MONTEREY, Calif. — More than 2,000 third-graders got a behind-the-scenes look at agriculture Oct. 28 at the Farm Day Experience.

The event at the Monterey County Fairgrounds was one of three sponsored annually by the nonprofit Monterey County Agricultural Education.

“The kids are being exposed to something that they’ve never seen before and it’s not out of a grocery store,” said Jay Jefferson, a partner in Marina-based Martin Jefferson & Sons. “They’re seeing things that are way behind the seed lines that nobody sees, unless they’re in the industry itself.”

With a tractor and seedlings nearby, Jefferson showed students how broccoli, cauliflower and celery are transplanted from greenhouse to field.

Rick Falconer, a seed scientist at Salinas-based American Takii, responded to the concerns of some Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School students about a vegetable they found problematic.

“Plant breeders are working on onions that won’t make you cry,” he told them.

“A lot of the students on the (Monterey) Peninsula may not have ever seen a farm or been around live animals or tractors, or know that much about agriculture,” said Liza Moe, a teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary, Seaside. “It’s a wonderful experience.”

The three annual events — the other two are in Salinas and King City — draw about 7,500 third-grade students, said Bart Walker, president of Salinas-based Pacific Ag Rentals and a Monterey County Agricultural Education board member.

“We put on a program ahead of time to prepare the teachers for what to expect here and provide them with materials to use before and after coming,” he said. “We try to align the math and science skills to what they’re doing in the classroom.”

The nonprofit covers the schools’ biggest expense, busing, about $10,000 for each Farm Day.

“With the state economy the way it is, field trips are a thing of the past,” Walker said.

About 700 volunteers run the event.

In connection with the field day, Monsanto presented a $2,500 donation to Monterey County Agricultural Education, said April Mackie, vice president of finance at the Monterey County Farm Bureau.

Third-graders experience life on the farm

Mike Hornick

Naz Whipple of the Monterey County Health Department compares the nutritional values of produce and soda for Carmel River Elementary School students Oct. 28 at the Farm Day Experience in Monterey, Calif