Lakeside Middle School teaches a new generation of farmers

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Reading, writing and arithmetic used to be what kids learned in school, but times are a changin’. Lakeside Middle School students recently got a good dose of animal science and agriculture.

Teacher Trish Dignan watched proudly as students rushed anxiously to see what they would learn from 4-H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), Rodeo Association, Jr. Fair members and business owners who taught about their professions and hobbies in farming.

Reading, writing and arithmetic used to be what kids learned in school, but times are a changin’. Lakeside Middle School students recently got a good dose of animal science and agriculture.

Teacher Trish Dignan watched proudly as students rushed anxiously to see what they would learn from 4-H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), Rodeo Association, Jr. Fair members and business owners who taught about their professions and hobbies in farming.

Dignan initiated Harold Hilliker Farm Day last year as an experiment, able to get a grant to pay for the event.
Her sidekick student, Tatiana Woliung, joined her in the joy of the day. These two came up with the idea to honor Harold Hilliker, former owner of Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs, and Tatiana’s grandfather, who passed away two years ago after serving on the school board for many years.

Held in conjunction with the County’s Eye on Science Week, Lakeside Science Day had loads of learning for students to engage in with 22 learning stations.

Frank Hilliker’s “Egg Mobile” featured the video “Eggs 101” and taught new chicken ranch techniques and bio security to prevent poultry diseases. Hilliker’s Ranch has 20,000 chickens, each producing 250 eggs a year.
Video photographer, Billy Ortiz’ documentary film showed the many farms still in existence in Lakeside. El Capitan High School students, Harlee Maupin, Brody Roland, Kiley Wingler and Sydney Morehouse, all Future Farmers of America, taught about cattle, swine, goats and lambs.

Rob Van Ommering taught students about dairy farming, he and his brother, Dave, run a farm on El Monte Road. Bringing in a jar of green manure, he told students how he changes it into nice brown compost that he sells to nurseries, gardeners and golf courses.

Encouraged to ask questions Rob ran in to trouble explaining artificial insemination to the wide-eyed youth, while Cindy Gram, their science teacher, watched with amusement. Van Ommering’s Dairy owns 250 cows, down considerably since the recession. There used to be 300 dairies in San Diego County but that number is down to only three. Cows produce eight gallons of milk a day and the dairy industry creates 45,000 jobs in California. Using leftovers from other sources, feeding cows is different now using ingredients like almond hulls, cottonseed and barley, a brewer’s grain.

“Every hour is happy hour to our cows,” Rob said with a twinkle in his eye.
Linda Hayes, owner of Hazy Meadows Ranch in El Monte Valley, brought her Belgian draft horses to pull a large wagon and gave students a ride while teaching them about ranching life.

Sam Walker, former agriculture teacher at El Capitan, had his shiny red Farmall tractor to show students, along with his assistant, Brock Roland, a student and knows how to drive as well. FFA members farm crops all over East County.

Dana Ferry and Makenzi Kygar demonstrated saddling and bridling a trail horse. Another station was a petting zoo, which was fun for the students while 4-H members practiced their public speaking techniques, telling about the animals in their pen. A reptile booth showed a leopard gecko, albino milk snake and bearded dragon, held by Andrea Markham, Brittney Blake and Alanis Markham.

Not everyone wanted to touch these much-loved pets.
Yep, farming is making a comeback in Lakeside, thanks to Trish Dignan and other farmers at heart who want to keep it alive and well.

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