Skies were overcast at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on May 23, 2024, but the hundreds of elementary school children disembarking with delight from buses were all sunshine and smiles as they entered the Infield Farm set aside just for them.

The 2024, four-morning Plant*Grow*Eat environmental extravaganza took place before the San Diego County Fair opens on June 12th. Among the thousands of young participants were students from Title 1 schools across the region whose enjoyment and enlightenment were made possible through generous contributions of Don Diego Scholarship Foundation donors.

Many came to meet and talk with the kids as they encountered goats, bunnies, and three-week-old ducklings Quackers and Cheese; observed how potatoes, corn, herbs, apples, and other edibles grow; learned about beneficial bugs and earthworms; and, at the end of their journey, became organic farmers. Plant*Grow*Eat staff gave each child a small pot of soil, showed how to plant their radish seeds, explained the printed instructions, and gave each pot a refreshing spritz of water to begin the process. Once the radish was nurtured and harvested, it would fulfill the promise of the program to plant your plant, grow your plant, and ultimately eat your plant!

Don Diego Chair Stephen Shewmaker (back right) came to Plant*Grow*Eat to thank Del Mar Kiwanis members Zelda Halewa and President Steve Gardella for continuing their longtime support.

Fair staff, Master Gardeners Alva Rivera, Betty Corvey, Diane Bentley, and Jay Davis, and other donors/volunteers educated the children with a fun, accessible approach (“Did you know that bees have five eyes and six legs?”), leading the kids to respond with glee (“They said we can touch the worms!”); making it an enjoyable experience for longtime contributors such as Del Mar Kiwanis and Del Mar Foundation members.

Del Mar Kiwanis President Steve Gardella, who attended this year’s program with colleague Zelda Helewa and others, stated, “As ongoing supporters (this year, $1,500), DMK is proud and honored to be able to contribute to the Don Diego’s Plant*Grow*Eat buses for Title 1 elementary school students. This program is what the Del Mar Kiwanians are all about: improving the quality of life for children.”

Del Mar Foundation donated $10,000 to the program in 2024. DMF President Hylton Lonstein said. “Our organization is fortunate to have participated in this event for many years, and look forward to doing so in the future. We enjoy talking with the students. The beaming smiles on their faces the entire time they are at the event while gaining important information about agriculture and nutrition makes it all worth it.”

Worm Fun

Adobe Bluffs Transitional Kindergarten teacher Maris Placencia-Contreras observed, “I like this new Plant*Grow*Eat format. The students get an interactive, hands-on education about where their food comes from. Then, at the end, they walk off with their own food to grow and a ticket to come back when the Fair opens. It’s great!”

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as San Diego County Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. Since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded $1,416,844 in scholarships to 409 students and in Plant*Grow*Eat agriculture education grants, which enable elementary students from San Diego area Title 1 schools to learn about agriculture and nutrition while enjoying a day at the Fair.