HOLTVILLE – The University of California Farm Smart research center hosted “Sunrise on the Farm,” Friday, February 8, emphasizing the importance of agriculture in the Imperial Valley. Participants were given a healthy meal and a recipe to take home with them.

A hay bale ride followed and included stops so leaders Stacey Amparano and Stephanie Collins could inform participants of Imperial Valley’s top 10 commodities. The last stop was at the “U-Pick” garden where participants were free to harvest a bag full of produce such as broccoli, beets, cabbage, radishes, carrots, kale, and more. Before heading out, dessert and door prizes were provided to those who came to support the event.

All proceeds support K-12 educational programs, according to the organizers.

Since starting in 2001, the event has grown in both participants and volunteers. “We have people from so many states represented,” said Stacey Amparano. “Many of the people who participate in this event are the snowbirds heading south during the winter months.” 

Out of the chill of Wisconsin, snowbirds Audrey Kouch and her husband said they have attended this event for a few years now. In fact, along with them were couples representing Idaho, Nebraska, Montana, and our neighbors above the northern border, Canada.

It’s not only the comparatively decent weather Southern California experiences that draws people such as the Kouch’s out here.

“We look forward to the information that is given to us on this tour. It really is very interesting learning how things grow here. Especially in the desert where there is zero rainfall,” said Kouch. 

The tour guides gave basic descriptions of the irrigation systems that sustain Imperial Valley’s crops year around. Many participants were eager, attentive, and appreciative of a well-communicated presentation of what farm-to-table entails. The Imperial Valley’s impact on providing food for the country is extensive.

“This past year the Imperial Valley has produced lettuce that would amount to four billion salads made in the United States,” said Collins. 

UC Farm Smart started this event to fund educational programs for grades K-12 that would inform future generations of the importance of agriculture.

“We have 6,000–8,000 kids signed up for these tours and it seems each year the number grows,” Collins said. On these tours, kids are given similar information and get to pick their own produce from the garden. 

Through events such as “Sunrise on the Farm” and outside funding, people of all ages  experience what the farming culture within the desert landscape of the Imperial Valley looks like. The goal, overall, is to bring people from all backgrounds together to appreciate hard work, ingenuity, and good food.

As the tour came to a close, participants left with full stomachs, prizes, and knowledge that would remind them of what makes our small Valley not only beautiful, but special and important. 

If you are interested in upcoming events or donating to UC Farm Smart, contact information is found on their website: drec.ucanr.edu. 

DR Reporter

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