September 27, 2013

Valley Farm Exhibit Opens At Chaffee Zoo

The entrance to the exhibit designed by Heather Davis, with Chaffee Zoo.
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Today, local agricultural leaders gathered at Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo to enjoy the official opening of the new Valley Farm Exhibit at the former Small Wonder’s area of the zoo.

The area has been transformed into a representative view of local agriculture including fruit trees, rows crops, a chicken coop and new farm animals.

For years to come, the exhibit will be an interactive opportunity for thousands of kids and adults to see the importance of agriculture in the valley.  The crop part are of the exhibit was administrated by California State University, Fresno’s (CSUF) Jordan School of Agriculture, along with the Ag One Foundation at CSUF, the Fresno County Farm Bureau and Bennett & Bennett Irrigation.

Current crops in the exhibit are corn, alfalfa, cotton, vegetables, stone fruit, figs, olives, citrus trees and grapes. There are also eggs from the hens in the exhibit. “All of the crops as well as eggs will eventually become feed for zoo animals,” said Terri Mejorado, director of marketing for Chaffe Zoo.

“This is a public outreach for the Plant Science Department at Fresno State to assist the Chaffe Zoo in enhancing their petting zoo of the Valley Farm area,” said Bruce Roberts, professor at the CSUF Plant Science Department, and the advisor of the Food Science Club.

The crowd listens to Scott Barton, Chaffee Zoo Director.
“We’re involved in planting the crops that represent our regional agriculture, and visitors can see what the animals feed on and what’s grown here. Our students will maintain the crops, including year-round replanting. We are also educating the important zoo docents, so that they can answer questions about the crops grown here,” said Roberts.

The Fresno County Farm Bureau was very involved in the planning of the project and planting of the crops. “Fresno County, if viewed as a state, would be #2 in the nation in agricultural production value. Of course, #1 would be California,” said Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen.

Crops Growing at the Valley Farm Exhibit.

“When you talk about agriculture being the economic engine, it’s important to know that every dollar generated on the farm typically generates $3.50 in the local economy,” said Jacobsen. “When you talk about Fresno County, which alone generates $6.6 billion, and then add in Kings, Tulare, Madera and Merced Counties, we are talking about an economic impact of more than $60 billion. Kids in the middle of the urban environment need to understand what we do and how we do it.”

“There is a reason why we do things in a certain way. We have the most advanced technology in the world right here in our own back yard, and it’s important to showcase that at the Valley Farm,” said Jacobsen. “This is a great educational opportunity, and we are pleased to be part of it.”

Visitors to the Valley Farm will learn about growing techniques used in the Central Valley and how agriculture utilizes assets efficiently, such as water, to produce our crops.

“We get to share our agriculture with 640,000 guests, and we’re excited about it,” said Scott Barton, CEO and Director of the Chaffee Zoo. “A lot of people in California do not “get” agriculture and that we grow more than 400 different crops in Fresno County, and we are going to be very happy to tell that story.”

Barton noted that this has been a real partnership with our agriculture community.

CSUF President Joseph Castro
Joseph Castro, CSUF President knows, first hand, the importance of agriculture to Fresno, the Central Valley, the state, the nation and the world. “This exhibit is a great opportunity to introduce to families up and down the valley, how important agriculture is to all of us. The university is very excited about our partnership with the zoo.

The major driver and sponsor of the exhibit is the Fresno-based Gar & Esther Tootelian Charitable Foundation. Karen Musson, managing partner with Gar Tootelian, Inc., noted “that this is one of the most exciting projects that I have ever worked on, and what makes it truly exciting are the partners that came to the table.”

“The whole idea of the Family Farm came from friends who noted that food arrives at the zoo every day for the animals---fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. And we produce all that in the Central Valley, and that was the inspiration of the Valley Farm.

Teachers will bring students to the zoo during the school year, and there are plans for a summertime farm camp.

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