Turlock School District to Purchase Farmland for Learning Opportunities

David Fransen

The Turlock Unified School District will purchase a 10-acre Turlock parcel to be use for farming and housing animals that ag students show in the Stanislaus County Fair each year, Trustees decided Tuesday.

Although Turlock is a heavily agriculture-based community and has had hundreds of students participate in ag-related programs such as Future Farmers of America, TUSD has never owned a designated farm space in the City of Turlock where students could keep their animals.

“This is an excellent opportunity and something that is long overdue, as far as getting a place for students to keep their animals,” said TUSD Board of Trustees President Bob Weaver.

The property, located on East Taylor Road, will give ag students from both Turlock High School and Pitman High School the opportunity to get hands-on experience and apply classroom learning.

“Currently, we have animal projects spread out throughout the county,” said Mike Trainor, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services at TUSD. “We don’t have property within the district to house animals that they’re showing in the fair, or what have you…It’s a learning environment, not a school. It’s for students to keep their animals, and maybe down the road try growing crops as well.”

TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto showed enthusiasm for the purchase of a district farm, as he believes the benefits could reach other students who are not just ag students.

“As well as being a learning lab, we’d also like to take field trips for our elementary students for them to experience that as well,” said Da Marto.

Da Marto also shared ideas of creating various crops of vegetables that could be utilized in district school cafeterias as part of the Child Nutrition Services.

“Students would be harvesters, and the recipients would be themselves and other students if they develop crops that were properly inspected and fully edible,” said Da Marto. “We’re very excited about the full potential of this parcel. It will be great not only for our students, but for also our community, as we are an ag-based community.”

The cost of the parcel is $399,900, which will come from a one-time expenditure fund that has been set aside by the District for such purposes.

Although the majority of the Board of Trustees voted in favor of approving the purchase, not all supported the decision. Trustee Harinder Grewal said that although he was in support of the idea, he believes that the timing is wrong.

“It’s just not the right timing,” said Grewal. “It’s not the vision that I have a problem with, I know what everyone has in mind and I see how it will be helpful, but I just do not think it is the right time.

“I know that I am the only board member in opposition to this right now, and I respect that, as I respect their stance. But this is where I stand,” said Grewal.

The Board of Trustees voted in favor in purchasing the parcel in a 4-1 vote, with Grewal voting in opposition. Trustee Grady Welch was not present at the meeting.

“I see this strictly as a learning opportunity for our students,” said Trustee Frank Lima. ‘I don’t think in any way that we should stop promoting or providing opportunities for our students. Any opportunities that arises that will benefit our students, I’m going to take it.

“We have to be smart, we have to be cautious, and we need to be fiscally prudent,” said Lima. “If this land becomes a burden on the District, then I’ll be the first to say ‘Let’s sell it,’ but we have to at least see if it can be beneficial.”

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