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St. Helena High School Ag students stage virtual auction

St. Helena High School Ag students stage virtual auction

St. Helena High School junior Brandon Forgie used one-inch square tubing, plywood and several pillows to create a hexagon hanging swing couch, large enough to hold six people. He’s selling it online as part of the St. Helena Ag Boosters’ Virtual Ag Mechanics Auction, which ends at 6 p.m., Monday, June 1.

As of mid-day Thursday, bids for each of the nine items all made by Ag Mechanics students, were between $500 and $900. For lots and bidding information, go to

Forgie said the money he earns from selling the hanging swing, will be saved for college and used to purchase a MIG welder.

The online auction features one-of-a-kind ag mechanics class projects and the 2019 three-liter viticulture class wine. All proceeds benefit students in the St. Helena High School Ag Mechanics and Viticulture programs.

Senior Jesse Cole created an infinity, LED lighted coffee table. Each of the students wrote about their projects. Cole wrote: “An infinity table has LED lights between a tinted but transparent table top and a mirror finished surface. This gives the optical illusion that the lights continue downward through the table. My table is made from a steel frame, which I TIG welded and powder coated for a smooth and uniform look.”

A remote controls the LEDs and any color can be chosen, Cole writes. He said, “I plan to use the profits from my project towards college next year at SRJC.”

Since 2005 and again last year, students have sold their one-of-a-kind projects during the annual Ag Boosters Rib Feed and Ag Mechanics Auction, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of that mid-April event. Traditionally, hundreds of people attend the rib feed and auction at the Native Sons Hall in St. Helena.

The auction is coordinated by Randy Mendes, who has been the Ag Mechanics teacher at St. Helena High School since 2000.

Sarah Herdell, Agriculture Education instructor & FFA advisor, said, “In the 16 years of doing this, we have sold over 200 projects at our annual Rib Feed in a live auction. Bob Fellion was our auctioneer for 14 of those years and Johnnie White, Jr. stepped in to fill his shoes last year.”

Last year, the 19 student projects made more than $34,000. Herdell said the Boosters keep 20% of the sale price to cover the cost of consumables and maintenance of the machinery and equipment.

For the auction, senior Justin Willig created a seven-foot long indoor-outdoor table with six stools. In the center of the Live Oak top is a strip of polished aluminum. He writes that the table “has a strong steel frame and comes with six strong oak stools. The protective coating on this table will last a long time and will not yellow and crack in the sun like most.”

Senior Jordan Reilly crafted a “tall and sturdy” redwood bench with a rectangular tubing frame. He writes, “This bench is designed to make your legs hang and will look great on any porch, vineyard, or deck.”

Reilly had quite a challenge making the bench because he had a bike accident at the beginning of the semester. He writes, “I was unable to work on the project by myself so this project was partly made with help from other students.”

A white oak wooden wine rack that is 3 feet tall and “just a touch wider” is the project built by senior Sam Coltrin. “The cabinet is made out of beautiful red oak and the centerpiece is a plasma-cut steel Saints Fleur-de-lis,” he writes. It has a capacity of more than two cases of wine.

St. Helena High School juniors created the following projects:

- Fire Pit Table by William Garrett;

- River Run Table by Troy Reed; and

- Picnic Table by Irwin Ramirez.

Herdell writes, “The students started working on their projects in October and finished them in early March. They started by designing them using the Auto CAD program, then began fabricating in the shop. Each project has to include elements of both wood and metal. Students only have about two hours a week during class time to work on their projects, so it takes some time from start to finish.” She said students pay for the cost of their materials, although Central Valley “graciously donates wood for the students to use each year.”

Three-liter bottle of wine

Also up for auction is a three-liter bottle of wine, created by the students in the 2019-2020 Viticulture Class. It is an Old Crane Ranch Clone Zinfandel, made from grapes the students harvested from the Salvestrin Family Estate as they have since 2007. The wine was made in collaboration with Davies Vineyard and the students take care of the vineyard with help from Pina Vineyard Management.

Mendes, Herdell and Judy Aschwanden are the Ag teachers at St. Helena High School. Throughout St. Helena High, some 260 students, more than half of the entire student population, participate in Ag classes.

In the Ag Mechanics pathway, Mendes said there are three different class levels, each that take a year: Intro to Ag mechanics, where students learn to use the tools in the wood and metal workshops; computer aided drafting, where they learn how to design projects; and the capstone class, Advanced Ag Mechanics, where students design and fabricate their projects, using both wood and metal.

For questions regarding the auction, contact Randy Mendes at

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star and The Weekly Calistogan.

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