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August 2016
Atwater High Poultry Unit

Atwater High’s Poultry Project is an Eggsellent Success!

Expanding access and opportunities for students to get involved and explore new opportunities towards academic success, personal growth, and career exploration is an annual objective for the Atwater High School agriculture program. Last winter and spring, with support from the Merced Union High School District, Atwater High School, local community members, and agriculture industry representatives, the Atwater High School agriculture program’s agriculture shop students helped built a new poultry facility while students raised baby chicks that would soon grow into mature laying hens. The vision was to have a small poultry unit with about fifty laying hens and assign the unit to a group of high school agriculture students who would take the responsibility of caring, feeding, and maintaining the poultry facility and laying hens, while collecting, washing, and marketing the eggs to staff on campus and other community supporters.

The chickens starting laying eggs in early summer and are now producing about three dozen eggs a day. The current group of high school agriculture students who took on the responsibility throughout the summer include Ana Lozano, Sayra Ramos, Briana Diaz, and Stephania Valdovinos. “I first was exposed to the poultry industry through my experience being on the FFA Poultry judging team this past year,” said agriculture student Sayra Ramos. “It was an industry field that gained my interest and this opportunity has expanded my knowledge and experience towards responsibility and accountability.”

With the chickens laying eggs on a regular basis, the focus has expanded towards the marketing of the eggs. “Food safety continues to be an expanded occupational field within the agriculture industry,” says FFA advisor Shelby West. “This project has exposed our students to the various state and federal regulations and requirements pertaining to the health and well-being of the birds and the safety and requirements of handling the eggs.”

The money generated from the eggs goes directly back into the poultry operation. As the poultry program continues, the goal is to encompass a business agreement between the agriculture program and the students where the student’s efforts are not just rewarded with knowledge and new skills, but a percentage of the profits to where each student will earn scholarship-type awards at the end of each school year. “Although it may be small in scale, the experience directly relates to real world work skills,” says West.

Audrey Esau
Atwater FFA Reporter