The Lodi Grape Festival grounds hummed with excitement on Tuesday morning.
Curious troops of third-graders roamed from booth to booth, teachers in tow, cultivating bits of information from local agricultural agencies. Goats baaed, calves mooed and chickens clucked at their human visitors.
The reason for all the hustle and bustle? The 13th annual AgVenture.
The purpose of AgVenture is to teach third-grade students from all over San Joaquin County about sustainable agriculture and farming practices, said Randy Beasley, a manager at Bonnie Plants.
“It is crucial to get them involved at such a young age because it becomes something they take with them into adulthood,” he said.
Beasley has led presentations at AgVenture since the first year it was hosted in 2006. He teaches students how to successfully grow produce.
“It is so important that they learn how to grow their own gardens and learn how to source food on their own,” he said.
Beasley believes a push from an increasingly health-conscious society will help instill in students the importance of fresh produce.
Encouraging students to grow their own gardens will help them understand the value of farming, he added.
As students made their way around the grounds, stopping at petting zoos and collecting colorful pamphlets and fliers at each presentation, local farmer John Ferreira hoped they were gaining an understanding of the magnitude of the AgVenture.
“Farmers make up less than 1 percent of the population, and it’s our obligation as rural farmers to bridge the knowledge gap about what we do,” he said.
His concern as a first-generation farmer stems from a lack of general awareness about the vital importance that farmers make in the community.
“At the end of the day there are three main reasons why I do this year after year, and that is to explain to the student what we do, explain the expense of our equipment, and express our importance in our community,” he said.
Ferreira educated students about the costly equipment farmers rely on, and how limited the production of farming equipment is due to the small population of farmers.
As students turned astonished glances to the mammoth farm tools, Ferreira described each piece of equipment, how he uses it to maintain the various crops on his farm, and what each tool is used for.
“Our job today is to make sure students leave having learned something, and that is that what we do (as farmers). It’s not just a way of life for us. It’s a source of life for everyone around us,” he said.