The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation invites individuals and organizations to provide a transformational experience for a classroom of low-income elementary school students through its Plant*Grow*Eat Bus Sponsorship Program.

For nearly 30 years, the San Diego County Fair’s Plant*Grow*Eat agricultural  education program has introduced children to the unparalleled joy of planting a seed, helping it grow, and eating the food. In early spring, Fair staff visit classrooms, showing students how to plant and nurture their edible plant seeds. $300 brings one busload of students to the Fair for plant tasting and judging, followed by visits to the Livestock and Ag Education areas, where the children learn more about farming and nutrition.

Executive Director Chana Mannen says the popular program benefits all participants. “Bus sponsors enjoy welcoming their students and accompanying them to the judging arena. On that day, they receive free Fair parking and admission plus bus signage displaying their sponsorship. If you want to help judge the produce, we’ll give you a crash course in radish judging!”

Educators laud the innovative program’s achievements. Carson Elementary third-grade teacher Shaquanna Haile reported, “The program adds an extra dimension to our science curriculum study of lifecycles.”

And the kids? For many, it marks their first visit to the Fair; for some, their first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean; for most, their first opportunity to pet a goat! Perhaps the most significant and enduring benefit to students is learning that the food they eat comes from the ground, not the grocery store. One Imperial Beach Elementary School student described the process, writing, “I put my plant outside so it could grow. After a few days, three tiny plants started to grow and I felt so happy. I thinned out the plants so I had one radish left. I thought my plant would die but it didn’t. Planting radishes was an educational experience. I even won a second place ribbon for it!”

The 2015 San Diego County Fair runs June 5 to July 5. People are encouraged to become a bus sponsor soon so they can be sure to participate in their day’s activities.

Sponsors say they enjoy the experience as much as the kids. After meeting and greeting students at the Fair, bus sponsor Heather Marsh said, “I found the students’ enthusiasm so contagious that I went home and planted some radishes. And I learned something new from them: they taught me that nasturtium flowers are edible.”

To become a Plant*Grow*Eat bus sponsor visit www.dondiegoscholarship.org to sign up online or contact Chana Mannen at cmannen@sdfair.com or 858-792-4210.