Popular Ag Day returns to Hughson Elementary

Young children and young animals always make a wonderful combination. That magical mixture was on full display Thursday as Hughson Elementary School celebrated its 27th Ag Day with students, staff, parents, grandparents and community members all enjoying the return of one of the campus’ most popular programs.

Under a cloudless bright blue sky, the school’s 545 students were treated to a full-day program that had them rotating every 25 minutes between ag-related displays and demonstrations on the playground as well as in classrooms.

As always, the baby animals – pigs, chicks, calves, goats and lambs – were a magnet for the youngsters as were full-grown alpacas, horses and even a turtle. Also popular was a firetruck from the Hughson Fire Department, a local group dishing out ice cream and the adults teaching students how to square dance. In all, 24 local ag-related vendors gave the students a glimpse into many different aspects of the ag industry.

“Even though we live in an ag-rich community, a lot of the kids haven’t really seen ag up close,” said HES Principal Megan Reisz. “And even though some of them may grow up on an almond ranch, that doesn’t mean they’ve ever seen chickens.”

Ag Day has been a tradition on the HES campus for three decades, but Thursday was the first time since 2019 – pre-COVID – that the school was able to treat students and staff to the entire program. There were no Ag Days in 2020 and 2021 and only a scaled-down version was held last year. That means that none of the current kindergarten through third-graders or Reisz, who took over in the fall of 2019, had previously participated in Ag Day.

“The kids were very excited,” said third-grade teacher Trina Carnes, the co-organizer of Ag Day along with fellow instructor LaVaughn Lambert. “It’s important to teach them the value of ag in our community because we’re still very much a farming community.”

One of Thursday’s most popular attractions was in Room 10, where Barbara Alley of nearby NuWest Milling enjoyed the reaction of students getting to hold some of the 15 3-day-old chicks she brought.

“It teaches the children how to handle an animal properly,” explained Alley, who is no stranger to Ag Day, having attended Hughson Elementary many years ago before graduating from Hughson High in 1994. She said the baby chickens will be donated to the high school FFA program to become egg layers there.

Lambert said the value of Ag Day extends beyond the fun had by everyone on Thursday. Before and after the event, there are ag-related lessons integrated into all the classrooms.

“We do plantings and the students chart their growth and write about it in their journals,” she said. “The classes write thank you notes to the presenters. Our reading curriculum also includes animals and farmers’ markets and even information about ag marketing. We try to plan so it all relates.”

The event Is paid for in large part through a silent auction in which local businesses donate goods, services and large gift baskets. Proceeds from this year’s auction will help underwrite the cost of the 2024 Ag Day.