About the Farm at Fairplex
History of The Farm
- 1940’s and 50’s the public had the opportunity to enjoy the storybook farms, storybook farms consisted of a cottage garden, root cellar, smoke house, school house, fire pole, and antique house where people demonstrated the ways of the pioneers in full costume. In the 90’s, examples of adobe block construction was developed and displayed as a three room adobe home. Hands on activities for children and adults came online in the early 2000’s, with rag doll making, broom making, adobe block making among other activities.
- In 2004-2005 a new farm was built which is the oldest section of the farm in the ag area, this farm consisted of a small garden where the 10 major crops of California were grown, a citrus grove and apple orchard were build that year along and new buildings for bee’s and honey, the Department of Agriculture display and a kitchen to demonstrate farm cooking and canning to be used during fair each September.
- In 2008-2009 the first Farm to Table dinners were held at the farm in the old section of the farm. At this time, these farm to table dinners were mainly for inhouse functions or visiting dignitaries and hosted by the Sheraton’s McKinley’s Grill. These were so popular, they were opened up to the general public and our hotel business. The chef uses fresh grown organic produced picked the same day in the meals that are served during the dinner and dried products such as tomatoes, teas and processed items such as olive oil and vinegar derived from farm products.
- In 2011 Fairplex applied for a grant from CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) to expand the farm from a ½ acre to a 5 acre organic farm. The application was rejected.
- In 2012 the grant application was revised and re-submitted to CDFA, Fairplex was awarded a $425,000 dollar grant from CDFA which was matched by Fairplex.
- In September 2014 the new 5 acre section of The Farm was opened to the public the first day of the LA County Fair.
What is The Farm used for?
- Sheraton uses the farm for "Farm to Table" dinners, the chef from McKinley's grill selects seasonal fresh produce from the farm and plans his menu around what the farm has to offer that time of year.
- Fresh produce from the farm is cooked and served at functions that are held at the conference center and banquets.
- Brides and grooms use the farm as a venue for their wedding, the Sheraton caters the event with fresh produce from our farm.
- The public can rent the farm for celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc...
- Corporate Events are held at the farm.
- Farm fieldtrips are provided to schools to teach students about California agriculture,
healthy eating and where food comes from.
- The child development center at Fairplex uses the farm as a learning lab for the children to
learn about California agriculture, healthy eating and where food comes from.
- CTEC urban farming classes are held at the farm each semester, HS students earn credits by taking classes. The urban farming class uses the farm as a learning lab for students to participate in hands on learning activities to learn about California agriculture, and how their food is grown.
- The farm manager teaches volunteers at the farm to use plants in the farm to make vinegars and teas.
- Fresh produce is picked and sold at the farm stand during the weekly food truck event that is held in the spring and summer.
- Public tours the farm and learns about California agriculture during the LA County Fair each September.
What is a specialty crop and how many California specialty crops are grown at the
- A California Specialty crops are fruits and tree nuts, vegetables, herbs and spices, nursery, floriculture, and horticulture crops.
- California produces more than 400 different commodities, many of which are specialty crops.
- We grow an average of 130-150 specialty crops at the farm each year.
- In 2014, the most recent year for which a full crop-year report is available, California’s 76,400 farms and ranches received $54 billion for their output.
- California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities.
- The state produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables.
- Across the nation, US consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California.
- California produces 99% or more of 14 commodities that are enjoyed throughout the United States, including artichokes, dates, kiwifruit, olives, pomegranates, and pistachios.
- Specialty crop categories:
- Fruit and Tree Nuts (Almonds, blackberries, figs, grapes, lemons, oranges, pears, pecans,
- Vegetables (Asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, celery, eggplant, garlic,
lettuce, mushrooms, squash, tomatoes.)
- Culinary Herbs and Species (Basil, cilantro, cloves, ginger, lavender, nutmeg, oregano,
sage, thyme, vanilla.)
- Medicinal Herbs (Baldo, foxglove, marshmallow, passion flower, pennyroyal, pokeweed, senna,
tansy, witch hazel, yarrow.)
- Nursery, Floriculture and Horticulture Crops (Christmas trees, ferns, holly, magnolia trees,
marigolds, oak trees, pansies, poinsettias, roses, tulips.)
California’s top-ten valued commodities for 2014 are:
- Milk — $9.4 billion
- Almonds — $5.9 billion
- Grapes — $5.2 billion
- Cattle, Calves — $3.7 billion
- Strawberries — $2.5 billion
- Lettuce — $2 billion
- Walnuts — $1.8 billion
- Tomatoes — $1.6 billion
- Pistachios — $1.6 billion
- Hay — $1.3 billion
Irrigation at The Farm
- The farm uses a drip irrigation system called T-tape; t-tape is a commercial drip tape that will last approximately 5 months to 6 years depending on type selected. Our tape is rated for 5 years.
- The brand of T-tape used is John Deer, compression fitting (no glue, snaps together) in a .67 gph size. The pressure through the irrigation tape is 20-30 psi.
- The size of tape we use at the farm provides approximately 2/3 gal per hour at each hole, each hole is spaced 8” apart.
- Our system runs off a weather based irrigation timer that allows for four different programs. As the weather changes, it will automatically adjust accordingly. Each program is set according to what is planted in a certain areas.
- The timer is a computer based 2 wire system.
Pesticides, Insecticides, and Herbicides
- Because the farm is organic all pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, composts and other products used at the farm are organic and must be approved by OMRI (Organic Material Review Institute).
- Pesticides are pyganic (plant based) which are less toxic to humans.
- Spinosaid fungus that acts as a natural insecticide
- Detergents like insecticidal soaps
- Bacteria compounds
- Desicants (dehydrate insect)
- Neem creates oil which insects by odor, oil clogging pores, cuts through cuticle layer and acts as a growth regulator.
- Phosphorus based fertilizer and fungicides
- Fungal problems require higher level of phosphoric acid.
- Herbicides used on the farm are based on citrus oils and other desiccants.
- Traps for aphids and mice are used.
- There are 5 different soil types that gardeners and growers usually work with. All five is a combination of just three types of weathered rock particles that make up the soil: sand, silt, and clay. How these three particles are combined defines your soil’s type—how it feels to the touch, how it holds water, and how it’s managed, among other things.
- The type of soil that gardens and gardeners love is loamy soil. It contains a balance of all three soil materials—silt, sand and clay—plus humus. It has a higher pH and calcium levels because of its previous organic matter content.
- Loam is dark in color and is mealy—soft, dry and crumbly—in your hands. It has a tight hold on water and plant food but it drains well, and air moves freely between soil particles down to the roots.
- The feel test for loam yields a smooth, partly gritty, partly sticky ball that crumbles easy.
- Native soils are used in the planter boxes here at the farm; decomposed granite was used for walkway areas.
- Calcium is added to the soil at the farm due to a deficiency caused by the types of plants that we grow.
- The only imported soil at the farm is near where the squash is grown.
Careers in Agriculture
- The most obvious careers are directly related to the farm or ranch. Only 10% of Americans are involved in traditional farming.
- There are approximately 22 million people who work in agriculture related fields.
- Today’s agriculture offers over 200 rewarding and challenging careers.
- Agricultural careers may be divided into various categories.
- These include:
- Agribusiness Management
- Agricultural and Natural Resources Communications,
- Building Construction Management
- Resource Development and Management
- Parks and Recreations
- Tourism Resources
- Food Science
Farm Ambassadors – ranging from college students and senior citizens to corporate partners – support The Farm at Fairplex and all of its educational programs. As a volunteer at The Farm volunteers are Farm Assistants and Field Trip Docents. As a Farm Assistant volunteers: seed various crops, transplant seedlings, plant, and hand pollinate crops but overall they experience a fun way to learn about California agriculture. As a Field Trip Docent volunteers lead small student groups on a tour of The Farm to educate them on California agriculture and specialty crops.
If you’re ready to get your hands dirty become an ambassador to volunteer on The Farm at Fairplex!
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