Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Miguel Salazar, left, and Angel Reyes of Madera FFA unload at cart of corn in a bin to be sold Monday at the Madera South High ag farm on campus.
After 750 ears sold on the first day and around 1,000 on the second, Madera South’s agriculture instructor Tim Deniz and students successfully grew, harvested and sold white sweet corn to the public for the first time.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for the past couple of years,” Deniz said. “Its’s always been our plan, as our school farm developed. Putting in other aspects of the farm has taken time to get it going, so this was our first year and the students actually planned it.”
Twenty students who were a part of Deniz’ advanced-welding class came up with the idea and they showed the initiative and started planting shortly after.
The process started in April when Deniz and his class planted the crop at Madera South’s school farm, where there is almost a full acre available to white sweet corn, along with other crops.
“Our school farm has wine grapes and about two acres of tangos or small oranges that you see everywhere, and we have a little plot that was dedicated for students to invest time and a little bit of money,” Deniz said.
“They were planted in two-week increments, so they were spread out to prolong our harvest, so we could provide corn throughout most of the summer,” Deniz said. “We were hoping for late July through August and September, but we’ll have to do from late July through August.”
After the school year ended, Miguel Salazar, Angel Reyes, Jorge Vasquez and Shawn Goodson stayed and undertook the harvest, selling of the crop as a project. The group was there all the way, carrying out duties, including irrigating, weeding and harvesting.
Deniz each student will receive a scholarship at the completion of the project for the work they have done.
The four students, including Deniz, who’s been a teacher the last 16 years, along with the school’s agriculture department chairmen for the last four years, sold the crop as a package deal. Madera South sells its corn (four ears for $1) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday near the FFA farm from 3-7 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
The proceeds go directly back to the students. It’s not only a learning experience for the students, but also a means to earn a wage as well.
Along with Madera South’s newfound success with sweet white corn, they do similar work in its viticulture class — the study of grape cultivation and their tango crop cultivation.
“Right now, through our viticulture and enology program, all of our crops are wine grapes,” Deniz said. “Unlike table grapes, they are meant for wine making. We work in relation with San Joaquin Winery and we have a class that teaches students about the process of making wine and the chemistry behind it.”
Although the students are unable to make the wine on campus, the grapes go to the San Joaquin Winery to be made into juice for the wine-making process to begin.
Similar to their corn cultivation, the tangos were brought for the first time last year. Although it was a small crop at first, Madera South did a few different things with the tangos.
“We used them for some community service projects, like donating some to the homeless, using some for public relations and we had a teacher celebration, so we gave some out to all the teachers,” Deniz said. “This year we are hoping to get a bigger crop and hopefully in the future get them into our student’s lunches in all of Madera Unified.”
As for the future, there are many options available to Madera South. Whether its to continue corn cultivation or add new crops, it’s all up to the students and their preference.
“The students work hard to not only grow, but maintain the crop takes hard work,” Deniz said. “We hope to maybe add more crops. We plan to talk with students about maybe adding some watermelons or cantaloupes. We’ll probably have at least the same amount of corn for next year, but we’re limited on the plot size. We didn’t plant all that we could’ve this year because we wanted to keep it smaller and simpler for the kids, but next year we have some additional land that we can add to it. It’s up to the students to confirm what they want to do, but it’s most likely going to be a watermelon or some type of melon.”
Also, the Madera South farm plans to add cool-season vegetables to their list of crops in the winter. Currently, they are brainstorming with community leaders to understand which crops will have success at the campus.
Other schools have done lettuce or cabbage and the Madera South farm plans on doing something similar, however it will depend on the what the farm can handle successfully, Deniz said.
Not only does Madera South help their own students gain a better knowledge of the agriculture field, but other students across the area. They can come and take advanced agriculture courses to better their understanding with a first-hand approach.