Farm Smart celebrates 11th Anniversary

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EL CENTRO – The University of California Desert Research and Extension Center held its 11th annual Farm Smart appreciation dinner on Friday for the community.

Hayrides through the Extension Center’s agricultural fields were provided all evening, along with steak dinners for the hungry guests.  Music played in the background as people lined up for steak and tractor rides.  Children ran around playing a game called “Nickle-n-a-Haystack.”

The dinner was the Extension Center and Farm Smart program’s way of showing the community and volunteers its appreciation for all the support offered them over the years.

The research center itself was started back in 1912 in order to research soil quality, irrigation techniques, and agronomy.  Walter Packer, a UC Berkley researcher, purchased 20 acres of citrus ground for $1800.  Since then the facility has grown to a whopping 255 acres with an expanded research program.

The Farm Smart program started in 2001 and has been a part of the center for 11 years.  This program promotes agricultural awareness about the renewable resources that exist within the valley.

The program reaches out to the elementary schools of the Imperial Valley to teach agriculture up close to the children through trips to the center during the school year.  Hayrides through the fields and presentations about the vegetables that are grown in the valley are taught during these field trips.  The same program is also offered to the valley’s winter visitors.

Ultimately, it is to teach the residents and visitors of the valley that resources should be conserved, managed, and available for future generations according to Nancy Caywood, the outreach coordinator for the research center.

The research center has stood in the same spot for 100 years with extra acreage added over the years.  The night before the center celebrated its centennial anniversary with  a look back at the history that had created it.  This included a time walk to highlight the center’s history as well as speeches of thanks to the volunteers and the community.

“We’re real proud to contribute to the community,” said Alan Robertson, a research center volunteer and author of the centennial commemoration book, “We’re lucky to have lasted this long.”