Class 47 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program (CALP) helped upgrade the Little Hands for Ag exhibit at the Merced County Spring Fair in Los Banos, Calif. The exhibit provides a hands-on farming experience geared towards teaching third and fourth grade students about crop production. This year’s fair was held May 2-6 and a ribbon cutting was held on opening day to showcase the exhibit’s upgrades and those who made the project possible.

“Little Hands includes garden beds where kids can simulate planting seeds, harvesting crops and taking those crops to market,” said Hunter Lindemann, a member of Class 47. “We learned that the Little Hands display needed to be upgraded with more technology, so Class 47 decided to take it on as our class project.”

Originally founded by the Indiana State Fair, the Little Hands exhibit made its California debut at the 2004 Merced County Spring Fair. Recently, the need to modernize the exhibit by introducing the latest technological advancements being implemented in California agriculture was realized. “We chose this project because we knew we could make a difference through the ag education
part,” said Lindemann. “We wanted to show the kids that there’s a lot of technology and a lot of opportunities in agriculture. There’s some serious technology going on that’s changing the way we farm.”

The upgrades include the addition of a Robovator which uses cameras to identify weeds and mechanically remove them; a plant tape machine used for mechanically transplanting and a robotic farming machine, called a FarmBot, which was purchased by the class for the exhibit. The group also created an educational video which teaches about cotton, nut and dairy production.

“We had the opportunity to educate the next generation of Californians by effecting the way the kids learn and what they learn about agriculture,” said Kevin Antongiovanni, a member of Class 47. “We also know that Los Banos has 8,000 people who commute into the Bay Area everyday and we hope that parents will also learn from the exhibit and pass on our positive message about ag to their peers.” Class 47 is composed of 24 agricultural leaders from across California who recently graduated from CALP. The group worked together to raise $30,000 to make the project possible.

Ag Leadership is considered to be one of the premier leadership development programs in the United States. Since it was first delivered in 1970, more than 1,300 men and women have participated in Ag Leadership and have become influential leaders and active volunteers in the agriculture industry and other areas.