Clovis East ag students roll up their sleeves, get first-hand experience

Students in Clovis East High School’s crop science course get a first-hand experience of what it takes to produce and harvest crops. (Daniel Leon/Clovis Roundup)

Students enrolled in Clovis East High School’s plant production capstone course reaped the fruits of their labor (or vegetables in this case) when they harvested their most recent crop last week.

“We’re harvesting our leafy vegetables from a plant production course that the students planted in January,” said agriculture instructor Steve Gambril. “Crops are coming off at different times so right now. This is our earlier crop of romaine [lettuce], kale and escarole that we’re getting ready to harvest and sell to local vendors.”

The dozen or so crops are planted, cultivated and harvested at the school’s McFarlane-Coffman Agriculture Center before they are packed in boxes and sold to local chefs, restaurants like Rev’s and Gastro Grill, as well as used in Clovis Unified School District’s meals program.

In addition to those components, students in the class pick up valuable business skills they can later use in their careers.

“They’re learning about production agriculture as well as marketing and sales,” Gambril said. “A lot of times, they’re city kids and they don’t see what’s happening on the farm. They’re not raised on a farm but they’re four-year ag students that have been in our program, are familiar with the animals, etc. So, they’re seeing first-hand what it takes to grow these crops, the importance of time management and getting [the produce] to the market as soon as possible because it’s perishable. We can’t hold onto this stuff for two weeks. When we harvest, it has to be sold within the next few days.”

The money generated goes back into the program to pay for expenses and students then share the remaining profits.

The McFarlane-Coffman Agriculture Center at Clovis East offers one of the most comprehensive agricultural sciences curriculum in the San Joaquin Valley, including  biotechnology and crop science.

“This is an elective class, they’re out here because they enjoy it,” Gambril added. “Like I said, they’re four-year students so they’ve bought into our program. They understand the value of what we have out here.”