CARPINTERIA, Calif. - Donations from Carpinteria residents have saved a teacher's job and now, the high school and community are reaping the benefits.
Holly Smith received a layoff notice about a year ago. The California Women for Agriculture group locally immediately rallied, and told the Carpinteria School District a fundraising drive would be launched.
The group raised $30,000 and the school district matched it. The position was saved.
The value of agriculture in the school located in the ag-rich Carpinteria Valley has many benefits. "So it has a whole range of things. It teaches a student besides how to raise a pig or or how to grow a broccoli crop. I'm just enthusiastic about it," said June Van Wingerden with the group.
School Superintendent Paul Cordero said it's "a special program. A high end program." With school finances better this year than last year, the program is no longer at risk of losing an instructor.
Students walking through the school farm and pens full of animals said, it's made a big difference in their education and their future. Many want to study agriculture in college.
"I really love agriculture," said Megan Garcia. She also wants to be a paramedic, and knows the classes she's taking in agriculture are developing teamwork and leadership skills.
Smith says over 250 students are in the program. That's about a third of the campus enrollment.
"It's an agriculture program that also teaches leadership," said student Molly Miller. She has been able to learn farming and other aspects of agriculture at the same time she participates in sports, cheer leading and Mock Trial.
Some of the crops grown on the farm are harvested for the school lunch program. "So they actually really enjoy donating their lettuce to the cafeteria and their friends are eating what they grew," said Smith.
With two secure instructors many ideas are sprouting up. "We're never just staying with one thing. It's always growing and expanding. It's great," said Miller.
"It's a way to draw in students to find out what they are good at, what they like. It lets them find success. They may not be aware of agriculture, they may not all be farmers but they become aware of their potential," said Smith. "And the importance of being a leader."
One student Jesse Navarez walked through the school garden and said he now plants tomatoes at home. His parents "think it's great. They think I will save them money."