AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 “Old MacDonald would be totally excited about what is happening at Pierce College.” What’s happening is an effort to defray the costs of maintaining a growing campus while creating a model Agricultural Education Center for students, school kids and the public at large. Administrators hope to earn the same profit as they would have from a defunct and controversial golf course proposal of the 1990s, when the college was $1 million in debt and 10,000 students off its peak. The college is now $5 million in the black and has recouped 5,000 pupils. The model farm, to be run as a nonacademic moneymaker, would blanket more than 25 acres at De Soto Avenue and Victory Boulevard within three years. Among its features: WOODLAND HILLS – For more than a decade, the San Fernando Valley’s first agricultural college has lain as fallow as a field of weeds. But with 300 tons of ripening pumpkins and acres of sunflowers and field corn now tickling the sky, Pierce College has returned to its roots, with administrators hoping to rake in $800,000 a year from the Pierce College Farm. “This is all about revenues – and roots,” said Tom Oliver, the college’s 60-year-old interim president as well as an alumnus who fondly recalls the heyday of vegetables and livestock at the 400-acre Woodland Hills campus. “It’s been a dream for 25 years,” Oliver said. “I’ve always said, ‘I gotta bring the community back to the farm and the farm back to the community.’ An 8,000-square-foot farmers market that would sell college-grown produce and flowers – for an estimated $400,000 a year in profit. A Pierce College equestrian center – with an estimated $150,000 profit. A farm experience for Los Angeles schoolchildren – taking in an estimated $100,000. A Pierce College vineyard and winery – with the college’s very own label – bringing in an estimated $100,000. Plans for the ag corner also include a trout-fishing lake, U-pick vegetables and flowers, a kids’ “pizza” garden, experimental gardens and research displays for alternative power, water quality, organic farming and sustainable agriculture. Also in the works are plans for a strawberry festival, hay rides, an outdoor amphitheater, a petting zoo, a Valley heritage garden and seminars for backyard gardeners. College officials say the $10 million farm will be independently financed through donations from private foundations, corporate sponsors and local businesses. “It’s the renaissance of the Pierce College Farm – better than a rebirth,” said Dennis Washburn, mayor pro tem of Calabasas and director of the Foundation for Pierce College, the independent fundraising arm for the college and ag center. “We’re inviting people to dream along with us. We can be a demonstration farm for sustainability.” The return to the good earth has already begun. For the first time since 1992, corn – five acres of it – stands 12 feet high and heavy with husks. It serves as a fireman-shape maze in conjunction with a Halloween Harvest Festival, haunted house and trails and pumpkin sales. A 25-acre pumpkin patch yields enough gourds to make Linus of the “Peanuts” comic strip proud, with 30,000 pumpkins ripe and ready for jack-o’-lantern sales. A half-acre of head-high sunflowers adds a finishing touch to the Pierce College cornucopia – and profit. “Look at the size of those,” exclaims Oliver, bounding through the pumpkin patch in his cap-toed oxfords. “The important thing is to keep the necks; (they’re) worth more if you keep the necks. “And look at these sunflowers – we can sell those.” Students said they were excited by the smell of corn, the glow of pumpkins and a future of animals – besides horses – living on the Pierce College campus. “I think it’s a wonderful thing,” said Noe Lani, 21, of Winnetka, who is majoring in photojournalism. “There’s so much city around. It’s nice to have a homegrown, sacred place, with farm vegetables and flowers. “A place to just go and buy some fresh fruit and hang out with the animals.” Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!