During the school year, Jon DeGroot, ?02, spends at least two hours working with the cows and driving tractor on the family farm near Easton, California. DeGroot hopes to some day be a partner in the farm with his three brothers.
Acres of grassy plains filled with herds of lowing bovine serve to some as only a blemish upon the otherwise serene landscape; however, to others dairying proves to be a way of life.
"The dairy is more than just a job for us," Jon DeGroot, '02, said. "The dairy to me and my family is our life. We read dairy magazines and work with the cows. Our entire lives are centered around the farm and what goes on in it."
Since he was 13, DeGroot has driven the tractor to cut hay, scrape corrals or fed cows. He delivers the calves, gives shots and milks the cows all after school and on the weekends. DeGroot puts in at least two hours every day and over 15-18 hours on the weekend.
"I enjoy working because I love being outside," DeGroot said. "Besides that, the money is good. I pay off my credit card bills, cell phone, my car and I have the money to do stuff with my friends. I don't get to do as much with my friends but I plan my fun around my work schedule and it has worked out fine. I love to ride motorcycles and my work has not hindered that at all."
Farmers from around the San Joaquin Valley devote their lives to agriculture to support their families and make a profit. The output of these farms help to feed the world and their profits form the backbone of the Valley economy.
"Agriculture is the lifeblood of the Central Valley," Dan Clawson, project manager of CALIFT for the city of Fresno, said. "It generates over four billion dollars a year in the Central Valley alone, which creates a rippling effect through the local economy."
Like the DeGroot family, countless Valley farmers dedicate their farms to the production of dairy products. In the state of California alone, dairy products accounted for 198.8 million dollars worth of revenue in 2000, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Other major Californian crops include poultry, cotton, tomatoes and grapes, which is the most profitable crop accounting for 642.4 million dollars of revenue in 2000.
"We have more than just a few families whose business is in agriculture," Gary Warkentin, President of the Fresno Christian Foundation, said. "The success of their business affects the school through tuition, donations, and fundraising."
Every part of Fresno benefits from the influx of farming profits into the local economy. Fresno Christian is no exception to the norm as nearly 20 campus families relay the benefit of agricultural proceeds to the school through various forms.
One such family is the DeGroots whose third generation dairy farm has been featured by Dairy Today magazine, Oct. 2001, and The Bullhorn newsletter, Fall 2001, as one of the strongest new family dairies in the nation.
"I have worked every part of the farm," DeGroot said. "I started out as kid separating nuts and bolts in the shop and now I work right along side my dad with the cows in the actual dairy."
The DeGroot farm is a full-time operation where 2300 cows are milked and nearly 2000 young cattle, which are also called heifers. A farm of this size requires hours of work by the likes of DeGroot, his father, John, his grandfather, Pete, and his older brother Charlie.
"I plan to attend Fresno State and study dairy sciences in the fall," DeGroot said. "After that I will most likely return to the dairy and work with my family again."
To some, hours of hard work on a farm and with animals would prove to be a waste. However, for the students who spend their days laboring in the fields, valuable lessons are gained that can be applied to various facets of the aspiring farmers lives.
"Agriculture teaches a work ethic that nothing else could," Principal Gary Schultz, former state star farmer of Minnesota, said. "It instills a level of maturity through responsibility
While full-time farming operations are the major agricultural influences on campus, students who view agriculture as a hobby affect the campus make-up in subtle ways.
One campus student who views agriculture as a hobby is Kathleen von Oehsen, '04. For seven years she has raised horses to ride. Her involvement in every area of her horses care, including feeding and grooming, have taught her many things.
"Raising animals is hard work," von Oehsen said. "But it's worth it because you learn valuable traits like patience, responsibility and how to work hard."
For more information on California agriculture visit, www.cfbf.com, or for information on local opportunities in farming contact your high school's FFA chapter.
For more information please visit the following:
California Farm Bureau