Like a beautiful, flowering perennial popping up in the garden each spring, Del Mar-based organizations have provided generous financial support that enables Don Diego Scholarship Foundation to annually sponsor busloads of students from Title 1 elementary schools throughout the region to enjoy a growing adventure at the San Diego County Fair.

Longtime Plant*Grow*Eat (PGE) bus sponsors include the Del Mar Foundation, Del Mar Kiwanis, and Del Mar Garden Club. Other groups, businesses and individuals from around San Diego County also contribute to this worthwhile effort.

The Fair’s PGE program teaches children about agriculture and nutrition in a fun, hands-on way. After devoting weeks to nurturing their radishes, nasturtiums, lettuce, and other edibles, students bring their produce to the Fair’s Infield Farm on designated mornings. They receive praise and ribbons for their efforts, then scamper off to explore agriculture exhibits, meet farm animals and, for many of Don Diego bus-sponsored children, glimpse the Pacific Ocean for the very first time.

Don Diego sponsors buses for students who might otherwise not be able to attend, due to school finance impediments. Each bus costs $500 or more.

Don Diego Executive Director Ashley Colburn McCaughan states, “This year, we were able to sponsor nearly three dozen busloads of students! Our generous PGE donors enable children, especially those who live in urban apartments without yards, to learn where their food comes from and how to grow it. We are immensely grateful for their support and welcome donations year-round at”

McCaughan says that one of the best aspects of the program is that sponsors get to meet the beneficiaries of their generosity. She notes, “It’s fun to watch them get so engaged with the kids, discussing not only how they grew their veggies but also their lives and aspirations.”

Visiting with the students on June 14, 2023 PGE day were representatives of sponsoring organizations. McCaughan accepted a donation of a whopping $8,000 from Del Mar Foundation’s Julie Maxey-Allison and Sudeepto Roy, who noted, “We are happy to contribute to this worthwhile program where children learn the importance of growing and eating healthy food.”

The enthusiastic Del Mar Kiwanis trio of Steve Gardella, Zelda Helewa and Joe Guerra presented their check for $1,000, saying, “We love meeting the kids and helping them have a good time at the Fair, while promoting a nutritious diet and a better life. This is one of our favorite activities!” The organization’s September 1, 2023 Day at the Races will benefit next year’s PGE bus sponsorship program.

Mara Bickett of the Del Mar Garden Club said, “We donate every year and love to come see the children. They are so excited about learning how to grow the food they eat.”

Sponsors smiled as one first-place winner from Highland Elementary revealed the secret of his success, saying he talked to his radish every day. They and other donors, including San Diego Master Gardeners, agree that bus sponsorship makes the PGE program come alive for these kids, many of whom say they plan to continue ‘farming’ at home. For them as well as the students, it’s a memorable morning at the Fair.

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. Since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded $1,338,844 in scholarships to 383 students and in agriculture education grants. More information is at and