June 15, 2017

Del Mar, CA … Ask young children where their food comes from and some might say a fast-food eatery or the grocery store. Ask elementary school students who participate in the San Diego County Fair’s Plant*Grow*Eat program that question, and they will jubilantly respond, “We grow it!”

This week, hundreds of students from around the county descended from buses, accompanied by teachers and parents. Laden with their radishes, tomatoes, nasturtiums and other edibles grown from seed, they brought the fruits, veggies and flowers of their labor to the Infield to be gently judged, enthusiastically praised and amply rewarded. One first-place winner, Melissa, a fifth-grader at San Marcos Elementary, shared the secret of her bountiful nasturtiums and marigolds. She confided, “We let the seeds soak for a bit before planting them. We watched over them and made sure they had water and sun so they would grow to be nice.”

Not every entry captured first-place, but each child received a ribbon for participating in this longtime program that teaches children about the connection between agriculture and nutrition. After the judging, the students explored the Fair’s agriculture areas, watched pigs race and even got to touch farm animals. Most of all, believes teacher Fernando Baquero, “The children enjoy seeing life grow. Years later, I’ll have students come back to visit and tell me that growing their plants and showing them at the Fair has been one of their best memories of elementary school.”

Each year, the Don Diego Scholarship Foundation, thanks to the generosity of donors, sponsors dozens of buses that enable students from low-income schools to participate in Plant*Grow*Eat. Executive Director Chana Mannen, who created the program years ago when she served as the Fair’s Deputy Manager, says, “I recently learned that a successful adult credits it with changing his life. He said that, as a quiet child, growing his plant and being recognized for his effort with a ribbon made him realize that he could expand his horizons and pursue his goals. We created Plant*Grow*Eat as a growing experience, but hearing inspirational stories like this makes me realize what a transformational growth opportunity Plant*Grow*Eat can provide.”

If you’d like to help grow a program that celebrates the rich agricultural history of our region and keeps it flourishing for future generations, please visit staging.dondiegoscholarship.org. Plant*Grow*Eat donations are welcomed year-round.

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. To date since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded approximately $797,000 in scholarships to 177 students and in agriculture education grants. Information on Don Diego’s history and the Foundation’s current programs and donation opportunities is at staging.dondiegoscholarship.org and facebook.com/DonDiegoScholarship.