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COUCH'S CORNER: State agriculture secretary visits District 4

This week, let me take time and discuss a very special visit that Kern County had from a high-level official in the state of California. In the community of McFarland, we received a visit from the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross. Last week, Ross visited the McFarland Unified School District on Aug. 26.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s mission is “to serve the citizens of California by promoting and protecting a safe, healthy food supply, and enhancing local and global agricultural trade, through efficient management, innovation and sound science, with a commitment to environmental stewardship.”

Ross’ role at CDFA includes working to ensure that only safe and quality food reaches the consumer, protect against invasion of exotic pests and diseases, promote California agriculture and food products both at home and abroad, ensure an equitable and orderly marketplace for California's agricultural products, and to build coalitions supporting the state's agricultural infrastructure to meet evolving industry needs.

During Ross’ visit to McFarland Unified School District, she observed classes that planted vegetables in their school’s garden. This year, the youngest students in McFarland Unified had learned about seed planting and the importance of seed spacing. During Ross’ visit, the students monitored their plants growth alongside her and took her on a tour of where their agricultural roots have been sown.

As Secretary Ross continued her visit to see the older students, she found herself visiting a STEM class with a group of sixth-grade students learning the language and applications of coding. The students presented Ross with a prosthetic hand the kids built with the use of a 3-D printer.

Browning STEAM Academy’s Vice Principal Dulce Perez shared with me and my staff about a special project these magnificent students had accomplished recently that left our special visitor feeling enthusiastic about our future in the hands of these scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

Valerie Perez from the Browning Road STEAM Academy shared photos, and a class project in which these students designed and built a functional prosthetic arm for a little boy in Porterville. Yes, a functional prosthetic arm. In fact, they delivered three functional prosthetic arms to this boy in need. Ross’ reactions were identical to my own: a feeling of amazement and optimism.

As the visit progressed to McFarland Junior High School, the secretary and I observed a robotics program being implemented in the student’s educational curriculum. These students displayed numerous trophies in robotics and robotic design.

My visit with Secretary Ross concluded at McFarland High School, where we were greeted by the school’s audiovisual production class. McFarland High School students also gave a tour of the agriculture and industrial automation degree programs offered at the campus. I would be remiss if I did not mention that roughly 26 percent of the students graduate with an AA degree from Bakersfield Community College. The high school students also had a separate robotics challenge on display, and we took a tour of their recently renovated welding shop.

Also in attendance during Ross’ visit were McFarland City Councilman Saul Ayon, Adventist Health communication coordinator Matt Cauthron, Kern County Farm Bureau Executive Director Romeo Agbalog, Kern Community College District Chancellor Sonia Christian, Central Valley Farm Worker Foundation Communication Director Diana Melero, and CARPD board member and District 4 field representative Jesus Perez.

If you have any questions about this or any District 4 matter, contact us at 661-868-3680 or email us at district4@kerncounty.com. Have a safe week.

David Couch represents Kern County’s 4th District.