The Liberty Ranch High School FFA has teamed up with McCaffrey Middle School to create a joint-school farm that will eventually produce fruit and vegetables to be served with lunch at both schools.

LRHS FFA students have already planted 220 fruit trees on one of the three acres set aside for the farm on the McCaffrey campus. They hope to have another acre planted with grape vines by summer 2019 and, eventually, a final acre of row crops will be added.

“The goal of the farm is to serve as a hands-on learning lab where students can study the science of food production, including plant requirements, irrigation, soil management, [and] food harvesting and processing,” said LRHS Agriculture teacher and FFA Adviser Mandy Garner.

This project was thought up by Garner, McCaffrey principal Ron Rammer, and Galt Joint Union High School District board member and local farmer Mark Beck three years ago at the educational summit. The farm presented a solution for how to better utilize the land at McCaffrey and how to create outdoor learning opportunities for both schools.

“The fruit tree varieties were selected by the [Liberty Ranch] Horticulture students after extensive research on varieties that grow well in our soil and climate,” Garner said. “Thought was also given to fruiting season as we wanted to be able to harvest during the months school is in session.”

When the farm is up and running, the fruits and vegetables produced will be available to students in the McCaffrey and Liberty Ranch High School cafeterias. Garner also points out that this project has the potential to create regional pride and bring “attention to the farm to table concept that Sacramento County is known for.”

“Since the building of our school, we have always looked for ways to work with and serve the community, particularly involving agriculture,” Garner said. “We see this project as a beautiful team effort of both the elementary and high school districts, students, community members and local farmers who have already been instrumental in the planning, field preparation and training of our teachers.”

But the farm is only the first step in a multifaceted project. Not only is it a way to get fresh fruits and vegetables to students at school, but this project will also offer students the opportunity to work in an outdoor, hands-on learning environment and give LRHS FFA students the chance to mentor McCaffrey students.

Funding for this project was made possible by the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant. According to the California Department of Education, the grant is aimed at giving students “the knowledge and skills necessary to transition to employment and postsecondary education” by helping to “encourage and maintain the delivery of career technical education (CTE) programs.”

“When our district applied for the grant, we were able to use enrollment at our feeder schools to increase the level of funding with the idea that we would develop some programs with the funds to benefit students in the elementary and high school district,” Garner said, explaining why the project funded by the grant should benefit and involve not just the high school, but other Galt schools as well.

She hopes the school farm acts as a steppingstone and is the first of many collaborative projects among Galt’s schools.

“This community is a special place that values agriculture, our kids and the well-being of all who live here,” Garner said. “We are thankful for the grant that is allowing us to build a facility that reflects our community values where there was once just an empty field.”