In one of the lesser-frequented areas at Pierce College, even before the first students set foot on campus for their Thursday morning classes, a group is hard at work.
As the April sun begins beating down on the Equestrian Center, students clean horse stalls by sweeping out dirt and hosing them down. Some wheel around heaps of wood shavings while others decorate artificial flowers onto the fences that horses jump over.
Students from the equine management class have been working for the past few months to prepare for the 21st annual Farm Walk, which takes place Sunday, April 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the farm.
Oddly enough, a majority of the students in the class are girls.
“There’s barely any guys in any of the classes. It’s kinda weird. The three guys that we have, we try to hold onto them. [We say] ‘don’t leave the program. We need a guy,’” said 23-year-old equine science major Samantha Gartsman, who is in the 7:45 a.m. class.
Gartsman, a three-year-long member of the Boots and Saddles Club on campus, has also been leading the club this year as its president in its tradition of helping organize one of the biggest events that takes place at the farm.
“I just shoot out to all our email members to come volunteer to help set up and get the Equestrian Center ready, whether it’s by pulling weeds, moving panels, setting up cones, or bringing in bottles of water and soda,” she said.
Farm Walk, which until 21 years ago was known as Harvest Festival, is a day-long event that incorporates the various facets of the Agriculture Department through activities and performances like hay wagon rides, a petting zoo, horse shows and cow milking.
“The purpose is to reserve what we have here,” Agriculture Department Chair Leland Shapiro said.
It’s a free event for the community, with a $5 donation requested and free play for children under 12 years old. Booths are typically set up on Lot 8, and El Rancho Drive is normally closed off for Farm Walk, according to Robert McBroom, director of the Farm Center.
“It’s [Shapiro’s] baby,” McBroom said. “It’s the agriculture academics’ open house. [People] come out from everywhere to get to it.”
Come Farm Walk, the Boots and Saddles Club members will be manning two booths, one for refreshments–which will include a snow cone machine–and another for children to decorate horse shoes.
“We’re big on having snow cones,” Gartsman said. “That’s, like, what we’re known for.”
Approximately 50 Boots and Saddles club members will be helping out during Farm Walk, according to Gartsman. She also says that revenue generated during the event goes to the club.
“Yeah, we do get that money but we also are giving a lot of money to the community and other things,” she said, referring to donations, for instance, to a 4-H youth development group in Agoura, California.
The club, she says, has been preparing for the day-long Farm Walk–calling performers to see who would be interested in coming, setting up volunteer positions and contacting members of the club–since February.
“We said we were gonna start early and we kind of did but you know how it is. You kind of keep putting things off,” she said. “Now that it’s down to the wire [we’re] scrambling to make sure everything’s perfect.”
Though a majority of the performances that will be featured during Farm Walk echo those of previous years, there will be at least one new showcase for attendees to look forward to. One of these is arena sorting in the rodeo arena.
“It’s kinda the same [as previously featured ranch sorting] but it’s in an entire area, not just in smaller pens,” Gartsman said. “It’s a lot faster and more appealing to people who don’t get horses.”
Many of the performers are Pierce students, but there will be participants who do their respective performances professionally “almost every weekend,” according to Gartsman.
In addition to the arena sorting, performances that will be showcased during Farm Walk include horse jumping, Mexican-style trick roping and barrel racing.
Gartsman is particularly excited about the Mexican side saddle riders, as they will be a first for Pierce.
“We’ve never seen them before here but we’ve seen videos of them and they are amazing,” she said. “I mean, they’re galloping, going as fast as they can and they’re on a side saddle.”
There will be three main performances for each of the events at Farm Walk: one at 10 a.m., another at 1:30 p.m. and the last ones at 3 p.m. Everyone participating is doing so on a volunteer basis, according to Gartsman.
The Boots and Saddles Club isn’t the only campus club helping out with Farm Walk.
The Pre-Vet Club, for instance, is in charge of the face painting booth, animal unit tours and hay wagon rides, according to Shapiro. Pierce’s Farm Center will also be contributing with a booth to display the items it sells.
“The students did 99 percent of the work,” Shapiro said. “There will be no Farm Walk without them.”
Organizations outside of Pierce are also pitching in to help make Farm Walk a success: Councilman Dennis Zine–who is scheduled to make an appearance during the event–lent chairs and tables, the Dairy Council is bringing a milking cow, and the movie industry has provided 6,000 back-to-back flyers.
For Gartsman, who has volunteered to help with Farm Walk in previous years, the day of the event is what makes all their hard work worth it.
“I have this weird knack for wanting to help around here. I mean, I bust my butt and I’m tired and exhausted and I pull my hair out at the end of the night, but I love it,” she said. “I mean, I get a lot of satisfaction from it, knowing that all these people are so happy for something that I helped put on. I guess that’s why I come back.”