Santa Paula Times

Animal farm an issue as City Council considers potential property sale

August 29, 2012
Santa Paula City Council

The City Council heard concerns from the leader of the area Future Farmers of America that a potential deal to sell the city’s former wastewater treatment plant could displace the animal farm.

Alex Flores, who directs the Santa Paula High School’s Agriculture Academy and heads up the student FFA program, told the council at the August 20 meeting although “I’m here to thank you for the last 40 to 50 years the city has provided five acres” for FFA use, the potential sale of the site to Crown Disposal could impact the program. Over the years the acreage used by the program has varied, but “It really has made a big impact on our students,” whose animals are kept at the site.

FFA members “invest their own money” to purchase and care for the animals, which are auctioned off at the Ventura County Fair. “It’s an entrepreneurial experience for their future,” Flores noted, now threatened by the notification from the city that the property is “up for sale.”

Flores asked, “How can we get together?” to maintain the program, related to one of the few high school agricultural academies in the state, and he noted city yard staff has always been very helpful to the FFA.

Liz Perez told the council she is a “parent and active booster” of the FFA program, and also asked the council for assistance. “There is some talk Crown will let us keep our animals there,” but Perez said she is concerned about the “future of FFA.”

Mayor Bob Gonzales said he is “sure as time evolves” that the city will “work in partnership with the school if at all possible,” and asked that a dialogue be started with Jaime Fontes, the city manager.

“I also have been very concerned,” about the fate of the FFA farm, said Councilman Ralph Fernandez. He urged that the school and city work together to find a solution, “whether it be another property we can acquire” for the program’s animals.

Councilman Fred Robinson said he also supports the FFA, and “We’ll be there to support you on this.” Later in the meeting Robinson asked that a future agenda item center on a partnership with the SPHS agricultural program, and to direct staff to work with the school and Flores “to ensure the partnership continues,” whether at the existing location or other land. Robinson said he wants to “make sure we have options.”

Councilman Rick Cook urged that the council find out if the city had incurred any costs for allowing the animal farm use of public property. “We just stuck it to a bunch of other people,” said Cook.

Youth sports participants were recently hit with fees for field usage including lights and maintenance. Several council meetings featured dozens of coaches and parents objecting to the new fees and their impacts on youth sports programs. 

Robinson agreed that any city costs associated with the FFA program should be included for the future agenda item.