It's a beautiful, crisp autumn evening, and Tony Turri is driving around Corning Union High School District's Rodgers Ranch, making sure everything is where it should be and how it should be.

That is Turri's job.

At the start of October, Turri took on the responsibility of being the district's ranch manager.

"I was hired by the district as a private consultant," Turri said. "My job is to oversee the implementation of the district's master plan for the development and sustainability of the ranch."

The 177-acre ranch, between Loleta and South avenues and east of Marguerite Avenue, was given to the school district in 2001 as part of the Wealthy and Daniel Rodgers endowment. The Rodgerses requested the property be used to provide district students with agricultural educational programs and the endeavor be provided a source of income through the endowment's financial trust.

Since that time, the ranch has undergone a number of improvements including construction of a livestock barn, show-pen, classroom and bathrooms, greenhouse, storage shed, "R" Farm, peach orchard, sharecrop, riparian wetland development, gardens, Angus cow/calf herd, and more.

Annually, FFA students have grown beef, swine, lambs, and other livestock at the ranch for the Tehama District Fair's Jr. Livestock Auction, and we comed more than 200 local third-graders to the ranch for Ag Day.

The most recent development at the property has been the very project Turri is involved in — the ranch's Master Plan for the Development and Sustainability of the Rodgers Ranch — created over a seven month period by the Rodgers Ranch Vision Planning Taskforce.

The plan was approved by the Corning Union High School District Board of Trustees in June.

"When we finished the plan, we realized we needed someone to implement it," Turri said. "With the district not being able to hire anyone full-time, yet, I was willing to be the one to implement the ranch plan."

At this point, Turri works on site at the ranch one to two days a week.

The Master Plan includes Core Values, a Vision Statement and a Mission Statement.

It also includes a list of objectives and a timeline in implementations of one year, three years, five years, 10 years and 20 years.

Among those objectives is for the ranch to become self-sustaining, diversified, and available for educational use by all students and staff.

The plan includes eventually hiring a full-time ranch manager with the goal that income from the ranch fund that position.

"Already we are working on carrying out the plan's objectives," Turri said. "Eleven acres have been leveled and will be developed into irrigated pasture for the ranch's cow herd."

There are plans to create "student project" ground.

"That is where a student can come in and take two or three acres and do whatever they want with it as an approved project, like planting a crop such as corn, a summer crop, oats, barley or whatever," Turri said.

Within the this first fiscal year, the plan seeks to test and upgrade the existing wells on the property, a new well dug and capped for future use (has taken place), survey and working of land, irrigation pipe laid, acquire a new tractor.

In the three-year timeline, the plan is to complete the well projects and connect irrigation pipes to enable the planting of production agriculture, gardens, student projects and livestock grazing.

There is hope to build a "railroad bridge" over Jewett Creek, and for the ranch to host a FFA Field Day.

Five years down the road the plan includes development of an almond orchard and construction of an equipment barn that will be used as a storage and repair shop for equipment used on the ranch.

Within the next 10 years, the plan involves engaging in partnerships with agribusinesses that would benefit the ranch, and engaging in partnerships with higher education such as California State University, Chico, University of California, Davis, Shasta and Butte colleges.

The plan also includes using the ranch for agritourism.

"We now have a plan in place so the ranch can move forward in a constructive way," Turri said. "The district board and administration in behind us and supporting the plan and that makes a difference."

The plan is constructed in such as way as to make the ranch usable by all students who have an interest in agricultural and natural science education, not just the FFA members, Turrie explained.

There are also plans to develop a Rodgers Ranch Oversight Committee which would meet quarterly every year to monitor the implementation of the Master Plan.

Corning High School FFA Chapter member Chase Wimer said the ranch has been very instrumental in the chapter's success in raising livestock.

"For students who don't have a place to raise animals, the ranch gives them that opportunity, for some they couldn't raise an animal if not for the ranch," Wimer said.

Brooke Endres, an FFA member who graduated from Corning High School in 2015, said the ranch gives students an opportunity for experience in agriculture and natural science that many wouldn't otherwise have.

"There are students who have never been on a farm or ranch, except for the experience they have here," she added.

Because of the experiences Endres, Wimer, and other CHS students have had at the ranch, they have decided to continue their higher education in agriculture.

"I'm considering becoming a large animal vet," Wimer said.

Endres is currently attending college taking agriculture business classes.

Both plan on a career in agriculture and both give much of the credit to that decision to the experiences they have had at Rodgers Ranch.

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