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Research and Extension Center aims to increase agricultural literacy in the local community

December 29, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — The tiny green plants are just beginning to poke through the soil where a group of El Centro seventh-graders have planted them at the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center.

Just like the growing vegetables, the extension center's emphasis on educational outreach is flourishing.

Through classroom visits, farm tours, after-school programs and gardening projects, educational outreach coordinator Nancy Wade aims to increase agricultural literacy in the local community.

"We really wanted to teach where food and fiber come from," Wade said.

Most of the country's population is so far removed from farming, many people have no idea how food gets from the field to the table, Wade said.

"When we do our program, we always try to teach them that every thing we eat and drink comes from the soil," Wade said.


Wade has named the program "Farm Smart." Its goal is to provide agricultural literacy for students of all ages.

For presentations to school children, Wade tries to align the curriculum with state standards and includes several areas of learning, such as history and science, in her lessons.

She does all this "so that our visit to a school or their visit to us is meaningful" in many ways, not just agriculturally.

"They've always been very education-minded out here (at the extension center)," Wade said.

While staff members would accommodate interested students and community members before Farm Smart, there was no one to do educational outreach full-time.

Not only will Wade be able to host students and go into their classrooms when requested, she will also design a structured education program.

As part of this new position, Wade has been working with groups of seventh-grade students from El Centro's Wilson Junior High and Kennedy Middle School. Some of those students, as well as a local 4H group, are planting and tending small plots of different vegetables.

"It's fun," Wade said of working with young would-be farmers. "They're surprised that what they planted is growing."

Farm Smart also has a winter visitor program that gives these part-time residents of Imperial Valley a glimpse into the local farming community. Six programs are scheduled during January. For registration and more information, call Nancy Wade at 356-3067.

"A lot of people don't realize what they grow out here," she said.

So far, Wade, formerly of Casa Grande, Ariz., has found Imperial Valley receptive.

She's already hosted several presentations since starting in October and has reached more than 2,000 students.

"The response from people in this community has been overwhelming," Wade said.

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