by Paul R. Spitzzeri
I’ve had the privilege in the last few years of judging mission projects for the 48th District Agricultural Association for its annual spring Schools’ Agriculture and Nutrition Fair, held at the Fairplex in Pomona.
Today, I attended, for the second consecutive year, the award luncheon for teachers and schools who were honored for extraordinary work in promoting the fair and overseeing projects displayed by students at the event.
It was great to see recognition for individuals and for campuses as widespread as Los Angeles, La Mirada, Chino and Chino Hills, Whittier and elsewhere. The work done in classrooms and on school sites is inspiring, particularly because the act of doing something interactive, kinetic, and often outdoors really reaps benefits for students, who are, otherwise, mainly limited to classroom work, valuable as the can be.
I sat at a table where teachers and guests from Newman Elementary in Chino were honored individually and institutionally for the great work they do in submitting projects to the fair. At the table next to me were teachers from Country Springs Elementary in Chino Hills, who were recognized for remarkable work, as well.
One of the more interesting awardees was Heights Christian Schools, Whittier, which has a garden, now in its seventh year, that has expanded dramatically in size, scope and scale, and even has a butterfly waystation. The description provided by one of the teachers gives a strong sense of what programs directed towards gardens and the promotion of agriculture can do beyond the campus and in community outreach.
When I walked in and was greeted by District CEO Silvia Bishop, she immediately asked me what I thought of the issue surrounding the school mission project, which was the subject of this recent post on this blog.
My reply to Silvia was that this was obviously a question that could be addressed in different ways, including rethinking the idea of how missions are interpreted to provide more of the story of the native indigenous peoples, the California Indians, as well as that of that of the missionaries and others associated with the European perspective. It seems to be that, if the District found teachers and schools who still found value in mission projects, working with them to come up with a way to make the projects relevant still has value.
The District, meanwhile, will be moving from its long-time home at Mount San Antonio College and it looks as if one likely venue could be Fairplex, though there are still negotiations to be worked through. Seeing the good work the organization does, as reflected through the fair and today’s awards ceremony, there seems no question that schools and their staff and students can greatly benefit from awareness and activities centered on agriculture and nutrition.
I told Silvia that the Homestead continues to enjoy its partnership with the Association and would like to explore ways of enhancing and expanding on that. I certainly hope that can be done in ways that will help the Homestead and the Association.
As for the location of the luncheon, it was held, as last year, at AgriScapes at Cal Poly Pomona. The building has some nice exhibits on agricultural history, including two enormous panoramic photographs showing the campus in recent years and when it was the Arabian horse breeding ranch of the cereal magnate Kellogg family. An interesting sidenote is that part of the Cal Poly campus falls within the northeastern corner of Rancho La Puente, co-owned by John Rowland and William Workman.
A visit to AgriScapes, which has a petting zoo, pumpkin patch and other elements, wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the store, where fresh produce raised on campus and other food-related items are for sale. After picking up some campus-grown lettuce, oranges and grapefruit, it was time to head home after a nice afternoon.
Next year’s fair will have the theme of “From Cows to Concrete” based on a book of that name by Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber and published by Angel City Press. The Homestead provided the cover image for the book from an artifact in our collection and hosted the book launch last year. We look forward to participating in next May’s fair.