An impressive day of planting at Sequoia Farms

Davis High School at Sequoia Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | November 30, 2018

Participating School
Davis High School

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District
National Center for Appropriate Technology
Sequoia Farms

Mentors
Amanda Lindell, UC Davis graduate student
Arthur Barros, UC Davis graduate student
Claire Kouba, UC Davis graduate student
Elaine Swiedler, California Farm Academy Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning

Summary of the Day
After a very rainy Thursday, I was concerned about the weather for Davis High’s first Field Day at Sequoia Farms, an organic walnut orchard located in Dixon. Luckily we were treated to a gorgeous day, with a bit of mud for good measure!

Since the orchard perimeter was too muddy to access by vehicle, students donned yellow rain bibs and mud boots for the walk to our field site. On the way, students got an up close view of the orchard, and asked great questions about walnut grafting (“Why does the bottom of the trunk look different than the top?” – we prefer to eat English Walnuts, but native Black Walnuts are more resistant to regional diseases and pests; fusing them together gives farmers the best of both worlds) and walnut growth (“Where are all the walnuts?!” – they had recently been harvested).

At our opening circle, mentors and restoration partners introduced themselves and their education and career paths, and we played a game of “Group Juggle” to learn everyone’s names. Rex Dufour of NCAT gave a great presentation on some of the beneficial insects that our plants will help attract. Then we split into mentor groups to learn the names and characteristics of 6 of the native plants we’d be planting including toyon, coffeeberry, deergrass, rabbitbrush, lilac and coyote brush. We played a game called “steal the native plant” where mentor groups competed to be the first to identify the native plant.

Next it was time to learn how to plant! Rex Dufour gave an informative demonstration on the best way to plant these natives to give them the best chance at survival and groups of students spread out with their mentors to get started. Davis students completed way more of the work than we thought possible and by the end of the morning they’d planted 600 plants!

After lunch, each student chose a walnut tree to lean against as they reflected in their Field Journals, writing a postcard to themselves about the day. After the walk back to change out of raingear, we had a brief closing circle to end the day. Students remarked that they would remember the hard work they did, and that they felt helpful and productive restoring the ecosystem.

NRCS Plant Material Center

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: November 29th, 2018

Location: Lockeford, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Margaret Smither-Kopperl
Matthew Bronson, PMC Farm Manager

Theme: Ecology and Habitat Conservation

 Summary of the Day:

The San Joaquin FARMS Leadership Students had no intentions of letting a little rain stop them from learning about Ecology and Habitat Conservation at the Plant Material Center (PMC) in Lockeford, Ca. Although our plans did change due to the rain and heavy winds that rolled in, we had a fun filled day learning a lot about what happens in the daily operations at the Natural Resource Center. The day started out with a tour of the facilities led by Matthew Bronson the Farm Manager at the PMC. The students were able to see and learn about the different equipment used, tractors, and even were able to walk through the seed library where numerous amounts of native California plant seeds are stored.

 

After Matthew’s tour the students gathered in the PMC’s office meeting room where they were broken up into groups to team project. The Project they all worked on was to draft a landscape at the PMC using a variety of different native plants. The students were given a list of native plants as well as books and information on each plant so that they could design the landscape of an actual area of land that the PMC has that needs to be re-planted. Once the groups finished their designs we took a lunch break.

 

Following our lunch break Margaret Smither-Kopperl took over to discuss the different plants the students chose. She then gave us a tour of the property where the students were able to see examples of the plants they chose and take cuttings from each plant along the way. Once each group had a handful of cuttings from the plants the chose they were able to work with Matthew and Margaret to prep the cuttings and plant them into the green house so that the PMC could utilize them in the landscape that the students designed.

 

Rain or shine, we lay the line!

Winters High School at Winters Putah Creek Nature Park Extension
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | November 27, 2018

Participating School
Winters High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Putah Creek Council
City of Winters

Mentors
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Denise Colombano, UCD graduate student
Karin Young, Education Program Manager, Putah Creek Council
Marisa Alcorta, Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning
Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA

Summary of the Day
This year we have a SLEWS project in our hometown of Winters – with Winters High School! This project is part of the Winters Putah Creek Nature Park, on land donated to the City of Winters by PG&E. Putah Creek Council and Yolo County Resource Conservation District are involving several groups with the restoration projects, and we’re excited to have SLEWS be part of the process.

On the rainy Tuesday after Thanksgiving, we held our first Field Day at this site. The goal for the day was lofty – installing almost a mile of drip irrigation! Having an irrigation system installed before planting will give our plants the best chance of survival, and because drip irrigation provides each plant with an individual water source, will help prevent excess weed growth and reduce evaporative water loss.

After breakfast and opening circle, students worked as a team to roll out the irrigation tubing. This involved each student carrying a 20-40 foot section of the line – sometimes up to 1000 feet total! Once all the sections of line were rolled out, we divided into mentor groups to install emitters and staple down the line. Groups worked in teams to measure every 20 feet to place a flag (the location of the trees and shrubs we’ll plant in two weeks), poke holes in the line, secure the line to the ground, and install an emitter – this will ensure that each plant receives 2 gallons per hour of water when watered.

We weren’t sure students would finish the entire line – again, it was almost a mile in length, and rain was coming down! – but to our surprise they finished the work at noon on the dot. Perhaps the promise of a burrito at the finish line was good motivation?

Despite the rain, students were excited to walk all the way to Putah Creek to look for spawning salmon after lunch. On the way one student commented on how nice the area will look once the oak trees are planted. Mentor Karin Young of Putah Creek Council led a discussion on salmon breeding habits, Putah Creek Restoration, and why we are seeing salmon in this watershed. Unfortunately we didn’t see any salmon today, but  many students remarked that this was their favorite part of the whole Field Day!

Thank you to all mentors, partners, and students for being troopers on a wet Field Day – we walked over 4 miles in our work according to one mentor’s FitBit!

Holy Cow! A Mooovement Toward Sustainability

FARMS Leadership | Kern County | November 13, 2018

Lakeview Farms
17702 Bear Mountain Blvd, Bakersfield, CA 93311

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
B.J. Schoneveld, Owner Lakeview Farms
Roy Dowd, Director – CalBio Energy Facility O&M, & Digester Research
Jamie Jarrett Ph.D., Dairy Nutritionist – Alpha Dairy Consulting

Theme:
Science in Agriculture

Summary of the Day:
Students from Frontier High School, West High School, Independence High School, Ridgeview High School, and Bakersfield Christian High School gathered for breakfast at the Kern County Ag Pavilion, after we loaded the bus to head out to Lakeview Dairy. When we arrived, we hit the ground running with an overview of the 9,500 head dairy farm and a tour of the milk house. Owner, B.J. Schoneveld, shared the technology used using the EID Ear Tag Reader. Students were able to see reports generated from the field with the EID Tag Reader and learn about the importance of tracking health and genetics. Students then walked to the barns where cows were served their morning feed. They were shocked with how many things they recognized in the feed – carrots, cotton, and almond hulls. They smelled the sourness of the feed. We noticed the temperature of the barn. Mr Schoneveld has tried a new approach with the cows in climate control. He has placed share cloth and fans strategically in the barn to not only keep the cows cool, but to keep their food cooler as well. This has made a huge difference in their production and feed intake. Cows like eating cooler feed. Happy cows make happy milk. We then went into the newborn calf pen where students were able to touch and take photos with the newly born calves. These calves are shipped to Hanford where they will be fed and cared for until they are old enough to return to the dairy for milk production. After touring the barns, we met Roy Dowd who introduced us to the manure digester.

Lakeview’s partnership with California Bioenergy is a cutting edge approach to sustainability. Not only does it process the manure, allowing the farm to recycle the solid matter for bedding, but it also allows them to use the liquid to create energy through bacteria and gas production. The water that is cycled through then is used to clean parts of the dairy. This approach will allow them to partner with other diaries creating a cohort of dairies who will be working with PG&E on the energy output, thus getting paid for the energy they create. We discussed the many careers in this up and coming field. Mr. Dowd was born and raised in went to college in Bakersfield. Learning about how he achieved his goals was a learning for the students. What’s more appetizing that discussing manure? We were served a fantastic lunch provided by Lakeview Farms. During lunch we met Nutritionist, Jamie Jarrett.

She shared her career journey with the students and the colleges she attended. She was an alumni of one of our participating high schools which was a connection point for students. She then took us to the feed area. Here there were mountains of ingredients/commodities used in the cow feed. She brought out 4 buckets of different mixed feed and discussed the fat content and nutritional value of each mix. She had students pick up a handful and share what they saw and asked why they thought they might feed that item. Items included carrots that they get from neighboring farms as well as almond hulls. Students have eaten carrots but almond hulls a new idea for them. Students know about almonds, but not in their natural state – coming from a shell and hull. We talked about the sustainability this offers – where nothing is wasted. Students came away with an understanding of the care and efforts made to get milk into our homes. They learned about the science used to make a smaller footprint on the earth. They also learned about the sustainability efforts being made by other farmers, like the almond farmer, to be sure that nothing is wasted.

Students learn about the parts of the milk house and the tests run to keep our food safe.

Cooling the Barn and the Affects on the Cows.

A very blustery day at Clark Ranch!

SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | November 8, 2018

Participating School
Grant Union High School

Location
Clark Ranch 2 in Davis, CA – the southern of two projects at this site

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

Mentors
Amelia Munson, UC Davis graduate student
Jen Metes, Research Associate, Consero Solutions
Julea Shaw, UC Davis graduate student
Ha Truong, NRCS Agricultural Engineer
Mandi Finger, Associate Director, Genomic Variation Lab

Summary of the Day
The morning of our first SLEWS Field Day of the season brought an unexpected and unwelcome surprise – 25 MPH winds! Luckily, Grant Union students arrived with great attitudes and were eager to get started on the restoration task of the day.

Using a barn as a windbreak, students enjoyed breakfast before we gathered together for a SLEWS tradition – the opening circle. Bruce Rominger, President of Rominger Brothers Farms, joined us to introduce the project site and talk about how the restoration work the students were about to begin would positively impact his almond and walnut orchards. Students, mentors, restoration partners, and Center for Land-Based Learning staff introduced themselves, and we played a game called “Where the Wind Blows” to identify commonalities within our group.

After opening circle, it was time to brave the wind and get started on our project for the day – installing a drip irrigation system! Drip irrigation will provide each plant with an individual water source, preventing excess weed growth and conserving water. Staff from Yolo Resource Conservation District showed the mentor groups how to poke holes in the line to push in “emitters”, which will regulate the water flow to each individual plant. Each group installed emitters on a section of the planting area, and when everyone finished it was time to check their work. Alex Hasbach, Farm Manager of Rominger Brothers Farms, turned on the irrigation system much to everyone’s amusement – in spots where emitters weren’t properly installed, water shot everywhere! Luckily, Grant students did an excellent job and there were few of these “sprinklers” to be found.

Finally it was time to break for a much-anticipated (and much-deserved) burrito lunch. After lunch, Caring for Our Watersheds Coordinator Beth Del Real led students in an activity to help them visualize the earth’s water supply, and why water conservation is so important. Students were each given a blank puzzle piece representing an area of land to develop as they wished – some built giant mansions, others created water reservoirs, and one student even built an ice cream shop! Once we assembled the puzzle, we had a great visual of a watershed and discussed how the developments they made might affect the water supply.

Thanks for an incredible first Field Day, Grant Union students, mentors, and project partners!

Premier Mushrooms and Colusa Industrial Properties

FARMS Leadership | North State | November 6, 2018

Location of Field Day:
Premier Mushrooms and Colusa Industrial Properties
Colusa, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
John Ashbaugh – Premier Mushrooms, CEO
Chris Krebs – Premier Mushrooms, Chief Operating Officer
Kevin Foley – Premier Mushrooms, Sustainability Programs Manager
Ed Hulbert – Colusa Industrial Properties, CEO

Theme: Sustainability

Summary of the Day:
The North State FARMS Leadership Program began our field days for the 2018-2019 school year at Colusa Industrial Properties and Premier Mushroom in Colusa, California. Premier Mushrooms employees the largest number of people within Colusa Industrial Properties (CIP) at around 230 employees. They are also operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The FARMS Leadership students were given an introduction to Premier Mushrooms by Chris Krebs, the Chief Operating Officer. Then the students were split up into 3 groups and taken on tours of the facilities. During the tour the students were able to see many different jobs throughout the operation. They were also able to learn about the different varieties of mushrooms and see them at many different stages. After touring the main facilities and seeing different grow rooms we traveled over to the processing and packaging facility for a tour. Concluding our tours, we went back over to CIP for lunch and the FARMS Leadership students were joined by some of the staff from Premier Mushrooms. The staff all gave presentations on where they came from, how they ended up working at Premier Mushrooms, and what they do for the company now. They were all very insightful and the students were able to see a wide range of backgrounds and employees. After lunch Ed Hulbert, the CEO of Colusa Industrial Properties, joined us and discussed with the students the background of CIP and talked about the different companies there and CIP’s connection to Premier Mushrooms.

 

“One thing I didn’t know about mushrooms that I learned today was the mass quantities in which they grow in a short period of time.” – Madi D. (Marysville High School)

 

“Something I learned from this field day was that it takes at least 15 days to make good compost.” – Katie W. (Pierce High School).

 

Sierra Pacific Industries

FARMS Leadership| Tehama County | November 6, 2018

Location of Field Day:
Richfield, CA

Field Day Host:
Sierra Pacific Industries – Becky Roe and Kristy Lanham

Participating Partners:
Bill Carol, Joe Puentes, Christina Max, Jeff Jackman, Jim Hansen

Theme:
Technology and Manufacturing

Summary of the Day:
After such a severe wildfire year in CA, it was very fitting to visit Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) and learn from one of the leaders in the logging and lumber industry what really happens to all those burnt trees after a major forest fire such as the Carr Fire.

Spending our day at SPI Richfield we were exposed to two different processing facilities: their remanufacturing plant and one of their millwork plants. Students broke up into two groups and had to opportunity to tour one of the plants and then did a speaking activity by presenting to the other group as well as SPI staff what they learned, careers they saw and what their favorite part was. Learning skills such as public speaking, preparing a presentation in a short amount of time, as well as how to collaborate with other students are all an important part of our FARMS Field Days. Some of the key things they learned exploring the facilities were:

“The wood in the Millwork was cut into small pieces and glued back together to form bigger pieces, then they press the wood to keep it’s form.”                                                                                                              – Melanie Flores, Orland High School Student

“Some of the jobs in the Reman facility are: chain pullers, banding, optimizer operator, and forklift driver.”                                                   -Zach Skaggs, Red Bluff High School Student

 

SPI and Red Emmerson are the largest private land owner with over 2 million acres of land between California and Washington. Therefore, they have very detailed processes and procedures for how they handle their land after a wildfire has roared through. Joe Puentes, one of their lead foresters, gave a wonderful presentation on the importance forest management and how they manage their forests differently being a private company versus a government agency as well as the extreme urgency of time to replant the forests and restore the environmental balance as quickly as possible.

“After a fire they replant double to amount of trees.”                            – Clayton Cox, Corning High School Student

” 12,000 trees a day can be planted for a crew of 12 laborers!”           – Forrest Powell, Los Molinos High School