The state’s largest high school citrus farm just got bigger

This afternoon, Exeter Union High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the expansion of their citrus farm from 16 acres to 21 acres, bringing the school farm’s total size to 25 acres. The farm has been a part of the school since the 1950s but these new acres will help students to keep up with the times.

“The industry changes and evolves,” EUHS agriculture teacher Dan Crookham said. “So if you look at a 40-year-old citrus grove, it doesn’t look like a citrus grove that we just planted this past June. You know varieties are different, spacings are different. Irrigation techniques are different. Soil moisture monitoring is different.”

“We’ve got a block of trees that’s over 20 years old. And the way that was planted and that variety is good, but it’s not what people are planting today.”

Students help with a lot of the farm’s upkeep and get real-world experience from their work. Crookham said some of the work students do is fixing irrigation, suckering trees, putting pheromone traps out and pruning.

“Hopefully we’re connecting those kids with how fruit is grown, and how citrus is grown, and where their food comes from,” Crookham said. “Over the course of the year, they get to see the whole cycle.”

The citrus grown on Exeter’s farm is processed and marketed by Porterville Citrus, Inc. and sold under the Sunkist label all over the world.

“Wherever you find a Sunkist box of oranges, depending on the variety and the month of the year, those could be oranges from Exeter High School,” Crookham said.

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