Professional development takes on a variety of forms here in Yuma County.

On Tuesday morning, 26 teachers, counselors and administrators from the Yuma Union High School District boarded a Tour West America bus that brought them up-close to the various sides of Yuma’s agriculture industry.

Representing all six campuses as well as the district office, the group migrated from lettuce fields to a plant breeding facility to college campuses and greenhouses, encountering first-hand the abundance of resources scattered, like seedlings, within students’ reach in all corners of Yuma County.

“So often when we think of agriculture, our teachers and counselors think of only one type of job, and there are so many opportunities in agriculture that we don’t think of in the sciences, in engineering, in the technology areas, in the food production, and food marketing and logistics,” Tanya Hodges, regional coordinator for the University of Arizona Department of Agriculture, said. “Getting teachers and counselors into a field where they can go out and see and touch and learn about all of the many opportunities that are available to our students is so critical because they can go back and help career counsel their students.”

The tour, which was the district’s third since March 2018, was a collaboration between YUHSD, Arizona Western College, the University of Arizona’s Yuma campus and careers program Go Ag, which regularly hosts extracurricular activities on YUHSD campuses.

Dubbed by some as an “oasis in the desert,” Yuma is the United States’ agricultural hub for winter vegetables, producing about 90 percent of the country’s produce from November to April.

According to Go Ag’s website, there are currently 225 career choices with a 100% placement rate in the industry. “This is an opportunity for smart, young people to start careers in a field that addresses some of the world’s most pressing challenges,” their website reads.

To better relay this to their students, the group heard from growers at Nature Fresh Farm and Takii Seeds, the seventh-generation seed company responsible for several of the world’s first-ever hybrid vegetable seeds. To get a glimpse of the role research and technology plays in local agriculture, the group visited the University of Arizona Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture.

A stop at Arizona Western College explored the science behind the industry at Arizona Western College; from University of Arizona faculty, the group heard from faculty about the engineering component and the agriculture-related majors offered on the Yuma campus.

To wrap up the tour, the bus rolled over to JV Farms, where the group joined “farm worker appreciation” program Labor of Love in its delivery of lunches and gifts to field harvesters.

YUHSD is anticipating another tour in the spring semester, partnering once again with Go Ag to expose staff to industry opportunities they can implement in their classrooms and career counseling.

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