All in for Earth Day

Location of Field Day:
Stockton, CA

Field Day Host/Partners:
Little Manila Rising (LMR)– Brianna Garcia, Biannette Perez, Koji Lewis, Irene Calimlim and the Urban Forestry Cohort
Ag Innovations – Lupe Garcia and Juliana Birkhoff
PUENTES Urban Forestry Initiative 

Theme:
Urban Forestry and Community Outreach

Our FARMS students weren’t the only ones to show up and turn up for our 4/22 Earth Day field day! South Stockton let their voices be heard through LMR’s and PUENTES’ community Earth Day event centered around urban forestry and healthy living. 

Our students arrived at Van Buskirk Park ready for some tree planting–BUT FIRST! A stop on the playground because we all know how important it is for each of us to take a little time to play.

So after some swinging, chasing, sliding, and breakfasting, students happily joined Little Manila Rising’s Urban Forestry Cohort and the eager group of Earth-loving community members who had gathered on the sunny Friday morning. After urban forestry experts and trainees provided us with a tree planting demonstration–educating us about the urban heat island effect, impacts of planting trees on biodiversity and climate change, and benefits of planting native trees–, students and community members set off to plant Valley Oaks, Buckeyes, and Redbuds throughout the park. 

After two hours of planting and a break for lunch, students took some time to explore the rest of the event. Local organizations like Kommunity Hub, Healing PUSO (Pilipinx Uplifting Self & Others), Ag Innovations, and a free Covid testing and vaccination tent had set up to share their efforts with the community.

Next we connected (or rather re-connected) with Ag Innovations directly. Let’s back up here: students have actually been working with Ag Innovations for the last several weeks in an effort to contribute to a community outreach effort on the proposed Delta Conveyance Project. Ag Innovations, a nonprofit that convenes dynamic collaborations that create agricultural and environmental opportunities for diverse communities, was hired by the Department of Water Resources to help raise awareness around the ways in which the proposed water supply project may impact Delta communities–and that communities have a right to voice their opinions about it. Several weeks before our field day, CLBL staff and LHA students Zoomed with Ag Innovations to learn all about the project and why the community outreach piece is so key (especially since the proposal is not included on the upcoming ballot!). From there, we left it up to students to decide how exactly they wanted to reach out to community members. Their answer? Hosting a community presentation and discussion about the project; during the first week of May, our FARMS students will host school staff, admin and families to spread the word. In an effort to prepare, we spent a chunk our field day afternoon with Ag Innovations’ Lupe Garcia. She sat down with our students to answer any final questions they had about the project, help them prep outreach materials for the meeting, and lead them through a native seed packing activity. Students plan to distribute these native seed packets that include key information on the Delta Conveyance Project to community members over the next few weeks.

In the final hour of the day, students chose between two different reflection activities:

  1. Half of our students participated in LMR’s Photovoice Project: provided with cameras, students took pictures of and recorded audio on points of pride as well as things they would like to see changed within their community. LMR collects the photos/recordings on an interactive map open to the public that the nonprofit also uses to advocate directly to legislatures on changes community members would like to see. 
  2. As this was our second to last field day of the year, the other half of our students spent some time reflecting on the FARMS program: sharing the high points of the year, the ways in which the program impacted them, and their advice for future FARMS students.

Alongside our celebration of Kai’s birthday, we circled up to reflect on our day. Students’ highlights included the hard work of tree planting, learning from urban forestry trainees, simply soaking in the sun, and reflecting on their own visions for their community through the Photovoice Project. Until our next field day!

Hanging with LangeTwins

Location of Field Day:
Acampo, CA

Field Day Host:
LangeTwins Winery and Vineyard – Aaron Lange and Kendra Altnow

Theme:
Ecological Balance on Vineyards

Our San Joaquin FARMS Leadership cohort embraced a hot and sunny day of habitat restoration with LangeTwins Winery & Vineyard. With a nutritional breakfast in our bellies, we began by circling up with another community reflection question. This month’s Question Master Bitsy asked her peers to reflect on ‘What is the difference between living and existing?’; students spoke rather wisely of the importance of finding passions, connecting deeply with others, exploring the world around them, and always pushing oneself to grow. After our circle reflection, we jumped into the day’s leadership activity; with ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’ two teams of students needed to rely on strategizing, communication, teamwork, and listening skills to race to retrieve an object before the other team.

We then received a warm welcome from our friends at family-owned LangeTwins, Aaron Lange and Kendra Altnow. Along the Mokelumne River, Aaron provided us with some fascinating background on the vineyard and, in particular, their efforts to grow wine grapes in a way that both maintains and helps to reestablish ecological balance with the land. LangeTwins take their role as land stewards very seriously; as a long-time partner of Center for Land-Based Learning, they’ve worked with high school students in our programs for over 20 years to install numerous habitat restoration projects that give back to the land that has given so much to them. Students asked Aaron SUCH informed questions: they were curious about the social impact of the vineyard on the surrounding community, about the ways in which the Lange family values their workers, about the nature of the vineyard’s composting and use of integrated pest management systems, and much, much more. Music to an educator’s ears!

From there, it was time to jump into the hands-on efforts of the day: installing a native plant hedgerow. As we stood over the bunch of native plants patiently waiting to go in the ground, Aaron shared the many benefits that hedgerows provide for land and wildlife, but also for farmers: providing increased pollinators for crop production, fixing nitrogen into the farm’s soil, providing wind buffers to prevent soil erosion, and reducing pest populations. After a planting and irrigation demonstration, students set to work; some digging holes, others planting, and others still installing emitters and spaghetti tubing to ensure each plant is happily (and sustainably!) watered. Along the way, students continued to explore the land and people around them, uncovering spiders, bonding with toads, and asking plenty of questions to Aaron and his staff about what it’s like to work at a sustainable vineyard.

After a break for lunch, during which our Nutrition Educators shared the benefits of eating the artichokes and whole grains found in our sandwiches, Aaron and Kendra took us down to the Mokelumne River There, students took some time to explore the riparian habitat bursting with age old oak trees, tiny macroinvertebrates, blue herons, quail calls, and evidence of beaver live. After a few rounds of river fetch with Kendra’s excessively cute dog, we returned to hedgerow planting. One hour and many dirty hands later, students had planted and installed irrigation for 90 native plants along the vineyard block! With students quite proud of the work they did, we circled up to reflect on our day. Students’ highlights included the competitive, communicative nature of the morning’s leadership activity, wading in the Mokelumne River, learning about LangeTwins’ ability to balance the social, environmental, and economic factors of running a farm, and working hard to put so many plants in the earth. Thanks to our partners and our inquisitive, eager students for another awesome field day!

Going Nuts Over Sustainability

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | March 22, 2022

Location of Field Day:
Sierra Orchards – Winters, CA
Mariani Nut Company – Winters, CA

Field Day Host and Mentors:
Sierra Orchards – Craig McNamara
Mariani Nut Company – Gus Mariani 

Theme:
Sustainability in Nut Growing and Processing

River City and Esparto High Schools joined forces for March’s Sacramento Valley FARMS field day centered around walnuts and sustainability. Our partners graciously brought us through the process beginning to end: from walnut tree grafting and growing in the orchards, to harvesting and processing, all the way to packaging and distributing.

Our day began within gorgeous Sierra Orchards, a small scale walnut orchard in Winters. Craig McNamara greeted us with his wonderful warmth and zeal–while he’s long been deeply tied to FARMS Leadership field days (he and his wife Julie started the FARMS Leadership Program in 1993!), Covid has kept us from visiting Sierra Orchards for 2 long years. How wonderful to be back in person! After checking in and learning a bit more about each other during our Opening Circle, we moved onto the day’s leadership activity during which two teams of students needed to rely on strategizing, communication, teamwork, and listening skills to race to retrieve an object before the other team. We have some competitive students, to say the least.

From there, it was time to dive into the world of walnut growing. Craig led us on a tour of the orchard during which we learned all about walnut varietals, grafting walnut trees, harvesting walnuts, and the efforts that go into growing organic walnuts. Sustainable practices were everywhere we looked: beautiful blooming cover crop, long piles of compost steeped with walnut hulls, massive solar panels, integrated pest management efforts, wood cut from no longer producing walnut trees waiting to be sent to a wood sculpturist, and flocks of sheep on their way to serve as nature’s lawn mowers.

Alas, we visited the chickens! Sierra Orchards has 3 different coops of about 800 chickens that, of course, produce eggs for sale, but also help to naturally fertilize the orchard through their own waste.  Students cozied up with one coop, together collecting and washing almost 100 eggs. After we left our chicken friends, students better acquainted themselves with the surrounding trees. Through two separate outdoor education activities, students utilized their sensory awareness and communication skills to better understand the important roles that trees play as individual ecosystems for the surrounding biodiversity.

After lunch and a farewell to Craig, we ventured to Mariani nut company, a family-run and much larger scale grower and processor of walnuts and almonds. Greeted by Gus Mariani and his cousin Kyle, they led us onto the walnut processing floor. Suited up in PPE, students traversed the many complicated and fascinating levels of Mariani’s walnut processing technology: sorters, conveyor belts, drum feeders, rotating crushers, infrared technology (the list goes on!), and plenty of quality control personnel along the way to ensure nut processing accuracy and staff safety. After we observed the technology used to bag, package and label to be distributed walnuts, Kyle and Gus sent us on our way with a box of Mariani walnuts to sample ourselves. Thanks to our partners for such an engaging and interesting day!

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