SALINAS, Calif. — More than 1,800 third-graders saw some of the steps their food takes from the field to the dinner table during the Farm Day Experience Feb. 3.

Held at Growers Street Cooling in Salinas, the event was one of three offered annually by the nonprofit Monterey County Agricultural Education.

“It’s really just a hands-on education project for agriculture,” said Bart Walker, a board member and former president of the nonprofit. The organization covers all costs — including $10,000 in transportation for each of the three Farm Days.

“With all of the cuts in schools right now, this is a way they can still do field trips,” Walker said.

Monterey County Agricultural Education works with teachers beforehand to let them know what to expect, and follows up later with classroom activities.

Fresh Express grower relations manager Josh Roberts showed students from Roosevelt Elementary how lettuce heads are cored in the fields.

Gordon Dill, who grows vegetables for Carmel Valley Manor, told students from Oasis Charter School about the life cycle of pumpkins and gourds. He explained how it was possible to grow square-shaped varieties.

Glenn McMillan, a branch manager for Helena Chemical Co. in Salinas, taught Cesar Chavez Elementary students what a pest control adviser does.

Some of the more popular exhibits featured farm and ranch animals as well as tractors. Though many of the students live in Salinas, some have little experience with farms.

“You can see the learning happening in their eyes,” Walker said. “All these kids are going to vote someday. We need them to be educated in agriculture about food, water and land issues.”

The next Farm Day will be in King City, Calif. The nonprofit holds three annually in an attempt to reach every third-grader in Monterey County. It claims about a 95% success rate.

Farm Day brings out Salinas kids

Mike Hornick

Josh Roberts, grower relations manager for Fresh Express and Shannon Lowell, operations coordinator, tell third-graders about the lettuce that goes into bagged salads Feb. 3 during Farm Day at Growers Street Cooling in Salinas, Calif.