California agriculture students are building new learning opportunities.
Several students have been helping build a swine barn behind California High School's vocational agriculture building. The new barn will provide students with a space to house pigs for educational projects, such as training pigs for showing.
Approved by the California R-I Board of Education at its November meeting, the barn will consist of 12 "roughly 5-by-10-foot pens" for keeping swine year-round. Once complete, the structure will give students who lack space at home a place to keep their animals -- similar to the Denker Livestock Education Center.
Adam Bieri, an agriculture instructor at California High School, said the new facility was designed so pigs could be separated from other types of animals, such as sheep, cattle, goats and others that are typically housed in the Denker center.
"Right now we have all animals (in Denker), and what's happening is we've got some hogs and some show pigs and things in there, and we've farrowed out some pigs and they're a mess," he said. "They are a mess, and they're chewing on the poles and everything else and kind of tearing it up. Our hope is that we can move all the pigs into this facility and use (Denker) strictly for the sheep, goats, cattle, all that, (and) keep it a lot cleaner, a lot nicer."
The new barn is designed with easy cleaning in mind. Unlike Denker, the new barn is built with concrete floors and four-foot concrete walls. A pressure washer can be used to quickly spray away the mess. Superintendent Daniel Williams said at the November meeting the barn would need to be cleaned frequently due to its proximity to the high school baseball/softball facility.
"[The swine barn] will be all concrete, so the nice part is we can bring a pressure washer in and spray it all out," Bieri said. "We don't have to worry about ... spraying the tin, the wood and everything else. We poured about four feet of concrete so that way the whole where the pigs will be will be all concrete."
Bieri had a hand in designing the new facility, working with Gary Reichel, another agriculture instructor at California High School, and several agriculture students. Aside from the concrete work, which was done by Jacob Kueffer, of JK Concrete, with the help of students, the facility has been completely erected by students. Bieri said Kueffer, a former student, donated labor by helping students dig and set forms for the walls, along with pouring the concrete.
"...the students built all the framing, built all the trusses in the main (agriculture shop), ... put the tin on, put the tin on the roof," said Chase Schlup, a junior agriculture student helping build the facility. "It's all student-led and student-built with the help of a few other community members."
Schlup, who was also present at the November school board meeting to pitch the facility proposal to board members, said the construction process has been "pretty smooth sailing so far." Bieri said the barn must be complete before students leave, as several are using it for their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) project. According to the Texas FFA Association, "SAEs provide a method in agricultural education for students to receive real-world experiences in an area of agriculture that they are most interested in."
"I know a few of them are getting show pigs here soon and they sure would like to be able to house some of their pigs inside of it," Bieri said. "So we'll see how quick (it gets done), but we've still got some work to do, but they're doing good with it."
While the building was designed to help students explore agricultural opportunities with swine, Schlup said the construction process has also been educational for some of his classmates.
"Some of the students who got to build on this and work on this have never been around building a structure like this, so they got exposed to how concrete's being poured, how to frame walls, how to build trusses and how to put tin on the sides," he said. "So it was a good experience for all of them."
Bieri said their goal is to keep the project cost around $10,000. He said MFA donated $10,000 total, with the local MFA cooperative matching a $5,000 donation from the MFA Foundation.
When complete, Schlup said the barn will enable students to learn how to care for their own pigs and prepare them for projects, such as showing them.
"This is going to help because it's going to allow the students to have their own project and it's going to put them in charge of it," he said. "They're going to be in charge of all the feeding, making sure the animal's whip broke (a training process for show pigs), ready for shows, skin and hair's good, learning all of the animal welfare and what goes into feeding and keeping the animal healthy."
During the November school board meeting, an agriculture student with no agriculture background presented his story as an example of why the facility was needed.
"My family doesn't come from (an) agricultural background," Alexis Anguiano said at the meeting. "... I've never seen a pig give birth. Honestly, I've never seen a real big old pig up that close, so I got a lot of educational (interest) there. My interest piqued whenever I watched it all happen, and from there I was eager to try to own a pig and try to do something more with FFA."
From there, Anguiano purchased a pig with a friend, Ayden Bryant. While they were able to store their pig in the Denker center, Anguiano said the new facility will help others like him.
"This new swine barn, it will definitely help with people like myself and many other people who don't have those agricultural backgrounds and that would be a great thing for everybody," he said.