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Galt High School agriculture class launching program to sell organic eggs

Students will learn to create business and marketing plans as well as care for chickens

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Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:00 am

Galt High School students could soon be raising and selling their own organic eggs to the community.

It gives those enrolled in the agriculture mechanics class the opportunity to interact not only with animals, but also with business owners, according to Principal Maria Orr.

Agriculture teacher Dane White, who is overseeing the efforts, is excited about the opportunity because he believes it will give students the chance to engage their minds in a non-traditional way.

"So many of our kids are kinesthetic learners and spend time wondering why they are learning something. I firmly believe this project will exist at the confluence of many disciplines — animal science, nutrition, marketing and sales, accounting practices — and will teach students about responsibility, time management and other esoteric skills," he said. "Our poultry project will have a decided impact on the students involved and really demonstrate the power of hands-on learning."

Since the beginning of the school year, the ag mechanics class has been working on building the program's infrastructure.

For example, the students have been researching potential target markets and marketing methods for the products. To run a financially successful enterprise, White said it's valuable for them to know all steps of the process, and that it's more than just taking care of birds.

"Many of our students are unfamiliar with domesticated animals, and as part of our program's mission, we seek to give them opportunities to earn money while learning the technical sides of the agriculture industry," White said.

He said the ag department's teachers have noticed that some youths these days crave the chance to actually have responsibility. The teachers believe this poultry unit will give them the chance to take ownership of tasks and learn what it means to put in a hard day's work.

"Our students have excitedly jumped at the chance to build this poultry house, and our community has engaged in its construction as well," White said.

Admittedly, the process has been slow-going, White said. Earlier this month, he was still waiting for the electrical components to be installed in the hen house. However, the roof is on and the doors attached.

Junior Luz Hernandez is on the greenhouse crew.

"Doing those jobs every week has taught me so much about observation, problem solving and creativity," she said.

The department used the agriculture program at Bret Harte High School in Altaville as an inspiration. There, teachers worked with students to develop a poultry cooperative, where students make a financial investment and then contribute sweat equity to egg and broiler production, according to White.

"We hope to market the eggs directly to staff members at GHS — maybe even our cafeteria — and give unused product to the local food bank," he said.

A bill signed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown will allow students to sell their garden produce and reinvest the money into their garden programs. Schools must still follow all applicable federal, state and local health and safety requirements for the production, processing and distribution of the produce.

Junior Karina Villalpando is confident residents will embrace the project.

"When the community sees students working hard and trying to earn money the old-fashioned way, I believe they will come out and support what we do," she said. "With our greenhouse, our plant sales are always really successful because Galt wants their students to succeed and will do what they can to support it."

Student Fredy Gonzalez, also a junior, is excited to be part of the effort.

"I don't see this kind of thing being done in high schools," she said.

"I believe I will learn not only about poultry but about marketing, budgets, sales and finance. These skills are going to benefit me for my whole life," she added. "Weirdly enough, I don't plan on working with poultry as a career. But I do think that this will give me the chance to take on more responsibility and make me a more disciplined and focused worker."

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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