Ending the last Field Day with a BANG

Grant Union High at Clark Ranch 2
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 28, 2019

Participating School
Grant Union High School

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

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

Mentors
Jen Metes, Research Associate, Consero Solutions
Julea Shaw, UC Davis graduate student
Mandi Finger, Associate Director, Genomic Variation Lab
Sean McNamara, Manager, Sierra Orchards

Summary of the Day
As you may recall, this winter season had quite a few big storms. Not only did many SLEWS Field Days need to be rescheduled, but some of our sites were damaged by wind and flooding. Perhaps none more than the southern Clark Ranch site, where Grant Union students arrived to find protective tubes missing and roots exposed in much of our planting area!

We warmed up with a game of PVC golf before heading to our planting site to assess the damage. Alex Tremblay of Yolo County Resource Conservation District showed students how to “emergency room triage” each plant. Many plants had exposed roots which needed to be reburied, and others were in need of replacement protective tubes and bamboo stakes. Groups worked in the same section where they planted months prior, and were able to see how their plants were surviving. Before long, the planting area was looking much improved, giving these native species a much better chance at survival.

After lunch, students had the opportunity to interview their mentors about their education and career paths. Groups of students rotated from mentor to mentor asking about their day-to-day work and advice they’d give themselves looking back.

At closing circle, I asked everyone to share their most memorable SLEWS experience. After hearing from just a few students, the weather took a sudden, stormy turn – strong winds started blowing, and rain starting falling. The downpour quickly turned to hail and we were forced to abandon closing circle and race towards the road to meet the bus. The storm only worsened – there we were, in pouring rain and hail, with no cover and a long walk to the bus. Not to mention students had already removed their raingear after a pretty clear day! As we hurried towards the road, we heard thunder in the distance and saw several flashes of lightning. The bus pulled up as soon as we got to the road and the drenched students climbed in. I guess there was no need for a closing circle – after that experience, I think we know what everyone’s most memorable SLEWS experience was!

Though that was a memorable experience, it had tough competition. For me personally, my days with Grant Union High have been some of the memorable of this SLEWS season – my first Field Day EVER was our irrigation day back in November, our second Field Day brought a film crew and some mud-related logistical challenges, and we capped it all off with this crazy thunder and hailstorm. What a year!

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.

Ag Tech Summit

FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | March 27, 2019

Participating Schools:

Soledad High School

Location(s): Hartnell College, 411 Central Ave, 93901

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

Hartnell College

Ag Commissioner’s Office

UC Cooperative Extension

Summary of the Day:

Students had the opportunity to attend the Ag Tech Summit at Hartnell College. This year students spent the morning listening to a series of talks about entomology and pest management happening locally.  

Asian Citrus Psyllid Regulation Update – Tim Lewis, Monterey County Agriculture Commissioner’s Office

Weed Management in Vegetable Crops Using an IPM Approach – Dr. Steven Fennimore, UC Cooperative Extension

Managing Vector Spread of Leaf Roll Virus – Larry Bettiga, UC Cooperative Extension

Over lunch, students had the opportunity to sit down with an industry professional and practice networking as a group. From there we split up into groups to practice networking at the different tabling exhibits. Students met folks from many different industries and ask questions as well as answered questions about themselves and their goals after high school.

After 45 minutes of networking we all came together to discuss the challenges they faced when networking like:

  • Not knowing what to ask as a follow-up question
  • Or asking an awkward follow-up question
  • Overcoming nerves
  • Stumbling on your words

We also covered some of the information they discovered like:

  • Internship opportunities
  • New tech startups
  • Youth programs they can sign up for
  • College programs they can do in the future

Pioneers of planting

Pioneer High School at Jack Rice’s
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 22, 2019

Participating School
Pioneer High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Jack Rice

Mentors
Amanda Lindell, UCD graduate student
Brianne Palmer, UCD graduate student
Francisco Bellido Leiva, UCD graduate student
Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA

Summary of the Day
Due to some mid-year changes, a restoration project opened up a few months ago for a new school to take on. Fortunately for me, AP Biology teacher Kimberly Lumbard of Pioneer High School was eager to give this experience to her students. I visited students in the classroom to talk about SLEWS and the project they would be a part of and just four days later, our project began!

We started the day with a game of Steal the Native Plant because you guessed it – we would be planting native plant species. Sacramento Charter High School had installed an irrigation system several weeks prior, so the area was primed for planting. After learning to identify several species including coffeeberry, wild rose, buckbrush, and fuschia, students competed to be the first to correctly identify the plant. One student impressed us all by rattling off the scientific names of many plants in addition to the common names we were learning!

After a planting demonstration by Alex Tremblay of Yolo County Resource Conservation District, four mentor groups spread out along the irrigation line to plant native trees, shrubs, and forbs. We just expected to plant a portion of the plants – 180 seemed impossible with our smaller group – but surprisingly, Pioneer students finished the project!

After lunch, we played a game of “Who Am I?”. Each student was given a plant or animal ID card and told not to look at it – instead, each student placed the card on their back and asked yes/no questions until they were able to figure out what they were. Once everyone figured out “who” they were, they found another person in the group who they interact with in the wild. We explored the types of symbiotic biological relationships, including mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism before each pair shared their interaction with the group.

At closing circle, students shared their favorite part about the day and one thing they learned. Many students shared that they liked helping the environment and feeling more involved as environmental stewards. One student even remarked he was looking forward to planting native plants at his house!

Water Banking

Program: FARMS Leadership Program

Region: Central Valley North and Central Field

Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2019

Location of Field Day: Meyers Water Bank, Firebaugh CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors: Jason Dean

Theme: Water for Farming

Upon arrival, students ate breakfast and participated in an introduction and Thank You Presentation. Following meeting our host partners, the students watched a video on Meyers Water Bank presentation as well as a Video Display & Discussion led by Jason. We were then joined by a falconer and her 2 birds. She displayed the birds and explained how they are used in rodent control on farms and wildlife preserves. We were then taken to the actual site and enjoyed lunch and a nature walk. Finally, students participated in a hands-on student service project for Meyers Water Bank and then we closed the day with presenting Thank You’s to our hosts.

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 sowing seeds and see the different stages of those seeds and finally seeing them planted in the fields.

Study Close to Home

FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | March 14, 2019

Participating Schools:

Soledad High School

Location(s): CSU Monterey Bay 100 Campus Center Seaside, Ca

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Thomas Harvath – Associate Dean of the College of Science
  • Kali Prescott – Lab Technician at the Haffa Research Lab
  • Alejandro Del Pozo – Cooperative Extension Monterey County – Entomology
  • Scott Fausti – Associate Director of College of Business

Summary of the Day:

It’s college day and students arrived on the CSUMB campus with a smile. During breakfast, we were welcomed to the college by Thomas Harvath who shared his pathway to CSUMB and some of the interests that lead him to a career in education and science. Dr. Harvath spoke about CSUMB and their new Ag Science Major that will no doubt attract many students from our region that want to go to college but have to stay close to home. Next, we met up with Kali Prescott a brilliant young CSUMB graduate who does research at Haffa Labs. She gave us a tour of the Haffa Lab and talked about her current work in Biogeochemistry and Bioremediation. She showed us the equipment that she used to quantify Nitrous Oxide Emissions with samples pulled from farms in the area. The take samples and test for chemicals that may be left behind from fumigation or pesticide applications. Students had some great questions about her research. Seeing a research lab up close and personal was a first for many students and gave students an opportunity to think about whether working in a lab like this might be something they would like to do in the future.

Next on the agenda was a campus tour were students saw dorm rooms and learned about life on campus. We happened to be on campus during finals and the library and classrooms were extremely busy places. Campus life wouldn’t be complete without checking out the dining hall and campus transportation via the lime Scooters. After some playtime we got serious.

Dr. Alejandro Del Pozo stopped by to talk about Entomology and his career as the areas IPM Advisor. He spoke about how humans categorize bugs as good and bad but that there really is no such thing as a good bug and a bad bug. As an advisor for the Agricultural Extension office, Dr. Del Pozo works with the public to bridge the gap between research being done at the college level and translate it into best practices for farmers, home-owners, and anyone interested in managing populations of insects. The day ended with a tour of the College of Business facility with Dr. Scott Fausti the Associate Director of the College of Business. The college of business is huge at CSUMB and many of FARMS students are interested in Ag Business as a major. The day ended with a gift of CSUMB swag and students where on the road back to school.

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!