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!

UC Davis Exploration: What’s the next step for our FARMS students?

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley & San Joaquin | February  22, 2022

Location of Field Day: UC Davis – Davis, CA

Field Day Host and Mentors:
Aggie Ambassadors – Co Hawes, Student Leadership Program Coordinator, with Student Leads
UCD Goat Facility – Benjamin Rupchis, Goat Facility Manager
UCD Student Eco Farm – Student Leads

Theme: Sustainable Ag & Environmental Sciences College Pathways

Sac Valley and San Joaquin FARMS students teamed up on a sunny February day to explore the sustainable ag and environmental science world that UC Davis has to offer. After a breakfast of muffins, blood oranges, and kiwis and a lively introductory game of Dance Your Name Out, we dove into a leadership workshop. Co Hawes, the Student Leadership Program Coordinator for Aggie Ambassadors, and Aggie Ambassador students Sara and Somora led us through the Pipeline activity. Two groups of students practiced teamwork, problem-solving and communication skills to transport a marble across the room without actually touching it. After plenty of strategizing, dropped marbles and re-strategizing, students emerged victorious.

Next, FARMS students had some time to connect directly with Aggie Ambassadors, asking them any and all questions they had about college life. Aggie Ambassadors shared their experiences as women in STEM, with balancing school responsibilities, personal lives and mental health, with the many helpful resources UC Davis has to offer, and the joys and challenges of campus life.

We then ventured to the Goat Facility where Benjamin Rupchis toured us around, introducing us to many goat friends along the way. Benjamin shared that the facility is mainly run by students and houses three separate goat herds: a dairy herd, a meat herd and a transgenic research herd, with around 150 goats total. We also learned how the Goat Facility works with the school’s Brewery Certificate Program and Student Farm to make the best possible use of leftover brewery grains and farm produce to feed the goats!

After loving on some goats, we rolled over to the student-run Eco Farm. Student leads Thea and Jon introduced us to the farm’s gorgeous chickens, showed us the inner workings of the farm’s aerobic and anaerobic compost systems, toured us around the produce gardens, and taught us how to harvest from the farm’s U-Pick flower garden.

After a peaceful lunch in the sunshine amongst the farm’s bees, butterflies, and thriving greenery, we strolled across the street to the Student Market. FARMS students were eager to purchase locally student grown produce and marveled over the colorful turnips, radishes, greens, rutabagas and daikons across the market table.

During our closing circle, students shouted out their highlights: loving on goats (of course), the lively pipeline activity, meeting students from another school, and learning about the sustainable efforts of the Eco Farm. Thanks UC Davis partners for a great day!

Tons (Literally) of Recycling!

FARMS Leadership | San Joaquin | January 21, 2022

Location of Field Day: Cal-Waste Recovery Systems – Galt, CA

Field Day Host and Mentors: Cal-Waste Recovery Systems – Leesa Klotz

Theme: Recovery Recycling, Climate Change & Healthier Communities

Our friends at Cal-Waste Recovery Systems were the ideal hosts for our first FARMS field day of the new year. We spent the day observing exactly what happens to our recycling once the truck whisks it away– and everything we saw generated lots of conversation around landfills, climate change, reducing all kinds of waste, and spreading community awareness.

As usual, we kicked off our field day with our opening circle check-in and a student leadership activity. Our leadership activity was a lively one: students lined up along a rope, each holding it with one hand. After taking note of the order of their peers, they were instructed to close their eyes (and keep them closed!) and communicate verbally to form various shapes and letters. We started out simple: a square. After our first shape, students took some time to brainstorm what worked, what didn’t, and their strategy for the next shape. Through use of their communication, listening, and creative thinking skills as well as their abilities to establish trust and remain open to all ideas, the group successfully shaped a square, a triangle, and the letter T.

Next we were joined by Cal-Waste’s Education Coordinator Leesa Klotz. After Leesa gave us an interesting and stinky history of garbage, we all suited up in our PPE and headed out to the MRF: the Material Recovery Floor. This is where all the recyclable materials picked up from Cal-Waste’s trucks are dumped, processed, sorted, and bailed. This is also where any pesky residual trash that makes its way into the recycling bin is separated to be sent to a landfill. Cal-Waste is committed to recovering every valuable resource from the waste stream to prevent as many items from being forever landfilled as possible.

The MRF was epic to say the least. A marvel of technology intricately designed and pieced together–conveyor belts, drum feeders, augers, magnets, crushers, air expansion chambers, optical sorting machines, infrared technology, and plenty of quality control personnel along the way to ensure accuracy and safety. Students were particularly enthralled with the bailer: a machine that crushes hundreds of tons of sorted recycling into massive cubes of cans, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, etc. These cubes are then sold to facilities that will transform the recycled material into new products.

After lunch, we returned to Cal-Waste’s state of the art education center for some conversations on reducing waste and food waste recycling. Students learned California has passed a new food waste law, requiring all Californians to separate their organics from the rest of their trash. Leesa informed us of some shocking food waste stats:

  1. A third of all the food produced in the US goes to waste.
  2. Food takes up more space in landfills than anything else.
  3. The US wastes more food than any other country in the world.
  4. Before the pandemic, 35 million Americans experienced food insecurity. After/during the pandemic throughout 2022, that number is expected to rise to 50 million Americans.

All this sparked some conversation: what can the students do to make a difference in their own school? Students brainstormed ideas about hosting focus groups between students and administrators, making informational posters, providing student waste ambassadors who can guide students on disposing of waste correctly, and re-working cafeteria food distribution requirements so less food goes to waste.

We finished the day out with a waste sorting activity: Leesa dumped two bags of trash/recycling on the table and asked two teams of students to sort them from the waste that would take the least amount of time to the most amount of time to decompose in a landfill. Students were shocked to learn that a paper towel can take a month to decompose all the way down to a glass bottle that can take 1,000 years (or might never decompose!).

During our closing circle, students shouted out their highlights: feeling inspired to reduce their food waste, exploring the MRF, learning about all the unexpected jobs within a recycling facility, and the morning’s leadership activity. Thanks to our partners, supporting teachers, and of course the students for making it a memorable day as always!