Sarah Van Buskirk
Sunshine, strawberries, and sheep herd together at the Los Angeles County Fair’s Farm at Fairplex, where education is rooted within the soil.
Students from Cal Poly Pomona’s Don B. Hunter College of Agriculture present the animals in the Big Red Barn at the farm entrance during the Los Angeles County Fair’s month-long stay.
Roaming their pens were dwarf pygmy goats and brown and white cows. Along with a breastfeeding pot belly pig mother and babies that were next to the chicken coupe. The coupe gave an informational video about the process of incubating and hatching eggs.
The main attraction was the sheep petting zoo, where families flock together to feed the soft sheep and lamb. The Cal Poly Pomona students gathered around the animal pens to provide information regarding the animals.
“We work with the animals in our labs at Cal Poly and learn about diseases, how to process them when they are born, the meaning behind their fur type and stuff like that,” Emma Durran, freshman animal science major, said. “So then we bring them to the fair, and we answer any question people have about the type of animal.”
Inside Daisy’s Education Barn, there was a cow milking demonstration that goes through the process of extracting milk in depth. The deeper into the barn, the deeper the knowledge grows as Cal Poly Pomona’s AGRIscapes, an educational outreach branch of the College of Agriculture, had a collection of booths set up containing facts about the inner workings of farming.
Such as the difference between good and bad bugs and the diversity of plant parts were displayed. The art of beekeeping and the Arabian Horse ranch had booths set up to learn more about. Even food and nutrition sciences, along with animal and veterinary sciences were set up to educate those who are interested in making the agriculture industry a part of their future career.
“People should be interested in farming for sustainability and pollution because that can be a very big issue during the water cycle,” August Mehner, freshman biology major at Cal Poly Pomona, said. “Plants can get really damaged by pollution and animals eat those plants so it really circles back around to the sustainability of it all.”
The Farm’s five acres of land house a variety of vegetables, fruit, and herbs that aid the farm to table sustainable lifestyle, which is tended to all year round by farmers and volunteers.
“I have been coming to the fair since I was a kid, which has been over 50 years now and we have watched them develop the farm,” Polly Olguin, Pomona resident, said. “We are gardeners at home, so we were taking notes on the type of irrigation system that they have here.”
The Sheraton Hotel’s very own Mckinley Grill uses in season harvest from the Farm and implements the produce into their menu.
Large beds of young sprouted leaves or voluminous foliage take up a large portion of the farm, where fair-goers can stroll around and learn about the local agriculture being grown from the informational plaques that are within the beds.
Bell peppers, artichokes, and tomatoes surround you as you loop around to the aquaponics and hydroponics systems.
Hydroponics is when plants are grown without the use of soil and are flooded or misted with a nutrient solution that derives from fish by products, or duck manure. This allows agriculture to be grown even in places where it is impossible to farm.
At the Farm, koi fish inhabit a large pond that is hooked up to an irrigation system that distributes the excrements of the fish to use as fertilizer. This is a very sustainable way to run a farm as multiple variables are being benefited.
“The hydroponics keep the plants above the ground which helps reduce the invasion of pests,” Lester Stuck, Farmer at the Farm at Fairplex, said. “With aquaponics, that is a constant process that we do not really need to touch because the fish do all the work.”
Some of the easiest plants to grow with hydroponics are salad greens such as lettuce or spinach. Herbs such as basil, mint and parsley as well as tomatoes and cucumbers can achieve full potential with an at-home drip system.
Just before the exit of the farm, there were plants available for purchase to help kick start one’s new hobby of gardening after the vitality that the Farm at Fairplex conjures up. Thyme, horned melon cucumbers, and small birdhouse gourds in small tin pails were waiting to flourish in their future homes.
For tickets to the Los Angeles County Fair, visit lacountyfair.com.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.