Atwater High on the cutting edge with new turf grass class

ATWATER, Calif. (KFSN) -- Students at Atwater High are getting an opportunity to take a course that staff members believe is the first of its kind in California.

They're using tractors, mowers, and other machinery as part of a new Turf Grass and Sports Field Management course.

It's the latest addition to the campus's agriculture program, which is the largest in the country.

Agriculture Department Instructor Dave Gossman says, "We felt it was really an untapped area of agriculture because it's turf, it's irrigation, and it's soil. That's 100% agriculture."

Students spent the first two months of the school year learning how to operate the equipment and are now starting to use their skills out on the softball field.

Senior Luz Soto says, "I just find it really cool that we get to have experience in improving the fields here at our school."

Student Gunnar Kale says it's a path he may pursue in college. He explains, "Being a baseball player, I like baseball and want to be around it. I know I'm probably not going to be in the MLB so having a background in turf management will help me stay in the game and be around it as long as I can."

The students are not only learning here at their own school. They've also had a chance to visit some professional fields. They met with the Fresno Grizzlies' groundkeepers at Chukchansi Park and the Oakland A's crew at the Coliseum.

Gossman adds, "The Modesto Nuts have invited our students to help work some of the games next season so there's tremendous excitement."

Gossman says this program is possible in part through his association with the Sports Turf Managers Association and due to increased state funding for career technical education. And with parks, fields, and stadiums in communities across the country, he believes the possibilities are endless.

He says. "Ideally the vision is if we can get a group of students skilled and there's opportunities in the community, we can put the students in those skills into the community to help benefit them."
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