The land calls yee-haw!

Mar Vista High’s Poseidon Academy at the Tijuana River Valley Community Garden

SLEWS Program | San Diego County | May 11, 2019 | Field day 3

Participating School: Mar Vista High School

Location: Tijuana River Valley Community Garden in Southwest San Diego

Land Manager: Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County

Mentors:

  • Samantha Cook, San Diego State graduate in Sustainability
  • Christine Lambert, Associate Archaeologist & Project Manager, Petra Resource Management
  • Emanuel Storey, San Diego State doctoral student in Geography
  • Thomas Strand, Environmental Planner, Chambers Group, Inc.

Summary of the day

Mar Vista students and their teacher arrived for our third and final SLEWS field day on a drizzly Saturday morning. Despite the light rain, everyone seemed ready for a day spent outdoors and not a single complaint was heard!

As usual, the day started with an icebreaker activity. This time, we divided the group in two for a friendly game of ‘flip the tarp’. Students had to stay on the tarp, working as a group to figure out how to flip it over without stepping off. This definitely got everyone moving and thinking!

The field work of the day was centered on planting. We returned to the hedgerow first to survey the plants and bee nesting blocks installed last time, then divided into mentor groups for our legacy project. Each group planted a pomegranate seedling into the hedgerow, made a gopher cage to protect it, and designed a plant marker for their tree. Some groups even named their tree! We hope students will come back over the years to visit the pomegranates and watch them grow. While planting, we observed many insects – most notably a wolf spider mother with her babies riding on her back. This was a first time sighting for most of us, and a really fun and interesting discovery.

Next, we moved to the Carbon Farming Demonstration plot which the students learned about during their first field day. Each group planted a bed of either broccoli, leeks, bok choy, or red cabbage and leaned about growing from starts. This led us up to lunch. As students filed out of the plot, they were invited to pick snap peas to taste. Some commented they had never picked and eaten fresh vegetables before. They seemed to really enjoy the experience!

We gathered for our lunch of sandwiches from Jersey Mike’s (on the request of the students), and chatted while we ate. After lunch, we headed back to the hedgerow for a plant ID activity and to further investigate the differences between the plants growing there. Then it was back to the carbon farming plot to sow some sunflower seeds, with the intention of attracting beneficial insects to the plot.

Last field day we ran out of time for reflection and wanted to be sure we included ample time for this element. Students gathered back into their mentor groups and worked on haikus about their SLEWS experience. They were encouraged to both write haikus on their own and with their group. Students and mentors volunteered to share their haikus at the end. It was fun hearing what everyone came up with. Here is one example: The clouds were sad today | Promise looked beautiful, now | The land calls yee-haw!

After reflection, it was time to wrap up our SLEWS experience with Mar Vista. We held our final closing circle, inviting everyone to say one word about the day or their experience as a whole. Words like fun, amazing, thank you, beautiful, sunshine, and gratitude were used. We certainly are grateful for our inaugural SLEWS program – to Mar Vista for participating and for our mentors for being such excellent role models. We can’t wait until the next time!

Accomplishments:

  • 4 pomegranate seedlings planted, gopher caged, and mulched in the hedgerow
  • Planted 4 beds of veggie starts in the Carbon Farming Demo Plot
  • Planted 2 beds of sunflower seeds in the CF Demo Plot
  • Many awesome haikus written – each student wrote three on average

A Berry Good Day

FARMS Leadership| Tehama County | May 16, 2019

Location of Field Day
Red Bluff, CA

Field Day Host
Melissa Macfarlane
Shannon Lambert
Chris Hunter

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

Theme
Technology

Summary of the Day:
To wrap up the Tehama County FARMS Leadership year, we were treated to a “berry good day” at Driscoll’s. Students arrived eager to pick and eat strawberries straight from the field. Little did they know that at the Red Bluff Driscoll’s nursery location, it is just that….a nursery. Their focus is growing the plants that will then get shipped to growers all over the world, who then plant them in fields to grow berries for our eating. However, in true Driscoll’s fashion, breakfast consisted of platters of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries with yogurt and granola to enjoy the best parfait’s they ever have had.

Melissa Macfarlane welcomed us with a great presentation about Driscoll’s as a company and explained just what they did at their nursery and why it is so important. Students learned the difference between a “sibling” and a “clone” as well as why it was necessary for the farmers to be planting clones and not siblings. She then turned it over to Chris, who gave a presentation on “mapping” and the technology that is associated with it. He went over: What is a map? The difference between a geographical map and position map and then introduced the students to what our hands on tasks would be for the day once we broke up into 3 groups.

Each group explored a different job that takes place at the nursery. One group went out into the field and learned what goes into planning how many plants a farmer is going to need and just how to go about planting and multiplying those plants on the nursery level. Another group spent their time in “the office” learning all that goes into mapping from the computer level and the importance of data collection in the field being entered into their system correctly. They also had the opportunity to identify a problem, and learn the procedure for correcting the problem and communicating with other staff the changes that were made and corrections that needed to take place out in the nursery. The last group went out to one of the screen-houses and did a map check validation. They were shown how the plants are planted into bins and then maintained to allow for optimal growth of daughter plants. Then they were given a map which they needed to review and check that the information printed was actually what was physically in the screen-house. They did such an excellent job and found 4 corrections that needed to be made.

Once we all gathered again, the groups took time to prepare a power point presentation to share with their fellow FARMS members what they learned and why it was important. This entire field day was fabulous at showing the importance of technology and how high tech farming is. Each student was encouraged to continue to expand their computer skills and knowledge throughout their education because agriculture as an industry is very progressive and continues to grow with our times.

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!

Mechanized Ag with JG Boswell

FARMS Program | Kern County | May 6, 2019

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

Our last field day was spent touring JG Boswell’s Kern Operation. We were greeted by Joey Mendonca – Kern County Ranch Manager and Charlie Riddle – Kern Lake District Manager.

Students witnessed the tomato transplanting process. The transplanter’s speed is set and a person refills the transplanter with the small tomato plants. Students commented on the efficiency of the process. The settings are precise for the depth of the soil and measured spacing between plants.

Transplanting in Action

We discussed the irrigation methods and how drip tape is the most efficient use for these tomatoes. We walked to the field next store where the tomatoes were a bit older. You could smell the freshness of the tomato plants. We talked about varieties of tomatoes. The field we were standing in and learning about were Roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are bred to have thicker skin for shipping. They are known as “canning tomatoes” but because of their great taste, they began marketing them as Roma tomatoes. We talked about harvesting as well and how critical the handling can be for tomatoes.

Characteristics of Roma Tomatoes

We walked over to the neighboring safflower field. Students were able to pick a sample and feel the prickly outer shell. Inside is the yellow flower that we eventually see blooming as we are driving. To battle pests, they use a sweep net attached to a vacuum. This vacuum pulls the pests off the plant and they are able to study and treat based upon their findings. It was a very creative and resourceful tool!

Studying Safflower

As with any farming operation, irrigation and water management is key. Boswell’s resourceful water management practices are critical given the regulations that are being placed on farming operations in California. We toured the pump area and taught us about the construction of the different pumps and the technology involved to manage it. Joey Mendonca and Max Bricker – Water Dept. Project Manager gave a historical and current view on Kern County water. JG Boswell has its own water department that helps them to understand and implement these complicated regulations.

Touring the Pump Station

We arrived at the shop where Assistant Shop Manager, Aaron Flores and his team BBQ’d an amazing spread for us. During lunch, Human Resources Coordinator, Christina Martinez talked to students and staff about application processes and the pitfalls associated with social media.

After lunch, it was time to tour the equipment! We were able to explore the heavy equipment including the astounding Cotton Harvester! Students were asked about the size and cost guestimates of some of the equipment. They were shocked at the expense! Students loved seeing all of the technology built into the tractors too. There is another piece of equipment that pumps the water from one canal into another. It is a huge piece of equipment that is amazingly run by only two workers!

Our last stop was to the onion fields. Slavo Pavlovic, an Agronomist at Boswell, taught the students about planting, irrigating and harvesting of onions. It was a very informative day networking with the staff at JG Boswell!

Seeds by Design at Emerald Farms

FARMS Leadership Program: North State: May 1, 2019

Location of Field Day: Maxwell, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Leon Etchepare
Patty Buskirk
Andrew Pentecost

Theme: Seed Production

Summary of the Day:

For our final field day of the 2018-2019 school year the North State FARMS Leadership Program visited Emerald Farms. We began our day with an introduction from Leon, Andrew and Patty. They also served the students some breakfast snacks, which included a sampling of one of their new products, Maple Walnut Butter. One of the new entities of Emerald Farms is their walnut butter production line named Wellnut Farms.

After our introductions we headed down the road to the first set of crops we visited for the day. Patty took over and explained her duties as a plant breeder and the science used behind the decisions she makes to produce the best seeds for her clients and customers. The first crop we looked at was a crop of Purple carrots. Unlike many farms, Patty’s goal with her crops is to market the produce but instead to create the best seeds. This enterprise much like Wellnut Farms is also a part of Emerald Farms but is named Seeds by Design. Next we toured a variety of different crops and then Patty, Leon, and Andrew passed around jars of seeds for each of the crops we looked at so the students could see all stages of the crops and the differences between them.

Next we toured Emerald Farms Almond and Walnut Orchards. The students learn some of the different practices used within the production each of the orchards. We then were given a tour of the processing facilities. We walked through the huller and dryer and then headed to the warehouse where the new Wellnut Farms walnut butter line is being constructed. We then concluded our tour at the seed mill. We were able to see a variety of different seeds being cleaned, packaged, sorted and stored. Thank you to all of the staff at Emerald Farms for a great final field day of the program year.

The final SLEWS day of the (school) year

Sacramento Charter High School at Clark Ranch 1
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 17, 2019

Participating School
Sacramento Charter High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms
Bruce Clark

Mentors
Bob Ream, retired
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Dana Stokes
Jess Rudnick, UC Davis graduate student

Summary of the Day
For the final Field Day with Sacramento Charter High School (and final Field Day of the 2018 – 2019 SLEWS season!) we were back at our original site, Clark Ranch. Our first Field Day was here back in December, but for our second day we installed irrigation at a site in Woodland. It had been over 4 months since our day at this site and it was remarkable how much had changed. In December the site was so muddy we couldn’t bring vehicles in, and it rained intermittently throughout the day. This time, it was plenty dry to drive on and at eighty degrees was the hottest SLEWS day of the season!

Students were excited during breakfast to find a native butterfly we identified as a Painted Lady. We played PVC golf to connect with our mentor groups before heading out to see the plants we had planted back in December. As this site had experienced a lot of wind and some flooding with the stormy winter we had, our task was to replace bamboo poles, adjust tubes and emitters, and weed around the plants to increase their chance at survival. One student found caterpillars while working along the hedgerow and wondered if they might be Painted Ladies – the same species we saw earlier in the adult (butterfly) form.

After completing our restoration work, mentor Jessica Rudnick, a UC Davis Graduate Student, led the students in a fun educational activity. She explained that they would be investigative journalists, and their assignment was to figure out how the farm was addressing environmental issues. Students rotated between stations learning about pollination (and native habitat benefits!), weeds and cover crops, irrigation, and predators on the farm. Students got to try immature almonds and were surprised to find they tasted like cucumbers! And appropriately, as mentor Corey Shake was discussing predators on the farm, a Swainson’s Hawk flew overhead.

Once students had had a chance to learn about all aspects of the farm, they compiled their reports. Some students elected to share their findings – one memorable and report was a student who chose to be a critical reporter and delivered a hilariously negative story about the almond orchard.

After lunch, we celebrated student Jordan’s birthday before ending the day with a closing circle. Many students remarked that they really enjoyed seeing how much their plants had grown in the past four months!

Restoration, past and present

Pioneer High School at Jack Rice’s
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 12, 2019

Participating School
Pioneer High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Jack Rice

Mentors
Fanny Ye, Soil Conservationist, NRCS
Francisco Bellido Leiva, UCD graduate student
Miles Daprato, Environmental Steward for UCD Campus Planning and Environmental Stewardship Department
Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA

Summary of the Day
For our second and final day with Pioneer High School, we started not at Jack Rice’s property but at East Regional Pond, a site that underwent a restoration effort several years ago. After a very windy opening circle, Brandon Baker of Yolo County Resource Conservation District led students on a tour around the pond. It was a project he himself worked on, and provided a great example of what restoration projects look like after several year’s growth.

On our journey around the pond, Brandon found the nest of a Killdeer right in the middle of the path! It didn’t look like much, just a few pebbles arranged in a circle – Brandon explained that male killdeer will make a nest to try to woo a female. This one had likely been abandoned, but we did see a killdeer further up the road.

After some time exploring the park, we loaded up and headed to Jack Rice’s to complete our SLEWS project. A few weeks prior, we had planted 180 native plants around the perimeter of his property, and they seemed to be doing well so far. To give them an even better chance at survival, we would be applying a thick layer of mulch around each plant. Jack Rice had moved a several-foot-thick layer of mulch just outside the planting area so students were able to access the soil for the planting day, but now it needed to be moved around to plants to be put to use.

Working in mentor groups and using shovels, pitchforks, and gloved hands, Pioneer students spread out throughout the planting area to mulch the plants. Again, there were many doubts amongst mentors and restoration partners that the work would be completed – the work wasn’t easy, and the planting area long! True to form, Pioneer students finished the project just in time for lunch.

After enjoying delicious burritos, students divided up amongst mentors to ask them questions about their education and career paths. Many students remarked that having the opportunity to learn from professionals in this way was one of their favorite parts of their SLEWS experience. Other favorites included planting, learning about habitat restoration, seeing the killdeer nest, and bonding with classmates – lots of variety!

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 in to 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.

Beneficials at SunView


FARMS Program | Kern County |April 9, 2019

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

The good bugs are eating the bad bugs! These students witnessed this first-hand last year as part of FARMS Leadership’s tour of Bakersfield College back in 2018.

Today, they were able to see partner SunView Vineyards ingenuity on breeding these beneficial bugs! While this isn’t a new practice, it is unusual to have the breeding facility onsite. Other companies tend to buy their predatory mites from a distributor.

We spent the afternoon with Cristina Gomez, Assistant Director of Entomology at Sun View Vineyards. As part of Cristina’s duties, she manages the Beneficial Insectory.

The Predator Mite Greenhouse

We followed Cristina to the greenhouses. The first greenhouse was the breeding ground for the predatory mite. Cristina described how they maintain the environment for breeding. They need humid and warm conditions. We walked out to get a bit of fresh air and then headed into the next greenhouse. This greenhouse is breeding the spider mites to feed the predatory mites. We discussed the irrigation that it takes to maintain the environment as well.

Students were able to meet Marco Zaninovich, Owner and talk about FARMS Leadership and how it has made an impact on them. It was a great afternoon! Thank you, Sun View Vineyards!