Fifth-grader Danna Garcia noted that the 3-week old Jersey calf had long eyelashes and a rough tongue that felt “disgusting.”
Garcia and classmates from Santa Rosa’s Kawana Elementary School stood amid throngs of children Tuesday morning in the Lyttle Cow Palace at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The covered arena space was a magnet for those looking to pet piglets, bunnies, horses, goats and other barnyard critters assembled for the annual Ag Days education extravaganza sponsored by the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
“The best part is we get to see animals,” said fellow Kawana fifth-grader Morgan Seghezzi, making her way with Garcia and other students to more exhibits. Seghezzi said she also liked learning about fruits grown in the county.
The annual event was expected to draw more than 4,000 school children over Tuesday and Wednesday.
More than 150 volunteers helped produce the show, which also drew a large number of exhibitors that included public safety agencies and community groups.
The aim, said volunteers, is to bring the farm to the city kids.
“They get a little feeling of what agriculture really is and what it does for the county,” said Santa Rosa organic dairy farmer Doug Beretta.
Beretta brought the jersey calf that Garcia petted, along with a 3-week-old Holstein. He explained to the children that dairy cows get milked twice a day and they have four stomachs for the digestion of grass, hay and grain.
Also in the arena was Mariana Hernandez, FFA president at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa. She brought her Old English hen Juliet for the students to pet. Her rooster Romeo stood nearby in a cage.
Hernandez, a senior, said she also wants to introduce school children to agriculture. She hopes many students when they reach high school will join her organization, even if their families have no ties to farming.
“Most of our members in the FFA never grew up on a ranch,” she said. At Elsie Allen, the group has about 300 members.
Besides the animals, the day included chances to sample apples, apple juice, honey and Clover Sonoma milk.
Tuesday’s event included visits by a number of emergency agency personnel, who brought along their vehicles.
Students could climb aboard a fire truck, walk through an ambulance or for a time stand on a long narrow step used for boarding Henry One, the county Sheriff’s helicopter. The chopper landed in the vacant lawn of the carnival area Tuesday morning as Sheriff’s search and rescue volunteers kept the children safely away.
Over at the sheep barn, the bleachers filled with students as Santa Rosa sheep rancher Joyce Shepherd directed her border collie Jazz to herd four ducks through gates, over a small bridge and into a tiny corral.
Shepherd rotated her sheepdog demonstration with one for sheep shearing put on by sheep ranchers Jeff Furlong of Tomales Bay and Joe Pozzi of Valley Ford.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids to be exposed to what Sonoma County agriculture is all about,” said Pozzi.
You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 707-521-5285 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @rdigit.