Unweaving the Thread: Learning About Cotton

FARMS Leadership | Central Valley Advanced | Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Location of Field Day:

USDA Cotton Classing Office – 7100 West Sunnyview Avenue, Visalia, CA 93291

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

Greg Townsend – Area Director

Edward Sandoval – USDA Visalia Classing Office and Fresno State Alumni

Theme: Leadership, Cotton Classing

Summary of the Day: The Central Valley Advanced FARMS Leadership students enjoyed their field day at the USDA Classing Office learning about the cotton industry-cotton grade standards, cotton classification services, Pima and Upland cotton, and more. 

Greg Townsend, the Area Director of the USDA Visalia Classing Office, and Edward Sandoval each spoke about their backgrounds in agriculture, their day to day tasks, and how the classing office supports farmers and the agricultural industry.

In their tour, students received an overview on the Cotton Classification process. They saw, firsthand, how samples were conditioned, transferred to the instrument classification, and then classified by USDA classers. They also learned how the data is stored in the classing facility’s database and National Database.

Students then learned about the two types of grade standards: Universal Upland Grade Standards and American Pima Grade Standards. Edward showed students how cotton is graded based on color and leaf. They also learned about extraneous matter, which is any substance found in the cotton other than fiber or leaf, and how it affects the grading.

Students learning about the differences between American Pima cotton and Upland Cotton.
USDA’s classing methodology is based on both grade and instrument standards used with state-of-the-art methods and equipment.
A USDA classer identified extraneous matter, such as plastic and balloon fragments, present in the cotton.

Students also strengthened their leadership skills by practicing how to introduce and thank a host. Then, students learned the importance of setting goals to increase their chances of success. Students individually created a S.M.A.R.T Goal(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) concerning the FARMS Leadership Program. Their goals ranged from improving and developing leadership skills, such as public speaking on agricultural topics/issues or in general or identifying a future career pathway to learn more about. They shared their goals, raised their chances of success, and gained feedback from their peers. 

Overall, we had a fantastic day! They are excited and prepared for their next field day and gain hands-on experience learning about the agricultural industry, the wide variety of jobs and careers available, and developing their leadership skills. 

We are Back In-Person with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County

FARMS Advanced |Central Coast Region | Sept 23, 2021

Location(s) of Field Day:
Farm Bureau of Monterey County and ALBA

Participating Schools from Monterey & Santa Cruz Region:
Alisal High School (virtual)
Gonzalez High School (in-person)

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Jacob Dixon – FARMS Alumni and Senior at Cal Poly
Juan Perez – FARMS Alumni and Senior at Cal Poly
Laura Murphy – Soil Scientist with the RCD of Monterey County
Paul Robins – Executive Director of the RCD of Monterey County
Megan Barker – RCD of Monterey County
Mary Kimball – CEO of the Center for Land-Based Learning
Andrea Tinajero – ALBA
Norm Groot – Monterey County Farm Bureau


Theme: What can Resource Conservation Districts do to create a more inclusive dialogue about conservation work?

Summary of the Day:  It feels so good to be back in-person with students. The Advanced Cohort had the pleasure of kicking off the year! Since the Advanced students are our second year students their field days are a bit more involved and require professionalizm, critical thinking and a willingness to step out of their comfort zones just a bit.

Advanced begins early in the morning as I pick up students. This is the first time we are meeting face to face. Their leadership year was entirly online. After pick up we head to the Monterey County Farm Bureau and we have some brealfast. We are luck to have Mary Kimball joining us from Woodland. We begin with an icebreaker and students stand and introduce themselves with confidence and assertiveness. We invite Norm Groot to join us for our morning icebreaker, Two Truths and a Lie. We all learn so much about each other from this excersice it is a lot of fun! Norm Groot took the floor and shared his career pathway, the history of Farm Bureaus’ and what they do to support farmers and the Ag industry.

From there Megan signed us on to zoom and we met with Alisal HS students and FARMS Alumni, Juan Perez and Jacob Dixon. Both Jacob and Juan participate in the RCD Speak-off Contest when they were in the FARMS program. They shared their experience with students and gave them pointers on public speaking and speech writing. Jacob encouraged students that the speak-off judges only want to help and be supportive and students should not be nervous or afraid of them. Juan let students know that when it comes to writing a speech the key is starting early so you can have time to revise, practice and then revise & practice again. Next we discussed the speak-off contest and the speech prompt for this year.

Speak -Off Topic

“What can Resource Conservation Districts do to help create a more inclusive dialogue about conservation work?”

the Californina Association of RCD’s

The topic is not an easy one by any means and it required quite a bit of dicussion. I took notes as we broke down the topic and defined key words like “enclusive dialogue” .

It was time to head out to ALBA to meet some farmers and eat some lunch. After lunch we gave students the opportunity to discover how the RCD of Monterey County engages farmers in dialogue. Students where tasked with asking Farmers questions themselves. Some students took it apon themselves to ask their questions in Spanish which was a great way of demonstrating inclusive dialogue. Andrea Tinajero organized an amazing line-up of farmers to meet with students and share honestly and candidly thier experiences as Farmers and business owners.

Here are some of the questions students asked:

  1. What led you to farming?
  2. What resource conservation concerns do you have?
  3. How can you best be reached to have discussions about resource conservation (for example, email, cell phone, in-person visits, etc.)?
  4. Where do you want to have those discussions (for example, over the phone, online, in public meetings, in groups, during 1-on-1 personal visits to your farm, etc.)?

The day ended with a hands on soil sampling and test activity that students did with Farmers in their fields. It was a beautiful day to be in the fields and a perfect day for our first FARMS Advanced Field Day.

Got BEEF!

Location: Redhouse Beef Bakersfield, CA 

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors: Debbie Wise – Owner 

Summary of the Day:

March 3rd 2022 Kern Farms Program visited Redhouse Beef in Bakersfield CA. Students from McFarland High School, West High School and Ridgeview Highschool came together to take a tour of their day-to-day operation. Redhouse Beef has a goal to serve high quality beef straight from farm to table. Redhouse cares for their land and animals and stewards their role in our food system. Redhouse is also known for their amazing chickens and their farm fresh eggs.

We started off going into the pasture where the mobile chicken coops were at. The chickens at Redhouse have a very important role. After the cattle come through and graze pasture and eat the majority of all the grass, the chickens come in next! The chickens rotate through all the pasture once the cattle are through with it to eat bugs, control fly population and provide fertilizer. They also eat the grass too and convert it all into amazing pastured eggs!

We then did a fun little hands-on egg activity with Debbie! Everyone got into groups and got some eggs and cracked into a clear cup and we identified all the different parts of the egg. Most of us realized parts we have never seen before but now we will know and point them out! Everyone enjoyed it so much! Some had different colored yolks from dark orange to lighter orange. Darker the yolk the more mature the hen is and has more nutrients than a lighter colored one is most likely a younger hen.

We then went onto BEEF! Pretty much their whole herd is 100% born and raised by Redhouse. Most of their cattle are black angus, Charolais and some red angus. Red house is involved in all the stages in life for the cattle. They are a finishing operation where their calves come down from the mountains and are weaned and finished here for a few months to a year until they are ready to harvest.
We got to walk through their chute system and how they move and process their cattle. The students got to operate and practice moving the hydraulic chute and how it would be when working cattle. The cattle come through the chute for numerous reasons. They could be getting preg checked, vaccinated, dewormed or getting some sort of treatment. Redhouse is an amazing family owned and operated business and everyone should go check them out and try their grass-fed beef!

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