Originally published: https://register-pajaronian.com/article/los-gatos-students-learn-about-agriculture-in-watsonville

WATSONVILLE — Standing in front of the Watsonville Public Library on Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Lowell Hurst addressed a group of students, painting for them a picture of the agricultural industry in the Pajaro Valley.

The group, made up of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from Hillbrook Middle School in Los Gatos, are participating in a program put together by the San Francisco-based Global Exchange organization.

According to Andrea Hightower of Global Exchange, the learning program, entitled “Food, Community and Human Rights in Watsonville,” was chosen by the students themselves. They are spending their week of Spring Break in Watsonville and surrounding areas to learn about agricultural systems, food justice and the lives of the area’s farmworkers.

“It’s a pretty heavy topic, so I’m really proud of these kids for taking it on,” Hightower said.

Subjects covered in the program include everything from environmental issues to racism and social inequality. Each student received a special packet at the beginning of the week — giving them an extensive list of terminology and concepts to be aware of, as well as information about each of the organizations and individuals they are meeting during the program.

Susan Renison from the Watsonville Public Library had been working closely with Hightower to help Global Exchange find local organizations to work with.

Over the course of this week, the students are connecting with the Center for Farmworker Families, the Community Action Board, California Rural Legal Assistance, United Farm Workers, the Dignity of Labor art project and Mesa Verde Gardens.

On Wednesday morning the group traveled to Salinas to meet with representatives of United Farm Workers, where they participated in creating posters in celebration of Cesar Chavez Week.

“We want all of this to open their eyes,” Hightower said, “to challenge them to think long and hard about food systems they themselves rely on. It’s an important connection to make.”