Costa Mesa : Farm Program at School Gets Reprieve

The student farm at Costa Mesa High School won a one-year reprieve from the school board this week, although the agricultural program will suffer a 50% cut in funding and class loads, officials said.

The program will also rely on parents, students and the agricultural community to raise funds for farm operations.

"We're going to give it a shot and see what happens," said Board President Forrest K. Werner.

"We're impressed with the fact that they jumped right in and tried collectively to find solutions," Werner said of the parents, students and others who in the past month have formed support groups and worked to find buyers for the farm's produce and plants.

The school board abandoned a proposal for a pig slaughterhouse, but left open the possibility that the company proposing the operation could still hire the farm students to help raise pigs on the land for research.

The district reduced the farm's budget for the next school year from just more than $90,000 annually to about $45,000.

That money will be used to pay for the agricultural program's instructor, whose hours and class load were reduced by half, and the farmhand, whose hours were also cut.

Additional funding for the farm--to cover operation expenses such as animal feed, plant fertilizer, farm equipment and start-up goods--will have to come from the sale of farm products, making the farm a nearly self-sufficient operation.

Plants, flowers and fruits grown at the farm are sold to nearby produce sellers and landscapers.

When the district last month announced plans to eliminate the farm program, parents, students and local produce growers formed support groups and urged the district to reconsider.

The 18-acre lot is one of seven farms left in county schools, and one of the biggest. Some of the estimated 60 students in the Costa Mesa High School agricultural program come to the school from other districts specifically for the farm classes.

Parents and students have testified before the board in recent public hearings about the positive effect it has had on students and their morale.

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