HANFORD — Students, educators, elected officials and community members gathered Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Hanford agricultural school farm and learning laboratory.

“This new facility is the future of our chapter,” said Lindsey Ryan, Hanford Future Farmers of America chapter president. “Together, we will create memories and renew Hanford FFA traditions and successes.”

John Olivas, board chairman for the Foundation for Vocational Agriculture, said the farm has been in the making for a long time, and took the effort and hard work of many people.

Combined, Hanford High School, Hanford West High School and Sierra Pacific High School have almost 940 students in agricultural programs, making it one of the largest in the nation, Olivas said. He said of all the Future Farmers of America programs in the state, Hanford was one of only two programs that didn’t have a school farm.

“Having their own facility to get better quality and hands-on learning is certainly justified,” Olivas said, adding the space will be made for all-weather instruction.

HJUHSD Superintendent Bill Fishbough said over 80 percent of Hanford FFA students live in urban areas and don’t have access to farmland for projects or to raise animals, so this was a big step to getting students to engage more in activities.

FFA students and staff, board members from HJUHSD and the Foundation for Vocational Agriculture, members of the Hanford City Council and Board of Supervisors, corporate sponsors, parents, and Assemblyman Rudy Salas and Senator Andy Vidak attended the groundbreaking.

Salas and Vidak both said it was great to see so many people come together with the goal of making the farm happen for the students.

Salas thanked the FFA students for being future leaders in the community, and presented them with a certificate on behalf of the state Assembly. Vidak also presented the board and FFA program with a certificate of recognition and said he couldn’t wait to see the completed project.

The first phase of the project was made possible by funding from Hanford Joint Union High School District, Measure W funds, private fundraising and corporate sponsorships.

The farm will sit on a 3.9-acre site behind Sierra Pacific High School, near the intersection of Centennial Drive and Greenfield Avenue.

The farm will include an 8,621 square-foot sheep and cattle building with 18 pens, a 3,442 square-foot swine building with 11 pens, a 10,268 square-foot arena building and a 2,521 square-foot small animal building.

The sheep and cattle building will be able to hold approximately 90 sheep or goats and 36 cattle, while the swine building will be able to hold about 60 hogs.

Ryan said for most FFA students, the idea of raising an animal to show at the fair is the most exciting to them, but the lack of a farm held some students back from raising livestock.

Standing in front of the site of the new farm, Ryan said she saw an opportunity for the future of Hanford agriculture. Because the FFA chapter is unique in that it encompasses three schools, she said the members will have a chance to be more united.

“The farm will allow us to grow,” Ryan said. “It’s a place that will finally be a common home to the students of our chapter.”

Ryan said the new farm is more than just a piece of land; it’s a “monumental mark in the advancement of Hanford FFA.” She said the support, hands-on learning and new space will set the students up for successful agricultural futures.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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