and the obstacles overcome along the way, said Peter Odello, president of Monterey County Agricultural Education.

The nonprofit sponsored the event, one of three Farm Days held annually in the county. The others are in March in King City and Monterey in October. The organization aims to involve every third-grader in the county.

In a four-hour period, 112 classes from Salinas-area elementary schools toured the produce, animal and equipment exhibits at Growers Street Cooling. About 350 volunteers turned out, Odello said, and at the end were served barbecue for lunch.

Monterey County Agricultural Education covers all expenses, including buses — about $10,000 — plus teacher training. Teachers will follow up with activities in classrooms.

At one station manned by Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms, Francisco Castaneda, production assistant at Sea Mist Farms, discussed the nutritional benefits of artichokes, how harvests are sorted and packed, and which pests growers combat.

Elia Gonzalez-Castro and Stacy Steele, volunteers with the Alisal Union School District branch of Network for a Healthy California, performed a puppet routine as they celebrated the nutrients in cauliflower, corn and other crops. Gonzalez-Castro brought Mexican artists Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera to life in puppet form.