Aug 23, 2017
This past June, Watsonville High School student Jacob Dixon was one of the 25 lucky campers from across the state to travel to UC Cooperative Extension’s Elkus Ranch in Half Moon Bay for California Range and Natural Resources Camp (aka ‘Range Camp’). Jacob received a Range Camp scholarship from the RCD of Monterey County after winning the RCD’s land-judging contest last March. The land-judging contest, hosted as part of the FARMS leadership program, is an annual competition where high school students compete in their knowledge and ability to assess a soil’s capacity for supporting different land uses with emphasis on agricultural production. This year’s contest included students from five high schools in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, but it was the students from Watsonville High who won the opportunity to attend Range Camp this past summer.
At the five-day educational camp, students aged 15 to 18 years old learn from agricultural and environmental scientists and range management professionals, visiting local ranches and a redwood forest, and camping in yurts. Each day, campers listen to informative presentations and become exposed to career paths involving range management and ecology. The young adults also experience on-farm practices like building farm fences, vaccinating goats and clipping their hooves, and assessing pasture health.
Jacob found Range Camp to be a valuable opportunity where he learned more about his interests, particularly about plant identification and the roles that plants play in ecosystems, and how grazers can help control invasive plants in pastures. He learned more about professional opportunities in range-related careers for young people like him who are interested in biology and animal science. The camp also provided him with a unique opportunity to be away from home and experience a rural environment, with fewer technological distractions of everyday life back home. Because of the Elkus Ranch’s semi-remote location, guests have limited wifi, cell reception and satellite data service, providing an opportunity which helped the students further immerse themselves in the ranch’s pastoral settings.
At Range Camp, Jacob was selected as one of the two ‘Top Campers’ based on his performance on a plant identification testand staff evaluations that attest to a camper’s character and cooperation skills. As a Top Camper, Jacob was subsequently invited to attend the next Society for Range Management’s High School Youth Forum in Sparks, Nevada this coming January. At the upcoming Youth Forum, students present on a range management-related topic of their choice. Jacob to present on the use of fire to maintain and protect California rangelands.
Overall, Jacob found the Range Camp experience to be valuable and hopes the opportunity to attend will be extended to other Central Coast high school students. Jacob said, “Because of your support I was able to find opportunities and broaden my horizons. It is my hope that you will continue to sponsor students from our area.”
More about Range Camp
Range Camp has been hosted by the California-Pacific chapter of the Society for Range Management for the past 33 years. If you would like to learn more about Range Camp, visit http://casrm.rangelands.org/HTML/rangecamps.html
More about Jacob
Jacob has always been interested in animals but his interest in agriculture really started when he raised his first with pig with Future Farmers of America (FFA). He is currently a senior at Watsonville High School and the FFA Chapter President. Jacob wants to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and become a large animal veterinarian.