All animals are equal here at Edison Middle School's new campus farm, which was officially opened Friday for husbandry by teachers and their students who can now conveniently live the farm life within walking distance of their classrooms.
“This is the first middle school farm and garden of its kind in Kern County,” said Edison School District Superintendent Erica Andrews. “We are so thankful to so many of you who have been with us every step of the way so that this would finally come.”
For years, students at Edison School District have raised livestock at nearby Foothill High School or at private farms through a partnership with the National FFA Organization. But the commute for the Edison Middle and Orangewood Elementary school students and their families to see their ovine comrades averaged 15 minutes each way, twice a day.
“You have to clean the pens, change the water and check on the animals,” said Norah Andrews, a seventh-grade student at Edison Middle School who said her favorite part was teaching the animals new tricks.
With a donation of $12,000 worth of piping and corrugated steel, the site houses a space where students learn all facets of farm life: to upkeep the box gardens, order supplies, keep inventory and raise their own animals through the school’s Expanded-Learning Program.
As people tour the many box gardens, sprouts of heirloom squash, antigua orange, jalapeño and Golden California Wonder angle out just above the soil, freshly watered and undisturbed by weeds.
Next fall, educators expect to launch the school’s agriculture club, which they hope will rekindle the next generation’s fundamental relationship to the land and the bounty it can bring.
“I’m super excited that I get to share this passion for the industry that feeds and clothes us," said Jordan Moss, the school’s new agriculture teacher. “At this young age, we’re going to instill those good work ethic qualities early on.”
“It gives students access to new experiences and a sense of responsibility,” Andrews said. “They’re raising, feeding, taking care of their animals, and developing potential future career skills.”
Many of the speakers and students, such as Andrews, are the immediate progenies of farm workers and descendants of ranch hands.
“They would be so proud that I have continued their passion for agriculture,” Andrews said.
Itself tucked within agrarian expanse, Edison School District is occupied by traditions innate to its Central Valley identity. With few sports teams or clubs the program fills a necessary gap in the kids' lives.
“Students within our community do not always have the means to do extra-curricular activities,” said Nicole Cabe, an aide at Edison Middle, whose daughter is a sophomore at Foothill High. “So giving them this farm and garden gives them the chance to try something new and maybe even find a passion.”