A Day in the Woods

After a bit of a drive, Tehama FARMS Advanced was greeted with the fresh mountain air on a late spring morning and temperatures that didn’t even warrant a sweatshirt. Sierra Pacific Industries invited our group to attend the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference Inc. “In Woods Forest Harvest Demonstration Day”. This is a day where a group of industry supporters take the time to carve out of the forest a 1-mile trail for groups of students who are led by experts in logging to hike and stop at several stations to see the very impressive logging equipment at work as well as meet and network with a variety of industry professionals.

Once we had been properly fitted with fancy hard hats to ensure everyone was exercising supreme safety, we started off following our leader who was a Wildlife Biologist for Sierra Pacific Industries. As we wandered through the woods we heard from many different local volunteer programs such as The Backcountry Horsemen and Shasta County Search and Rescue and the different ways they work with our logging industry to accomplish different tasks. Not only did we meet volunteer units, we also met Jim Lepage from Lepage Company who’s focus is building and maintaining the logging roads. He spoke with the students about the career opportunities with heavy equipment and why their jobs are so important to the logging companies. Of course safety comes first, so without quality roads the big rig drivers driving heavy loads of logs could not safely get in and out of these deep woods locations, but also how roads that they can safely drive a moderate speed on will increase efficiency and the number of loads one trucker can make with logs in a day. Time = Money.

As we rounded the bend we could hear the loud sound of a saw and smell the fragrance of freshly cut wood. This began our walk into what truly happens in the forest during a harvest. First we learned the different ways there are to fall, or cut down, a tree. We heard from a 30 year wood cutter about the tools and manual labor that goes into cutting a tree by hand which he demonstrated on a HUGE pine tree right in front of us. It was amazing to see his skill, precision, and speed with his chainsaw as well as the ability to make the tree fall exactly where he wanted. He was able to fall and cut into logs roughly 50 trees a day and therefore is used to process the trees who’s trunks are too large in diameter for the heavy equipment that we watched but are able to do closer to 1500-2000 trees in a day. We then followed the process to the landing site that was set up where a harvester was delimbing and cutting trees into “logs” of appropriate length, then a feller-buncher was gathering and loading logs onto a truck to be hauled off the mountain and to a processing plant. It was such an amazing experience to see first hand these GIANT machines at work and meet the men who were behind the controls.

Thank you too all those who took part at the In Woods Demonstration Day and Sierra Pacific Industries for inviting us to take part. The students thoroughly enjoyed it and have a much greater understanding and appreciation for the logging industry as a whole. We hope to be apart of it in the future!

Cleaning Up The Trash At Cal Waste!

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: April 11, 2019

Location of Field Day: Galt, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors: Mary Beth Ospital – Cal Waste Community Outreach Coordinator

Theme: Sustainable Management Practices

Summary of the Day:

Our final field day of the 2018-2019 program year with the SJ FARMS Leadership Program was a little different this year. We visited and toured Cal Waste and Galt, CA. The FARMS students learned about sustainable management practices and how to be more effective and efficient in their recycling habits.

We began our day in the Outreach and Education room at Cal Waste. We were welcomed by Mary Beth who gave us an introduction to the company and an overview about what Cal Waste is all about. Cal waste is a family owned business and is the largest, locally-owned waste collection and material recovery operation in the region, providing residential, commercial and industrial services to areas throughout Sacramento, Calaveras, Alpine and San Joaquin Counties. On the far side of the room was a large window that over looked the MRF, which is a materials recovery facility. This is where all of the recycling and garbage is brought in, processed, and sorted by material type.

Mary Beth then took us on a tour of the facilities. We were able to check out the different types of vehicles up close. We also toured the mechanic shop where the trucks are worked on and maintained. Then we checked out the MRF from the ground floor. After we finished our toured we headed back to the Outreach and Education room. Cal Waste hosted us for lunch and the students presented their Community Action Projects. These are the projects the students worked on within their school groups to better their community and teach others about what they have been learning about this year in FARMS. After the students were done with lunch and their presentations we played Cal Waste’s versions of jeopardy and bingo to conclude our day!

Student Quotes:

“Today I learned the 3 R’s; reuse, reduce, and recycle!” – Melina, from Health Careers Academy

“I learned that you can’t recycle pizza boxes and other products contaminated with food waste.” – Oduwa, from Langston Hughes Academy

“I learned that when we recycle products that are not recyclable it becomes someone else’s job to sort the garbage out.” – Leslie, from Health Careers Academy


Wetlands, Waterways & Watersheds

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | April 11, 2019

Participating Schools:

  • Gonzales High School
  • North Salinas High School
  • Soledad High School
  • Watsonville High School

Location(s):

Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 1700 Elkhorn Rd, Castroville, Ca 95012

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Dave Feliz – California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Virginia Guhin – California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Ariel Hunter – California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Summary of the Day:

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarian Research Reserve or Elkhorn Slough Reserve for short is located halfway between the cities of Santa Cruz and Monterey. The middle ground between 2 counties and our FARMS Leadership Program which spans both Santa Cruz County and Monterey County. The Reserve itself is owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The day started with a quick breakfast, housekeeping, and an ice breaker. Virginia Guhin, the education programs coordinator started the discussion off by asking students about their career interests to warm them up and start the conversation. From there she shared more about the Elkhorn Slough Estuary Reserve and her role as the education coordinator. She then introduced Dave Feliz who delivered a speech connecting everything Virginia shared about the Reserve to the land and ultimately agriculture. He spoke about different ways of using agriculture fields for both profit and conservation like how rice farmers can support water foul populations. In the end, we all need to work together to preserve land, water, species, and food systems.

The inspiring talk was a perfect lead into the two activities. Students were split into two groups. One took a hike to the boardwalk to see the slough and the other group did a fun hands-on activity with Ariel Hunter called Watershed Masters. The word watershed is not a word that is taught in schools so it was not a surprise when students had no idea what a watershed was. I must admit that I personally hadn’t heard that word until my 20’s so I was happy that students would have the opportunity to learn about watersheds way before I did. The groups did a quick switch and once everyone had a chance to hike and participate in a hands-on activity we ate lunch and departed for Moon Glow Dairy.

Moon Glow Dairy was once a dairy and is now known as the Hester Marsh Restoration Site. This site is a new experimental idea to restore the marshlands and plant native plants that create habitats for different wildlife and organisms. It is an exciting and innovative restoration project to witness in the beginning stages. Elkhorn Slough has restored the site by strategically placing dirt in the area that was engineered to mimic a natural occurring marshland that once was there before the dairy. Students helped with the conservation efforts by weeding out some of the invasive species that are not welcome. Students asked questions about the different plants they saw and before you know it was time to clean up and head back to the vehicles.

Putting the finishing touches on a project in Rio Vista

Rio Vista High School at Petersen Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 3, 2019

Participating School
Rio Vista High School

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District

Mentors
Carolyn Kolstad, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Emily Snider, UCD graduate student
Karleen Vollherbst, Schoolyard Habitat Program Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Matthew Young, Fish Biologist, California Water Science Center, USGS
Luke Petersen, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS

Summary of the Day
For our third and final Field Day, we decided to spend the day at a more established restoration site to give students the opportunity to see what their project might look like in several years time. Though the site was flourishing, so were the weeds – our main project task of the day would be removing these weeds to reduce competition with the planted natives.

We played a round of PVC golf to get our mentor teams working together before beginning our restoration work. Chris Carlson explained that there would be two main project tasks that day – weeding and digging. He showed students how to identify three common weeds – cheeseweed, hemlock, and mustard – before demonstrating how to use the hoes to efficiently remove them. We also discussed the ambitious digging portion of the project – in order to install two barn owl boxes, two deep, narrow holes needed to be dug. While some mentor groups weeded, others used post hole diggers and shovels to dig a four-foot-deep hole in the earth. Once the hole reached a four-foot depth, some students were excited to test it out and climbed in up to their shoulders!

Before installing the owl boxes, mentor Luke Petersen gave a wonderful talk about barn owls and why these nest boxes are so important. Mentor groups worked together to hoist the posts into the holes as Jeff of Solano RCD secured them in place. Then it was time to mix concrete! Instead of a cement mixer, Rio Vista students used shovels to mix the concrete and secure the post. By mornings end, the area was looking nearly weed-free, and two barn owl boxes were standing tall!

Students then had the opportunity to interview mentors about their education and career paths before sitting down to reflect and write a thank you note to someone who made their SLEWS experience possible. Many students ended up thanking their mentors, who by then had spent three field days guiding them. And several students ended up writing and distributing several thank you notes!

Cheers to a wonderful last field day at Petersen Ranch!

Wonderful Time At Halos


FARMS Program | Kern County |April 2, 2019

Participating Schools
Frontier High School
Bakersfield Christian High School
Independence High School

Students had a great opportunity to see the Halo process from field to packing box. We started at the McFarland Halo Ranch learning about Safety, Ranch Management, and Pest Control. Then, we traveled to Delano to the packing facility and the iconic picture in front of the “Blue Box”.

We divided into two groups where students could have more interactions with the Wonderful Staff. Students were trained on the warning symbols used on signage and labels to communicate risk.

Signage for Risk – Give an example!

Then we were able to see and understand the process of the spray rig management in regards to safety and staff logistics with night spraying with Johnny Magana, Spray Manager, and Larry Minor, Shop Supervisor.

Next, we walked to their shop where learning to put things back where they belong isn’t just a chore at home, but a life skill. It is critical to keeping the workplace safe and it also helps the bottom line as inventory is always up to date. Manager of Technical Operations, James Lundgren, shared his career journey with the students. He is a wealth of knowledge and loves what he does!

Students were very interested in the number of careers and opportunities Wonderful provides for their employees. Truly is a Wonderful place to work! The employees there love their jobs and have great pride in the company. This is evident as they talk and students could see their passion for coming to work each day.

We then switched places with the other group. We had Jesse Castanon – Farming Manager and James Lundergan – Pest Control Advisor on board. They shared their heart for the company which was equally magnetic. We stopped the bus and unloaded to the beautiful aroma of citrus blossoms. In the citrus orchard, students learned about the purpose of netting the trees to affect seedless citrus. They also were led to look at clues, clues that would tell you what type of pest us attempting to take up residence.

We all loaded back into the bus to gather as a group for lunch on our way to the “Big Blue Box”, the packing facility. This highly visible box can be seen from Hwy 99 and it is a coveted photo for most Ag students.

The Big Blue Box

Once we unloaded from the bus in Delano, we walked through their main offices to get to the packing plant. Even their offices smell like oranges! We were led on a fantastic tour of their 11 football field sized plant. It was huge! Photos are not allowed inside the plant however the sizing belts were breathtakingly large! This photo is from their website:

How do we get all the same size Halos?

The staff was welcoming and generous! The citrus was tasty and so interesting to learn about. The smell was amazing! It was a great day! Thank you, Wonderful Company, for a great day!

Food Waste and Urban Gardens

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | March 28, 2019

Participating Schools:

  • Gonzales High School
  • North Salinas High School
  • Soledad High School
  • Watsonville High School

Location(s):

  • Johnson Canyon Landfill, 31400 Johnson Canyon Rd, Gonzales, CA
  • Sun Street Transfer Station, 139 Sun St, Salinas, CA
  • Rescate Verde, 669 East Market St. Salinas, Ca

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Patrick Mathews – Salinas Valley Recycles
  • Estela Gutierrez – Salinas Valley Recycles
  • Nicolas Chavez – Rescate Verde Community Garden

Summary of the Day:

Food Waste is not something that is talked about regularly in Agriculture, but the different types of wastes produced by the Ag industry will have to go someplace. Salinas Valley Recycles (SVR) knows just where to put it. At first thought, you may think everything goes to the landfill to be buried forever but many students in FARMS Leadership were surprised to learn that it doesn’t all go in the ground. SVR gave us a tour of the Johnson Canyon Landfill as we talked with Patrick Mathews about the different kinds of waste he sees from the Agricultural industry. Anything from plastics to food waste to food trapped in plastic; Patrick and his team try to find different ways to minimize what they put into the ground. Students saw an innovative machine called a De-Packer that takes foods that are still in their packaging, like canned foods or bagged salad greens, and separates the food waste from the container. The food waste is then composted and turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer.

After the landfill, we all headed to Salinas to learn more about composting and some of the ways consumers can turn their kitchen scraps into plant food. A quick tour of Sun Street Transfer Station ended in a garden where students learned about small scale backyard composting with worms, also known as vermicomposting. Estella took some time to encourage students to begin to think about the waste they create and how they can reuse items, reduce their consumption and teach others. Estela regularly teaches others to compost in El Jardin El Sol learning garden located at the SVR Offices and at many other gardens throughout the county.

Another way to reduce waste is to grow your own food and community gardens can provide support to those interested in doing so. Nicolas Chavez spoke to students about his community garden and how it got started and why. Students were able to cut fresh greens and herbs to take home and they tasted the many flavors in the garden all without any packaging or single-use plastic.

A Rainy Spring day at Petersen Ranch

Rio Vista High School at Petersen Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 20, 2019

Participating School
Rio Vista High School

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District

Mentors
Carolyn Kolstad, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Emily Snider, UCD graduate student
Matthew Young, Fish Biologist, California Water Science Center, USGS
Luke Petersen, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS

Summary of the Day
The first day of spring was the second day out in the field for Rio Vista students at Petersen Ranch, but the weather turned out to be more wintry than we’d hoped – it was a light steady rain for most of the day, and windy as well. So windy, in fact, that during opening circle the pop-up canopy that was sheltering the breakfast table went tumbling across the field! It took several mentors chasing it down and affixing it to the side of the truck before we could continue.

We played a round of group juggle to familiarize ourselves with names before Chris Carlson of Solano RCD demonstrated our tasks for the day. It was too muddy to access our original site, so we were at a different location on Petersen Ranch to put the finishing touches on an existing project – weeding around previous planted trees and shrubs, planting grass and forb plugs, and installing emitters for all of these native plant species. Students worked through a rainy morning before breaking for lunch. Most students ate their burritos sheltered by the RCD trailer!

After lunch, there was a fun surprise – mentor Matt Young and his colleague MJ Farruggia had caught some fish near our field site. MJ showed students several species of native and non-native fish including mosquitofish, largemouth bass, Sacramento pikeminnow, and bigscale logperch. Groups rotated between MJ and Matt, who explained what he does as a fish biologist while teaching students how to use a casting net. Students were thrilled to catch Western mosquitofish and a fathead minnow in the drainage ditch near our planting site and almost every student remarked that this was their favorite part of the day!

We didn’t get the weather you would expect on the first day of spring, but mentors were so impressed that they didn’t hear one complaint or even comments about the unpleasant, rainy weather.

‘Till the cows come home

FARMS Leadership| Tehama County | March 19, 2019

Location of Field Day
Gerber, CA

Field Day Host
Bryce Borror 
Linda Borror
Bill Borror

Participating Schools
Red Bluff High School
Mercy High School
Los Molinos High School
Corning High School

Theme
Modern Farming and Sustainability

Summary of the Day:

The morning began with perfect weather! The students were very excited for the experience at hand. They watched with much anticipation and wide eyes while the cowboys finished bringing in the first group pairs. Linda Borror was preparing the table with vaccines, tattoo equipment, a drench gun for worming as well as her binder full of records on each cow and calf.

Once the cows were sorted from calves, we huddled around Linda and Bryce to hear a brief history of Tehama Angus as well as what our jobs were going to be and why this was so important. Tehama Angus raises registered Angus cattle and focuses on providing quality seedstock (bulls) that excel in maternal quality to cattlemen across the county. Bryce explained to the students the importance of herd health and the investment they needed to make into their stock to result in the highest quality product to their consumer. So today the students were going to join the crew and help by vaccinating, worming, tattooing, weighing, and recording all this data on a group of about 75 calves that were about to be weaned from their mommas.

As things started rolling, the students really got into a grove and The Borror Family truly let the kids dive in and become part of the crew. They all took turns at each task and learned how to rotate as well as work together to make things run smoothly and efficiently. It was more than just learning how to worm, vaccinate, tattoo, and record, it was learning the skills of seeing a hole and filling it, picking up the slack if someone was falling behind, helping others, teamwork. Once we had finished processing the last calf, and then run the cows through to get weights and measurements on them, we braked for lunch and enjoyed a wonderful taco bar that Mrs Linda Borror had prepared!

After lunch, Bryce Borror took us for a tour on the hay wagon of the entire ranch. He explained to the students how important it is in current times especially to be very divers in your farming. Tehama Angus not only raises registered angus cattle, they also farm hay, grow almonds and walnuts, and are sustainable by having solar power that generates much of their electricity. Students asked many great questions as we watched Mr Bill Borror fertilize an irrigated pasture that is used to grow hay, then pasture cattle on as well as when we ended in their feed shed and saw the grinder/mixer that they mix their own feed rations in and were explained the importance of a balanced ration when raising quality seedstock.

Over this year these students have grown so much and today they shined! Tehama Angus was very impressed with the students which says a lot and we greatly appreciate the time and opportunity they gave to us today. Thank you Tehama Angus, we greatly appreciate your parntership!

Nursery & Greenhouse Management

On Tuesday, March 19, 2019, the South Central Valley group of the FARMS Leadership Program ended their year at TSL & Seed in Huron, CA. The schools represented at this field day were Lindsay High School, El Diamante High School and Mt. Whitney High School.
Upon arrival, students met with their coordinator Katie Wortman for a daily agenda, breakfast and to sign the thank yous for the day’s speakers. 3 students were today’s leadership team. Their job was to meet and introduce our speakers as well as help with organizing lunch clean up and thanking our speakers at the end of the day.

The FARMS theme for the day was learning about Greenhouse and Nursery Management. Students engage in experiential learning that demonstrates the balance between ag production, they learned about the size and scope including the economic impact of the agricultural industry in the county, state, and nation. Students also gained an understanding of the natural resources used in agriculture production and the ecological impact on the environment. We were excited to learn that the high humidity and misting water system was low usage at the 9 greenhouses on the property. Students were able to see the entire process of sewing seeds and see the different stages of those seeds and finally seeing them planted in the fields.

Ice cream in the Capay Valley

Woodland High School at Pharm Schaer
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 14, 2019

Participating School
Woodland High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Candice Schaer

Mentors
Fanny Ye, Soil Conservationist, NRCS
Gina Radieve, Environmental Scientist, California Department of Water Resources
Miles Daprato, Environmental Steward for UCD Campus Planning and Environmental Stewardship Department

Summary of the Day
For our last field day out in the beautiful Capay Valley (Guinda, to be exact) Woodland High students arrived as they always do – ready to WORK! Our task for the day was mulching around the 170 native plants on the perimeter of Candy Schaer’s property. Mulching will give these plants a better chance of survival as it will reduce weed growth and moisture loss around these young plants.

Before we could get started, we gathered for opening circle and a few rounds of PVC golf. Then Alex Tremblay of Yolo County Resource Conservation District showed students how to properly mulch, putting cardboard around the base and then spreading nearly a wheelbarrow full of mulch around each individual plant. This was quite the task, as the irrigation line was 1400 feet long – meaning full wheelbarrows needed to be carted all that way, over and over again!

Luckily Woodland students were eager to tackle this ambitious project and quickly settled into an efficient routine. Some students took on the task of laying down cardboard and spreading mulch, while others loaded up wheelbarrows, while others volunteered to be the “muscle”, pushing heavy, full wheelbarrows all the way to the end of the line. Students switched tasks when they got tired, but many students enjoyed the hard work and wanted to be wheelbarrow-pushers for the entire morning. One student kept everyone entertained by speaking in a southern accent and giving herself a funny nickname!

After a well-deserved lunch, Candy had a fun surprise for the students – ice cream she had made, leftover from the Capay Valley Almond Festival! This was a wonderful treat for our last field day, and was especially delicious after such a busy morning.

After lunch students had a chance to interview mentors to learn more about their education and career paths. Since many of these students are about to graduate and start their own journeys, interviewing mentors is a fantastic opportunity to learn about careers in the environmental sciences, and get advice from professionals in the field. To close the day, we gathered to reminisce on our favorite memories from the past three Field Days. Thank you to the small but mighty crew of students from Woodland High!