Connolly Ranch Launches New Agricultural Education Program, Spreads Seeds of Environmental Stewardship | Local news

The Connolly Ranch Education Center has just launched its most recent program, teaching environmentally conscious children the benefits of rotational grazing on a farm. By replanting part of his property to grow food for the various farm animals, Connolly Ranch will not only teach the next generation, but also improve their soil and reduce the costs of dry produce.

Since hosting its first field trip in 1993, Connolly Ranch has put area children in touch with nature through programs based on gardening, animal care and resource conservation, and the staff look forward to this new addition to the farm.

“We’re really trying to make sure our sustainable practices come to life on the farm,” said Co-Executive Director Heidi Soldinger. “So Jessica creates a program for children to become stewards of the environment and to invest and understand through hands-on experience. “

In the case of the rotational grazing, the children were able to help farm coordinator Jessica Eutsler and the rest of the Connolly Ranch staff plant the newly plowed plot.

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And with programs targeting different age groups – from the Pre-K Explorers program to welcoming FFA high school interns – Eutsler constantly adapts to the curiosity of its students.

“We did the younger age, so preschool, and they were excited,” she said. “It’s a bit more everywhere, but it’s still fun because they still understand what’s going on.”

“From there, we can talk about something as basic as ‘What is a seed?’ “How does it grow? “And then for the older kids, we talk about the different types of seeds and why we chose that,” Eutsler said. “We’re also talking about how we have goats and sheep and pigs that will graze together, and then we have a miniature horse and two donkeys. “

The plot will be divided into separate sections, so that children can clearly see the different areas and how their growth differs when the animals start to graze and different plots “rest”. Likewise, each animal has a different grazing style, lending itself to fun observations at feeding time.

In addition, students will also discover the environmental benefits of feeding animals this way, as the rotating nature allows each patch to grow back before being nibbled again.

“Not only are there benefits for the land and making healthy soil, but also for our economic sustainability,” Soldinger said. “When we thought about it and made an investment, it makes so much more sense [than buying feed] and we can teach the kids the whole way… For the kids, it’s an outdoor classroom, and they can see it the whole way.

Kevin Giselbach, facilities coordinator at Connolly Ranch, said it’s interesting watching the kids process what’s going on every step of the way, as he estimates that 99% of their students don’t have a significant square footage in their home.

“They watched me tear up the field, now they’re sowing it, and they’re going to be here to see the whole process,” he said.

Eutsler says it will be a bit of an experiment to see how well the first round of sprouts goes – spots are expected – but estimated that within a year, his combined wheatgrass, rye and grass seed alfalfa will have overcome competing weeds and other existing plants.

Learn more about Connolly Ranch and its agricultural education programs at

Sterling has been closed to the public since the glass fire, but staff saw this as an opportunity to give back to first responders to keep our community safe.

You can reach Sam Jones at 707-256-2221 and [email protected]

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