Rodgers Ranch plans discussed by school board
Proposed plans to further develop Corning Union High School District's Rodgers Ranch weren't met with open arms by the board of trustees.
Brad Martin, a science teacher at Corning High and a member of the Rodgers Ranch Committee, recently presented the board with a plan that could make the ranch self-efficient financially and include a full-time farm manager.
The proposal would include increasing farming and ranching operations.
The 177-acre ranch, located at Loleta and Marguerite avenues in Corning, was endowed to the school district in 2001 by Daniel Rodgers, along with a multi-million financial portfolio. Interest from the portfolio is used annually for scholarships and to maintain the ranch.
The ranch now has a barn, barbecue and picnic area, and "R" Farm, which grows and sells organic produce and crafts.
Students raise pigs and steers for the Tehama District Fair, and a registered Black Angus herd of cattle is raised on the land. For several years, the high school's Agriculture Department has successfully raised and sold a bull from that herd at the Red Buff Bull and Gelding Sale in January.
Along with agricultural interests, the ranch is also widely used by the high school's Science Department for projects.
But the ranch committee would like to see the land used in a greater capacity and become self-sufficient.
"Our primary goal for the ranch is and will always be education," said Martin.
He proposed the ranch become more diversified by growing alfalfa, specialty crops, planting orchards and by possibly having additional animals there.
To handle that kind of growth, Martin advised the ranch would need a farm manager responsible for maintaining current operations and for overseeing future developments. "We belief (the ranch) can't be developed without a farm manager. This would be a necessary first step," Martin explained.
To pay for the improvements and the farm manager, the farm committee asked that for five to six years the district reduce the scholarship allocation to $50,000 annually, continue the $50,000 in current maintenance costs, provide $50,000 for farm manager salary and benefits, and invest $50,000 into orchard and crop development.
Martin said these funds would come from the Rodgers Financial Portfolio interest fund.
"This would be a short-term sacrifice until the ranch could become self-maintained," Martin said.
The ranch committee also asked the district to invest in a one-time $10,000 feasibility study to help develop a cost analysis and budget for the proposed projects.
District board member Jim Bingham wasn't in favor of planting orchards.
"They are expensive to maintain and so many things can go wrong," he said. "I think annuals like planting alfalfa would be better."
Bingham also stated he would prefer to divert as little as possible from Rodgers portfolio funds.
He did agree with the idea of having a farm manager.
"The gentlemen running things out at the ranch right now are doing a wonderful job," said board member Ken Vaughan.
Martin agreed, but added, "It is the teachers from the Ag Department and Science Department that are having to maintain the ranch, and we can't continue to do it with all of the hours that are needed. We can't teach and be farm managers, it is just too much."
Agriculture teacher Nolan Kee said there are more than 200 students out at the ranch on a monthly basis.
"For these students to really know what goes on in agriculture they need to be involved in more than what is out there now and they need to be able to take ownership of the ranch and its projects," he said. "I have seen that happen. There are kids who have worked out there and they take great pride in the place and their work."
Martin said he has heard a lot of complaints from the community that the ranch isn't being used to its full potential.
"People ask us what is being done at the ranch because they don't see much growth," he stated. "If you (the board) aren't behind us then you need to start defending us to the community. We are taking a lot of heat."
The matter will be discussed again at the board's Jan. 17 meeting.