The next time you attend a football or baseball game, or a soccer match at Coast Union, close your eyes for a moment and imagine how those fields were being used 35 years ago. Hint: There were no gridiron marks or basepaths or aluminum stadium bleachers.
If you could be transported back in time back to those days, you would be witnessing pastures with sheep and beef-cattle. Coast Union students had their own breeding projects — with an abundance of natural grasses, and lots of rain kept the pastures lush and green.
Mary Evans was there and was heavily involved in agriculture as an enthusiastic FFA student. Mary, manager of the Cambria True Value Hardware store, remembers Coast as a “full-functioning agricultural school.
“We had over 50 members of the FFA,” Evans recalled during an interview at the hardware store. “We had a full metal shop with welding, and where the football field and the baseball field are located now — those were pastures the kids used for full sheep-breeding and cattle-breeding projects.
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“We had a bull barn, and we had a crops class across the creek where they grew hay for the cattle,” Evans explained, adding that during that era, the 1980s, a lot of students lived on ranches and farms in the North Coast area, so farming was part of the culture.
“We had the greenhouse, ornamental horticulture classes. We had hogs, beef-cattle, sheep and chickens. I had pigs the whole time I was in high school, and so did my husband,” Evans explained. “We had 40 or 50 kids take animals to the Mid-State Fair.”
On the subject of the California Mid-State Fair, this year a dozen FFA students (and one graduate) took animals to the fair, which was “the most participation that Coast Union has had in a long time,” said agriculture teacher, FFA and ASB adviser Darcy Dobrec.
“Being involved in FFA and in agriculture, it’s going to look great on any résumé to be able to take those kinds of skills with them, no matter what job they go into.”
The emergence of an emphasis on agriculture “is a direction I’ve wanted to go in for a while,” Dobrec said. “And once you get a few kids involved, you always get more. If you build it, they will come.”
Learning and earning
Students involved in agriculture are also learning the positive economics that comes with good agricultural stewardship. For example, incoming junior Cammie Tathum purchased a heifer for $2,000 last year, and after nurturing it on campus, she sold it at the fair this summer for $8,500.
She bought the heifer with the money she earned auctioning off last year’s heifer. Cammie also sold a steer she had raised for $5,000 at the fair. Hence, the $11,500 gross profit Cammie earned can go into savings or to purchase animals this fall to show at the fair in 2016.
The junior FFA member says she wants to train to become a nurse but hopes to live on a ranch in Washington State.
Incoming sophomore Sarahi Beltran, who hopes one day to become an FBI agent, sold her heifer for $4,500 at the fair. Her late uncle got her interested in raising cattle she was “a little kid. … He would put me on one of his cows or his bulls in Mexico, and that made me want to raise a heifer.”
The campus corral where the steers and heifers are reared has been recently upgraded with a handsome steel roof and steel posts, thanks to contributions from Cambria True Value Hardware, and a $5,000 donation from a Bakersfield family. Sarahi’s father, Jose Beltran, who has been cooking at the Sea Chest Restaurant and Oyster Bar in Cambria for five years, explains how the donation was achieved.
“This family comes a lot to the Sea Chest. I got to know them. So they asked me about my daughter, and I said, ‘Oh, she’s raising a heifer,’ and they said, ‘Whenever you need a sponsor, let us know.’
“I told them we have a project for the school. They said to get an estimate, so I got an estimate and showed it to them. I told them it was not only for my daughter, but for the kids at school. The estimate was $3,300 dollars, but the wife told her husband to make the check out for $5,000,” Jose explained, breaking into a broad smile.
“They said, ‘Make it something really nice for the kids.’ ”
With the $5,000, plus donations from Cambria Hardware, Jose and maintenance lead David Bidwell (and others) put together a toolshed and the steel roof for the cattle corral.
And the Bakersfield couple’s generosity didn’t end there: They are farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, and invited Jose and Bidwell to visit and see what surplus farm equipment was available that the school may be able to use to work the soil (and raise hay) in the acreage below the campus.
Jose is clearly pleased to have been the conduit to the recent improvements on campus, and to be able to help his daughter.
“It makes me feel happy that my family is around and supporting me. It means a lot,” Sarahi said, leaning against her father who was sitting on the corral’s fence.
Twelve Coast Union FFA students spent seven days prepping their animals to show at the California Mid-State Fair’s junior livestock auction this summer. The total raised by the students (for 11 animals) was $34,000, according to FFA adviser Darcy Dobrec.
It’s their money, earned through hard work and stewardship, which they are learning through their animal husbandry projects.
won first place in her market class and sold her heifer for $4,500.
placed second in her market class, made the championship drive in the Showmanship category, and sold her steer for $5,000 and her heifer for $8,500, among the top five highest selling heifers at the fair.
took second place in their market classes and sold their pigs for $8 and $9 per pound; they averaged $1,800 and $2,200 respectively.