Free event was held at Paso Robles Event Center

Class was in session once again at the Great AGventure. Nearly 1,000 fourth-graders from 19 different San Luis Obispo County schools moved from station to station at the Paso Robles Event Center Wednesday morning, Oct. 9, for a one-of-a-kind, hands-on learning experience.

“Very enthusiastic kids. It’s been a good day. It’s been a great event. Anything we can do to reach the youth,” said Kimberly Bradley, executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Agricultural Education Committee.

This is the 17th year for the Great AGventure and many of the 45 volunteer presenters have been coming since the beginning such as Suze Evenson.

Evenson teaches the children about owls and their importance to agriculture. Each student also gets to dissect an owl pellet.

“It’s fun to see the kids reaction — what they think it is at first to what they know it is at the end,” Evenson said.

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She added that at first, the students were a little shy, especially some of the boys to her surprise, to dig into the pellet. 

“They are a little on the apprehensive side and then they really enjoy it once they get into it and see what it’s all about,” Evenson said. “It’s funny because some of them think it’s poop, but it’s not, it’s barf.”

In case you are wondering, the kids wear gloves during the process.

“I could stay here for hours,” said a Vineyard Elementary School fourth-grader as she picked through the owl pellet.

“I found two skulls,” said her classmate.

“I’m done. I’ve seen enough. I’m done,” said another VES student at their table.

Each class was escorted to five presentations — Farm equipment, animals, crops, science and an “AG-tivity” — at the Event Center. They spent at least 20 minutes at each stop.

Bradley said in addition to the one-day event a packet goes out to the teachers with lesson plans about a month ahead of the event.

Presenters included industry professionals volunteers who are involved in various aspects of agriculture as well as members of North County FFA chapters.

Janalee Johnson of Templeton was assisted by her children Claire and Luke for their presentation on horses. She explained that her goal was to give the students some general knowledge.

“If they see a horse in public, in a parade, in a rodeo, at a festivity just general awareness of horse’s behavior and how to approach them and what is safe and what is not safe,” Jenalee said. “We do a little bit about equipment and the general observations of the difference between a full-grown horse and a pony.”

A popular interactive activity focused on horsepower was presented by Cal Poly’s Tractor Pull Club. The fourth-graders pulled a weighted sled for a short distance. Each team was timed and the data was converted to horsepower. The club brought their 1,500 horsepower competitive tractor “Mustang Legacy.”

The Great AGventure is one of the major events of the San Luis Obispo County Agricultural Education Committee. A similar event is held each spring in the South County on a smaller scale.

The Great AGventure is made possible by the Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust, making the entire program free to local schools, including transportation costs.

Additional sponsors include the San Luis Obispo Co. Cattlemen and CattleWomen’s Associations, San Luis Obispo Co. Chapter of California Women for Agriculture, Umpqua Bank, Paso Robles Events Center and San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau. 

The program’s emphasis was to demonstrate the importance of agriculture and to develop an understanding of the county’s vital agricultural industry. 

“A lot of these students don’t realize how agriculture is all around them in this county and this gives them an insight into the different opportunities they might have as adults and also when they go into high school with 4-H and FFA as well,” said Vineyard Elementary School teacher Tanya Marshall.

Her class will study California agriculture later in the school year and she said the exposure at the Great AGventure is invaluable.

“We can refer back to something that they had a hands-on experience with rather than it being abstract,” Marshall said, “because although agriculture is all over the county a lot of these kids don’t experience it.”