Ground is being moved, an easement has been widened and an almond orchard is planned. Oakdale Joint Unified School Farm is well on its way from concept to creation.
The School Farm is one of three facilities projects approved by the OJUSD School Board and funded through Developers Fees.
If Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone has it his way, Phase 1 of the project will be completed by next May. The 26 acre property owned by OJUSD is situated between Crane and Brady roads off the highway on the city’s west end.
Malone shared that with the 10 acres on Willowood for an elementary school site once it’s warranted, the Board reviewed how to use the 26 acres to best benefit all Oakdale students.
“My goal is that kids will be able to utilize it by the end of the school year to be ready for the Fair Season,” the Superintendent said. “That’s my goal, it’s an ambitious goal, but it’s a goal.”
Thanks largely in part to the help of OID with an easement widening at the Crane entrance, the project began in May of this year. Phase one of the multi-phase project will include: 13 acres of production orchard, an 80’ wide x 120’ long metal barn, well, electrical hook-up and bus friendly roads.
The 26 acres is naturally split into 13 acres which butt up to one another front to back. The 13 to the south of the center line will host the 13 acres of production orchard. Trees, donated by Tom Burchell of Burchell Nursery are planned to be planted in February or March of 2017. Malone anticipates it will take close to three years to yield their first crop.
Malone, however, can’t do this alone. The district has enlisted the help of community members who comprise an Ag Advisory Committee of 20 to 25, as well as a Farm Committee and Orchard Committee to advise with the varying steps and processes.
“We have people that know the industry,” Malone stated. “We have a really well versed committee. They do this for a living.”
That 13 acres will come close to being able to sustain this whole farm,” he added of the almond orchard.
Before the property is student ready and the trees can be planted, the ground work must be complete. Currently the front 13 acres are being primed for their crop, as the back 13 is being leveled in the areas where school buses will need to access and the barn will be built.
Initially the property will serve as a place for students to work on Ag projects, with future ROP potential, as well community use in the latter phases.
“It is certainly our goal to have an articulated TK-12 Ag based program,” the superintendent shared. “Where that will really tie in is with our 4-H kids. We have a lot of 4-H groups, I’d like to see them come together. Seeing those kids taught the same things, exposed to the same things all the way through.”
As for the phases beyond Phase 1, Malone is straight forward on what it will take to see a project of this size through to the end … Community.
“Depending upon budget and depending upon community input (donation and support), the other barns will come in as the money comes in,” he said.
Malone continued stating he has little doubt that local Ag businesses, as well as individuals will continue to step up and offer help.
“I don’t want people to think we’re taking general ed money,” Malone reiterated, “this is all Developer Fee money, and donation.”
For detailed information, as well as partnership opportunities on the School Farm visit www.ojusd.org and click the OJUSD Farm to School Network link located on the lower left of the pa