FARMS Leadership is a multi-tiered program that introduces, trains and recruits youth for careers in agriculture and environmental sciences. Hands-on experiences at local working farms, agribusiness, scientific research centers and post-secondary institutions are the hallmark of this program. The program targets youth ages 16-21 in the San Joaquin Valley and Northern California.
The FARMS Advanced Program is designed for high school seniors who have completed one year of the FARMS leadership program and want to pursue a career pathway in agriculture or environmental sciences. Originally piloted in Fresno County, the program expanded to serve youth in Kern, Monterey, Sonoma, and Tehama Counties. During six hands-on field days, students research, find a solution, and present their findings about a real life agriculture issue to their peers and industry leaders.
The theme of study for the 2019-20 FARMS Advanced Program was Labor. In all five counties, students were introduced to various aspects of labor within the agriculture industry. A highlight of the field day season was a visit by Fresno, Kings and Tulare county students to the Lindcove Research & Extension Center (LREC). During their field day, students had the opportunity to visit the citrus grove and meet with the LREC’S picking crew to learn about labor in the citrus industry. Students learned that there were no mechanical ways of picking citrus and the labor that goes into the picking is very time consuming and dependent on the speed and efficiency of the individual laborer. Students also had the opportunity to pick their own citrus and experience first-hand the challenges and skills needed to be an effective fruit picker. Lastly, the day concluded with students learning about the various equipment available at the LREC including a high-pressure scale washer, waxing and drying equipment and a fruit-grading unit. For FARMS Advanced students across all regions, the program culminates with student presentations to peers and program mentors.
In the five counties the FARMS Advanced Program operates there were 27 youth enrolled:
- Tehama County - 7
- Kern County - 8
- Sonoma County - 8
- Fresno Region - 6
When COVID-19 hit the Fresno region and schools were closed, the remaining scheduled field days were canceled. To overcome the impacts the pandemic had on the program’s ability to provide hands-on activities and engage with students in-person, a daily virtual learning YouTube series called "California Dirt: Coffee with a Farmer" was implemented.
During this interactive interview, the Center’s Executive Director interviewed an agricultural professional, reflecting the wide variety of career opportunities available in keeping with the FARMS program objective. Students joined the video conference and had the ability to submit their own questions via chat. Additionally, the interviews were recorded and posted on YouTube so if students were unable to watch the live interview, they could access the video at their convenience. These interviews allowed CLBL to continue engaging students in the objectives of the FARMS program and gave them the ability to connect with agriculture professionals, continue to learn about the wide variety of career opportunities available to them in the agricultural and natural resource industries, as well as the paths needed to reach these careers.
Some agricultural professionals also provided students with virtual “farm tours” taking their mobile devices out in the field, and even using drone footage of their operations. We received tremendous support from our Program Partners as many jumped at the opportunity to try something new in working with our students.
In partnership with My Job Depends on Ag and Andersen & Sons Shelling, 21 scholarships were awarded to FARMS Program students for the 2019-20 school year. Additionally, with support of the Sacramento Bee’s Book of Dreams Fund, we handed out 10 Chromebooks to FARMS Leadership and Advanced students throughout the state of California. Students were selected based on their participation and attendance of our “California Dirt: Coffee with a Farmer” YouTube series.