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Financially troubled farm at Pierce College to hold fund-raiser

April 18, 2012 |  1:23 pm

Sheep at Pierce College
Children in a kindergarten class at Haynes Street School in West Hills have been collecting money from doing chores at home to help the financially troubled animal farm at Pierce College, a longtime field-trip destination for Los Angeles-area schoolchildren.

Teacher Mindy Levine will present the money — at least $50 — to the chairman of the agriculture department at the farm's annual fund-raiser, Farmwalk, to be held Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Woodland Hills campus at 6201 Winnetka Ave.

Farmwalk will offer activities for children and adults, including a petting zoo, face painting, pony rides, gourmet food trucks, as well as sheep-shearing, cow-milking and horse-shoeing demonstrations. The entrance fee is $5, and children under 12 are free.

The farm was at risk this year of losing most of its large animals—including horses, cows, goats, sheep and pigs—because the school and the Los Angeles Community College District could no longer afford to care for and feed them, said department chairman Leland Shapiro.

The animal farm is the cornerstone of the department’s pre-veterinary program, which offers crucial hands-on training for students preparing to transfer to veterinary schools.

After the Times wrote about the program’s financial plight, Levine emailed Shapiro about the importance of the farm to her students.

"I like to have my kindergarten class get involved in helping our community each year," she wrote. "I presented the idea of adopting a cow at Pierce Farm and visiting the farm on your Farm Walk Sunday to support the farm. The kids and families thought it was a fantastic thing to do."

"The children are doing chores at home to earn money," she continued. "They bring their change into class and put it in our Cow Adoption Jar. Our goal is to donate $50, but I think with all of the enthusiasm we will exceed that. I just wanted to let you know that even the little people in our community care!”

Another school, The Center for Early Education in West Hollywood, also raised funds by having kindergarten and third-grade children create farm illustrations that were printed as postcards and sold in packets to school families for $5, said teacher Janet Lee.

“If these cards are as successful as we hope, we might be able to donate over $500. We understand that this will not ‘save the farm’ but we hope it will make some difference in your future,” Lee wrote in an email to Shapiro.

She said the school’s kindergarten classes have made field trips to the farm and its Halloween festival for the last seven years.

“We love the idea that we could visit a working farm in the middle of an urban environment,” she wrote to Shapiro.

Shapiro said the emails from Levine and Lee were among many he received from individuals, schools and organizations wanting to help what has long been considered a crown jewel of the community college system.

The farm, founded in 1947 when the campus opened as the Clarence W. Pierce School of Agriculture, has fought off attempts over the years to develop the valuable land into golf courses, apartment complexes and parking lots.

For those who cannot make it to Farmwalk, donations may be made to the farm's Adopt a Cow program, which helps purchase seeds for its pastures and feed for hay, Shapiro said. Donations may also be made to the Pierce College Foundation website, designating Friends of the Pierce College Farm in the box asking for additional instructions.


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Photo: Sheep at Pierce College in 1998. Credit: Joel P. Lugavere / For the Times.