For the elementary school kids attending the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Ag Days at the fairgrounds Tuesday, whether it was the bee exhibits, lambs or a display about the Sheriff’s Office’s Rural Crimes Task Force, it was all about the fluff.
Mark West Elementary School student Orion Swanson’s primary opinion of the Liberty 4-H Beekeeping project was that the bees were “cute and fluffy,” said the 8-year-old, honey stick in hand.
Standing next to his mother Amber Swanson and 16-year-old sister Hailey Arcado, he recited his other takeaway about the bees: It would be much better to be a female bee, because the males die soon after mating, he declared.
Swanson, a second-grader at Mark West, was one of about 5,000 kids roaming around the Sonoma County Fairgrounds as part of the annual spring event, sampling local agricultural products and learning where they came from.
“It’s fun seeing the kids, seeing how excited they are about the animals and the different tables,” said Arcado, who took the day off from classes at Santa Rosa High School to chaperone her brother and his classmates. “It’s cool that they’re all so excited to learn about it.”
In all, some 150 volunteers came together at the fairgrounds to teach students about the importance of agriculture and food production. Students visited with farm animals, talked to ranchers and members of FFA, and got to experience what it takes for their food to go from the farm to the table, said Tawny Tesconi, executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
“I’ve always said that Sonoma County is the most amazing place in the world for agriculture and diversity and quality of locally grown products,” she said. “And since kids aren’t all from farms any longer, providing them the opportunity to see where their food and fiber comes from, I think, is wonderful. It shows them the importance of agriculture and relates to what they see in the grocery store.
“They see cows and calves and horses, and I think it just kind of brings everything full circle,” she said. “Everybody eats and everybody enjoys locally grown food, and these are the people who bring it to you.”
Inside the Lyttle Cow Palace, kids squealed as they came face to face with more of those fluffy creatures they liked so much — rabbits, lambs and even a bomb-sniffing Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office dog named Boomer.
The golden retriever “got enough pets for probably a week,” said Deputy John Fomasi, who was flanked by fellow deputies hard at work passing out shiny sheriff’s badge stickers to eager little hands.
Holding a 2-week-old white lamb practically as big as she was, 11-year-old Rebecca Ficco wandered with it nearby, explaining to anyone nearby all about her work as a member of the Forestville 4-H chapter.
While the lamb she carried Tuesday wasn’t her own, she does raise lambs herself, she said, and pigs.
Omar Varela, a third-grader at Taylor Mountain Elementary School, was particularly excited to greet the lamb Ficco was carrying.
Gently rubbing its head, he explained that when he visits his uncle in Mexico, he gets to help take care of the sheep, too.