October 11, 2013

Farm Beat: Kids learn about pumpkins with help from Empire seed company

Stanislaus County school children are learning about the life cycle of pumpkins, from seed to mature crop, during visits this month to Harris Moran Seed Co. near Empire. The kids also get to pick a pumpkin from a company patch to take home.

Dozens of schoolchildren waited for a chance to walk through a pumpkin patch Wednesday morning.

But before they could pick out their favorites, they got a lesson in how the pumpkins got there.

Harris Moran Seed Co. hosted kindergarten and first-grade students outside its distribution center just south of Empire.

These kids from two Oakdale schools took part in an 11-year-old program that explains how seeds become a mature crop, with a few steps in between. About 1,200 students from Stanislaus County schools are expected to take part in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

Jeannie Stowers, a sales and marketing analyst who led the lesson for Harris Moran, started with a reference to the “Lion King” book and movie.

“You know how Simba talks about the circle of life?” she asked. “Well, pumpkins have their own circle of life.”

Stowers held up a bucket of pumpkin seeds to show the first stage. She followed it with sprouting plants preserved in vials, a blossoming plant, a small green pumpkin and a big orange one. She then showed the inside of the pumpkin, teeming with seeds that will start the whole process over.

Baron Haidlen, a kindergartener from Sierra View School, had no trouble absorbing the lesson.

“First there’s a seed, and then the rain, and the seed grows, and there’s the flower, and it turns into a pumpkin,” he said.

The same goes for Davina Gonzales, a kindergartner at Magnolia School: “You plant them somewhere and put water over them,” she said.

The Codoni Avenue site handles hundreds of vegetable seed varieties sold to farmers around the world.

Some of the seeds didn’t go far. They were planted earlier this year in the pumpkin patch on the site, and plenty of them have grown into pumpkins to be picked by youngsters, with help from Harris Moran workers wielding shears.

Schools have reserved all of the slots for this year’s pumpkin lessons, which are for kindergarten, first-grade and special education students. They can make reservations for 2014 by calling Sherry Horton at (209) 549-5281.

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