By TERESA HAMMOND
The Oakdale School Farm is inches from being ready for business.
Some might say centimeters as some FFA students were able to use the barn area for livestock fair prep earlier this summer. Oakdale High School Ag teacher Isaac Robles has shared the annual FFA ‘Welcome Barbecue’ will also be hosted there later this month.
Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone looks forward to hosting an Open House tour at the 26-acre property, just as soon as a few things are “buttoned up” and the weather becomes a bit cooler.
The 26-acre parcel between Crane and Brady roads has had quite the transformation over the past 12 months.
“It’s 26 acres just naturally on two tiers,” Malone stated, as he reviewed completion of Phase 1 of the School Farm project.
The first 13 acres, just southwest of the Crane Road entrance, features 13 acres of almond orchard. The undertaking required laser leveling, micro sprinkler installation, as well as soil cultivation and tree planting.
“Ninety five percent of this was all done by donation,” Malone stated of the 13 acre land transformation, noting Brian Lemons and industry specialists as instrumental in making many of the decisions as well as contributions to seeing this through to fruition.
“People have really been receptive to this,” Malone said. “They understand we’re going to see business and Ag business out here not in a textbook.”
The superintendent noted his belief in textbooks, but feels equally strongly on lessons gained through hands on education.
“They’re going to visually be able to see it and get their hands a little dirty in the process. I see this as a 26-acre lab facility,” he stated.
With the orchard portion currently up and running, the district has begun looking for an Orchard Manager. The goal is for the orchard as well as other crops to yield a profit to help sustain the costs of the farm. The Oakdale School Farm is one of three facilities projects funded through Developer Fees.
Phase 1 of this project included the almond orchard, a 10,000 square foot show barn, restroom, well and an irrigation pump.
The Show Barn was completed earlier this year and is intended to be used for varying opportunities including overflow housing for livestock. Malone hopes for the school farm to benefit multiple Ag groups, including the area 4-H clubs.
“Usually when you start to really build a program it takes a while, but with our kids we’re giving them chances to compete,” he said of the varying Oakdale education program successes. “We’re already seeing the results. After 30 years of nothing at the Stanislaus County Fair, we’ve won the Thurman award the past two years in a row.”
As Phase 1 becomes complete, the board as well as steering committee now looks to the second phase which will be two 3,000 square foot barns: one for pigs and the other for livestock. Pasture areas will be established adjacent to each of the barns.
Malone’s hope is that a sponsor might step up to support or contribute to start the next phase. Due to the generosity of the community and smart budgeting, Phase 1 is currently under budget.
The overall idea of the school farm is to continue the excitement, as well as opportunity for all students of Oakdale with an interest in Agriculture. It is also in keeping with and maintaining the district’s goal of educating students who are College and Career ready.
“How do I know we are getting our kids college and career ready?” Malone said of the district and its continued successes. “The results of our kids and their accomplishments. The results don’t lie.”