By Joseph Luiz
For a few days (last week), nearly 40 local teachers got the chance to be the students.
The Kern County Farm Bureau held a Teachers’ Ag Seminar. Through the seminar, teachers toured farms and other facilities, heard presentations from farmers and industry experts, participated in hands-on activities and more.
The goal of the seminar is for teachers to implement what they’ve learned about agriculture in their classrooms.
“We’ve got to educate the kids so that they can protect the future of agriculture, but also the teachers need to know more about agriculture,” said Lorri Roberts, a Valley Oaks educator who helped coordinate activities for the seminar. “With this program, the teachers can learn and share that knowledge with their kids.”
One of the participants this year was Standard Middle School sixth-grade teacher Valeri Gusman, who said she enjoyed her first time with the program.
“It was amazing to see the passion behind these farmers that are right here in our backyards,” she said. “Many people don’t even know what we have here in Kern County. This is a mecca of amazing agriculture, and we just don’t see it in our neighborhoods.”
Gusman said she learned much through the seminar, such as the thought and care that goes into pesticides to make sure they work well but are also safe.
“I thought workers just go out with a big machine and just spray the heck out of everything, rather than looking into the science behind it,” she said. “There’s a lot of chemistry involved to make sure everything is safe and effective.”
Gusman said she plans to incorporate ag more in the math work for her kids, hoping that it helps them understand math in a more relatable way while also informing them about ag industry. She said she wants them to learn about costs, profit margins, and other aspects relating to the financial side of the industry.
“I want to show them it’s more than just going to a store and buying something,” she said. “The seminar was very eye-opening. My brain feels like there’s just so much information to mull over. I’ll be doing a whole lot of thinking about that this week, putting my thoughts together.”
Kelly Carter, a first-year teacher with Shafter High School, said her main goal with the seminar was to learn more about Kern County, having just arrived from Northern California.
“i always thought Bakersfield was just oil rigs, but seeing the vineyards that you guys have, the livestock, seeing everything that is possible in this area has been really big,” she said. “I see a lot of the diversity that is available here.”
Carter said she’s hoping to bring students to some of the places she’s toured through the program.
Jennifer Allen came all the way from Lake Isabella to participate in the seminar. Allen teaches fifth grade at Wallace Elementary School, part of the Kernville Union School District.
Allen said she enjoyed inhabiting the role of a student and learning about the breadth of the ag industry in Kern County.
“I came ready to learn and see what I could incorporate into my classroom,” she said. “My hope is to help my kids understand where their food comes from, knowing how much we produce here in Kern County.”
Allen said she also hopes to inspire some of them to consider future careers in the local ag industry.
“I want to open up opportunities for them, show what’s possible and get them thinking about it early,” she said.