Weather Watch

Kids learn where their food comes from at ‘Great AGventure’

Mary Hambly, a first-year Cal Poly student majoring in bio resource and agricultural engineering, with fourth-graders from Los Ranchos Elementary School at the “Great AGventure North” in Paso Robles.
Mary Hambly, a first-year Cal Poly student majoring in bio resource and agricultural engineering, with fourth-graders from Los Ranchos Elementary School at the “Great AGventure North” in Paso Robles.

For farmers and ranchers, the weather is of boundless importance. No other group of folks that I know has more situational awareness of the atmosphere and the weather it brings.

Many of them measure rainfall, meticulously track air temperatures — especially the viticulturist — soil moisture, creek and lake levels, and the Sierra Nevada snowpack for future water allocations. They worry, speculate and hope for rain in order to grow the nourishment we all need.

Many of us go to the supermarket to a bounty of food without a thought of what it took to put the grains, produce, dairy, meat and drinks on the shelves.

Many elementary school students in San Luis Obispo County are disconnected from agriculture and have little knowledge of where their food actually comes from. It’s been estimated that only about 2 percent of the nation’s population is directly involved in agricultural production.

To remedy this situation, the nonprofit group, “The Great AGventure” along with help from the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau each year brings more than a thousand fourth-graders, teachers and parent-chaperones from San Luis Obispo County schools together to learn where their food comes from.

The students eagerly board school buses and attend either the Great AGventure North at the Paso Robles Event Center, or the Great AGventure South at Arroyo Grande High School.

Last Wednesday, the Great AGventure North was held. When the students arrived, they attended a series of six interactive stations, each with an agricultural theme: farm animals, seeds and plants, fertilizer, meteorology, harvesting and farm machinery, and environmental stewardship.

Volunteers from throughout our agricultural community provided the demonstrations and shared their expertise with the students. At one station, former Cal Poly professor Joe Sabol taught students about apple grafting. At another station, the fourth-graders learned about the physics of horsepower from the Cal Poly Tractor Pull Club.

Other students dissected owl pellets and discovered the type of rodents that owls eat each night. They also learned how to milk cows, churn butter and spin wool.

In other words, a lot of really cool stuff.

The students that came to my station learned about weather. I used real-life, hold-in-your-hand experiments: A cloud in the bottle and, my favorite, the lightning-fast crush can, all designed to teach about air pressure.

The enthusiasm of the kids was great. These school children are smart, and some of their questions took me by surprise. One particularly bright schoolgirl asked, “If warm air rises, then why does it get colder as you get higher in the atmosphere?”

As you might imagine, it cost a lot to safely transport the children and conduct this important event. Dana Lundy, the executive director of Great AGventure, told me, “The Harold J. Miosi Charitable Trust is by far our largest donor. This donation makes up half of our yearly budget. We also get sizable donations from Paso Robles Ag Tourism, SLO County Cattlemen, SLO County Cattlewomen and SLO County Women for Agriculture. Also, many SLO County Farm Bureau members donate every year.

After the event, the San Miguel Lions Club graciously provided lunch to all the volunteers.

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PG&E message: From farms to family restaurants, thousands of California businesses have been hard-hit by the drought. This is why PG&E has developed rebates and incentives on water and energy-saving appliances and equipment. To learn more, please visit www.pge.com.

John Lindsey is PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant marine meteorologist and a media relations representative. Email him at pgeweather@pge.com or follow him on Twitter @PGE_John.

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