Calif. District Seeks Space for Centralized Farm Program Campus

Courtney Williams's picture
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Students from three Santa Maria (Calif.) Joint Union High School District could gain access to a permanent, centralized space for their agriculture projects once district officials nail down a location.

Teachers and administrators in the district have for years been trying to find the biggest, best piece of land to accommodate the growing number of county fair and FFA projects of students at Santa Maria, Righetti and Pioneer Valley high schools. 

The search could end in the district’s own backyard, where 1.5 acres of fenced-in dirt and wood chips has sat untouched behind the district office at 2560 Skyway Drive since officials bought the property in 1998.

That parcel also happens to be in the flight path of a Santa Maria Public Airport runway, which would require the state to sign off on the project because students would be using a site that sits within two nautical miles of an airport runway.

Plans took a baby step forward last month when the district brought the possibility of planning a new high school farm program campus (in land about 4,000 feet northeast of a runway) before the Santa Maria Public Airport District board of directors for their information.

Superintendent Doug Kimberly said the property is not the only local parcel the district is considering, but it seems like the best fit.

“At this point, it’s more of a front-runner,” Kimberly said. “Land’s not easy to find. We’re kind of just seeing what’s out there. We’re looking forward to having all our teachers in one place.”   

Students working on animal and plant projects are typically spread on land all around the Santa Maria Valley.

Hector Guerra, an agriculture teacher at Pioneer Valley, said his students have been traveling to work on projects in Nipomo, Orcutt and the outskirts of Santa Maria since the school no longer occupies land on Telephone Road free-of-charge like it had for years.

“I was spread out all over the place, which made it a little difficult,” Guerra said.

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