Farm tours safer thanks to grant

Posted Sept. 16, 2010, at 11:16 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Area schoolchildren who tour the SAD 1 Educational Farm this month on the district’s trailer will not only stay drier, but be safer, thanks to a Maine Agriculture in the Classroom grant.

The school farm received a $4,400 grant to make modifications to the 8-foot-by-26-foot trailer that’s used to give tours of the facility. A canopy, secure seating system and railing have been added to make the trailer safer and more suitable for all types of weather.

“We offer ‘wagon rides’ on a trailer that has been modified to accept students to drive around safely,” said Aaron Buzza, farm manager. “Depending on their size, we can take close to 35 people at a time.”

The grant funding, which was made possible through the sale of the state’s agriculture license plates, allowed for the purchase of two 21-foot-long benches for more seating.

“The benches are aluminum and the seating is all one unit, so there’s no little crevices to fall down through or a chair to upend because a leg got stuck in a hole in the boards,” Buzza said. “We also put a brand-new deck on the trailer, as well.”

The railing will not only help keep passengers from falling off the trailer, but also will provide viewing opportunities.

“If the kids are getting a lesson off the trailer, the kids can stand up, look over or look through the railing so they can see what’s going on,” Buzza said.

A canopy was installed to keep tour-goers out of the elements.

“The canopy lets me continue my tours in the rain. Because I have so many groups and so many kids in such a small amount of time, I don’t have room for rain dates,” Buzza said. “While I may have to get on the tractor with a raincoat on, the kids will be able to stay fairly dry.”

Farm mechanic students from the Presque Isle Regional Career and Technical Center — under the direction of Barrett Parks — re-decked the trailer and helped make the other modifications.

Buzza said between now and Sept. 30, between 3,000 and 3,500 students will visit the school farm. In addition to SAD 1 schools, tours also are planned for students from Caribou, Mars Hill, Ashland, Washburn and Van Buren, as well as private educational facilities and day cares.