Rising Sun Growing Great Things on the Westside
By Michele Laverty
In 1870, Rising Sun country school opened on the Westside of the county in Vernalis. A few years ago the program re-opened, after a few years of dormancy, as a transitions program for young adults with developmental disabilities. The dream was bigger than providing just a place for classrooms and books and Rising Sun has begun to blossom into a working farm and plant nursery to provide adult students with marketable job skills.
The program focuses on students, with moderate to severe disabilities who have earned a certificate of completion from high school and are between the ages of 18 to 22 years old.
A Career Pathway grant provided funding for the planting of a lavender garden and installation of a commercial vermicomposting system to recycle cafeteria food waste.
The lavender garden will enable the students to produce body care items such as botanical face scrubs, handcrafted soaps and lotions and sachets. This Spring the students will begin selling these items at the Patterson Farmers Market and the Northern California Direct Selling and Small Business Expo a the Clarion Hotel on May 7.
Rising Sun’s programs are exciting in many ways. The beauty of this program is that it triangulates three different programs – Adult Transitions, a Plant Nursery Management Course at Del Puerto Continuation High School, and our Ornamental Horticulture Career Pathway that is part of our agriculture program at Patterson High. The FFA students will utilize the facility for its cut flower garden, tractor driving practice and a space to host events such as the third grade Ag Field Day.
The program will be managed by an on-site teacher/groundskeeper who will live in a home purchased from Downey High School and built by its students. This will provide full-time supervision for all of the programs including the school farm at which vegetables and fruits will be harvested for use in the school cafeteria.
Additionally, in an effort to teach the students the value of water in our Valley, the school is installing a water catchment system which will capture about 15-20 thousand gallons of water to irrigate some of the crops and provide relief to our well. A commercial greenhouse, landscaping material chambers, and additional irrigation will be installed within the next two months. Rising Sun, growing plants and futures in Vernalis.