BUENA PARK – In one hidden corner of Buena Park High School, the sounds of students’ busy chatter give way to the cadence of clucking chickens and bleating sheep.
There’s an entire 4 ½-acre farm on the campus, complete with animal pens, a greenhouse, vegetable plots, fruit trees, and even the requisite tractor. The farm is one of the school’s best-kept secrets, though it has been quietly recognized with a national award and spotlighted in prominent agricultural magazines.
Visitors to the farm see a program that has blossomed from a bare classroom and crumbling cattle pens four years ago to a brand new greenhouse and new show arena paid for with $500,000 in grants. Both students and administrators credit ag instructor Jessica Weisbart for the renaissance.
“It’s like a dream,” senior Kyle Pollock, 17, said as he walked past rust-free stalls filled with pink porkers. Pollock has spent four years in the ag program and witnessed the transformation.
“It was barren like a desert,” he said. “(Weisbart) came in with a plan. She kicked butt and turned this place around. Now there are 300 trees.”
Weisbart admitted she needed to be convinced to take the job. At the time, she worked at a different school district.
“I turned it down four times,” she said, reasoning an ag teacher job would be an “uphill battle,” where she would always be fighting for her position. Then she got pestered into showing up for an interview. The meeting wasn’t the office-bound sit-down she expected. Instead, she got a tour of the dilapidated campus farm, whose best crop at the time was spindly weeds.