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In mid-March, a handful of Hancock College's aspiring agriculturists will board a bus in Santa Maria and make their way to the state Capitol as part of an annual celebration of California's vibrant agricultural community.

Planned by the Hancock College Young Farmers and Ranchers club, a youth-oriented affinity group backed by the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, Teri Bontrager, executive director for the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, said the three-day trip to Sacramento will expand their perceptions of how the $50-billion agriculture industry operates in California.

From legislative briefings and conversations with lawmakers to a meeting with the head of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Bontrager said she hopes the trip will show students "how the legislative piece of agriculture and how it affects local [growers.]"

According to Bontrager, students will directly experience how agricultural policies and regulations are developed and implemented at a state level. The trip includes a tour of a Sacramento almond producer and meeting with the California Farm Bureau Federation leadership team.

The trip also coincides with Ag Day at the Capitol, a day dedicated to promoting the state’s second-largest industry.

With an estimated cost of $500 per student, Bontrager said the Farm Bureau is seeking sponsorships from industry professionals and agricultural businesses. The contributions will cover bus rentals, lodging, all meals and embroidered collared button-down shirts for each student to wear during their legislative meetings.

“This is a big opportunity for them to learn and grow,” she said, noting that a majority of the students slated to go on the trip have never visited the Capitol.

Industry sponsors will be recognized in the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau newsletter, on social media websites for the Young Farmers and Ranchers club, and on all flyers created to promote the club to students. Sponsors will also be given a "Keep Ag Alive in the 805" bumper stickers to display their support for future agriculture professionals.

Interested sponsors are urged to contact the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau at 805-688-7479.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.