On Robin Gamper Farm Day, morning drop-off at Waggoner Elementary was anything but routine. After all of the students had taken their places in the classrooms, horses, sheep, goats and chickens began to check in to campus as well. On Wednesday, May 2, parent volunteers, student ambassadors, farmers, entertainers and livestock all funneled into Waggoner in order to literally bring the farm to school.
Waggoner students experienced an entire day of demonstrations, activities and lessons dedicated to farming. They cycled from one station to the next as they got to pet different types of livestock, watch tractor demonstrations and plant summer vegetables and flowers in the school garden.
Out on the field, excited students walked from one animal pen to the next. Among other animals they met several small turtles, a cluster of colorful Silkie chicks with unique, puffy feathers, a snake and a large goat.
At one station. students learned the basics of horse safety and lined up to pet a horse’s nose. When it was their turn they each gave the horse two gentle strokes on the nose before walking to the back of the line again.
In another station, students got to meet Froggy the sheep, who was calm as students reached into her pen to stroke her fleece. As they crowded around the enclosure, Froggy’s handler encouraged the students to notice the way that the natural lanolin in the ewe’s wool left their hands feeling soft.
Froggy was calm even in the midst of all the excitement, most likely because she is used to working with young children. Her owner, Will Whitworth, is in Pre-K.
While one group of students pet Froggy, the rest of class clustered around Jenny, a young Nigerian Dwarf goat with black fur and a sequenced hot-pick sweater. Jenny’s mother is a milk goat, and her owner, Renee Damon, sells the milk products from their farm on Pleasant’s Valley Road.
There were several large tractors parked across the playing field. After a brief lesson and an opportunity to ask questions, the enraptured students got to watch as the farmers gave demonstrations of the machines in action.
While some students took their turn watching the tractors, those at the planting station formed an orderly line and waited to chose their seedling. Volunteer Reuben Miranda helped the children pick out which plant they would contribute to the school garden from the wide variety of summer crops the volunteers had arranged.
“What do you want, bro?” Miranda asked the last boy in line.
The boy scanned the plant-covered table for a moment before pointing to a carton. Miranda carefully removed the plant from its carton, transferred it to a cup and handed it to the student.
“Have fun with that man!” Miranda told the boy as he hopped off the bench and made a beeline for the garden.
At another station, Aggie Ambassadors from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Studies helped students plant sunflower seeds. Mitchell White, UC Davis student, was enthusiastic to participate in the Farm Day for the first time.
Throughout the day, students traveled from one station to the next, with a brief stop for a healthy, farm-related snack of fresh strawberries. They sang songs with performers, listened to lectures about topics like honey and plant disease, got up close and personal with livestock and worked in their garden. Time will tell if the lessons that the students learned on Robin Gamper Farm Day will inspire the next generation of Winters farmers.