Snowbirds get a lesson in farming

January 18, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — The license plates on the cars parked outside the Desert Research & Extension Center just west of Holtville on Thursday morning gave away the game — the snowbirds were in town.

Winter visitors all, they had signed up for a newly implemented one-day course at the center.

Coming under the umbrella of the "Farm Smart" program, the course is the brainchild of the recently appointed educational outreach coordinator at the center, Nancy Wade.

Wade conducted similar courses in Arizona and because they were so popular with winter visitors to that state, Wade decided to float the concept here.

Designed to educate visitors as to the mainstay of life here in Imperial Valley — agriculture — the course included a presentation by Wade on cotton growing.


Paul Sebesta, director of the center, presented a fast-paced and humorous lecture on the wide variety of crops grown in the Valley.

After lunch, which naturally enough included a representative sampling of locally grown vegetables, course participants were rounded up and loaded onto hay wagons for a tour of the center.

Stopping by a field of sugar cane, Sebesta extolled the virtues of producing ethanol from sugar cane, a concept that seemed to intrigue the group gathered around him.

Holding a large sugar cane stalk aloft and breaking it open to allow the liquid sugar to fall to the ground, Sebesta spoke about the potential for sugar cane as a crop in Imperial Valley.

When asked if the course was to be a permanent fixture on the research center's winter calendar, Sebesta was emphatic that it would be.

"We have a lot of winter visitors here and they see these crops out in the fields and they have a lot of questions about that. But they don't know where to go and ask the questions."

Sebesta further defined the importance of the program by adding, "One of the primary functions of a research and extension center ought to be educational outreach."

For information on the next one-day sessions, which are slated for Jan. 23 and 24, call Wade at the center at 356-3067.

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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