Plants and postcards at Yanci Ranch

Grant Union at Yanci Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 23, 2020

Participating School
Grant Union High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms

Mentors
Kathy Rightmire, Director of Development, Center for Land-Based Learning
Dani Gelardi, UCD Graduate Student
Carolyn Kolstad, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Jacob Byers, Partners Biologist, Sacramento NWRC
MJ Farruggia, UCD Graduate Student

Summary of the Day
For our second Field Day at Yanci Ranch, Grant Union students arrived early and eager to plant! After breakfast and opening circle, we got to know one another better (and brushed up on names) with a game of “Where the Wind Blows”. After dividing into mentor groups, students learned the names, characteristics, and ecological functions of coyotebrush, sage, elderberry, wild rose, and buckwheat – five of the plants we would be planting that day.

After becoming familiar with the plants, mentor groups faced off to be the first to identify those five plants in a game of “Steal the Native Plant”. Then it was time to grab tools and head down to the planting area to learn the proper way to plant our hedgerow. Some students would be planting native trees and shrubs from containers, while others would be planting cuttings of cottonwood, red willow, and mule fat in areas that tend to have more water.

Mentor groups divided themselves down the line, working the same sections they installed emitters on back in December. By lunchtime, students had planted an impressive 179 containers and 30 cuttings!

After lunch, we took a walk to take a look at some of the earlier phases of restoration here at Yanci Ranch. Rominger Brothers Farms has been working with Yolo County Resource Conservation District for several years to increase biodiversity and create corridors of native habitat on this cattle ranch. Several SLEWS projects have taken place here, including one with Grant Union High School! Amy Williams of Yolo County RCD led us through several of these previous phases, giving students a view of what their site might look like after it’s had a few years to mature. Students were even recognizing some of the same plants they just planted, but much larger, of course!

We took a moment to reflect in a beautiful meadow as students spread out to create a postcard from the field. On one side, students drew a picture to represent their experience and on the other, wrote a postcard to commemorate the day. As we returned to our home base and circled up to close the day, students expressed gratitude for the experience and remarked on how being outside and contributing to restoration made their stresses melt away.

“Nothing Runs Like a Deere”

FARMS Leadership Program | Central Valley North | Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Location of Field Day:
Fresno Equipment Company
4288 S Bagley Ave, Fresno, CA 93725

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Reid Pinion – Controller
Philip Christensen – Integrated Solutions Manager
Matt Miller – Sales Representative
Luke Prys – Sales
Paris Gallaher – Wholegoods Specialist
Shelley Smith – Order Coordinator
John Dias – Parts Counter Sales Person
David Fishman – Service Technician

Summary of the Day:

On Wednesday, January 22, 2020, the Central Valley North FARMS Leadership Program, comprised of LeGrand High School, Madera South High School and Firebaugh High School visited our local John Deere dealer Fresno Equipment Company. Students met as a group to touch up on their leadership introduction and thanking skills. We also discussed what they knew or would want to know about John Deere and Fresno Equipment Company on their KWL worksheet.
The group toured the large facility with Matt Mill that houses administrative staff, human resources, sales representatives, parts staff, and service technicians. During this part of the tour and throughout the day the staff kept mentioning the ways of technology in agriculture. Every person at Fresno Equipment works with some sort of computer. It was also mentioned many times if you are willing to learn and work hard to go up in the company that it was possible.
After the 45 minute rotation, the groups switched and the students participated in a ride and drive course with Luke Prys. The students drove a small tractor with a bucket. In the bucket was a ball that the students drove across the cone lined course, they then used the lever and dropped the ball into the bucket. Some students had never driven before, let alone driving a tractor. What a great skill for our students to learn.
Next we had lunch and then were joined by 4 on site staff, Paris Gallager, Shelley Smith, John Dias and David Fishman. These individuals sat with 4 different groups of students where our students asked questions and were very dialed in to what the staff was saying about their job and how they ended up with Fresno Equipment Company.
Four different students thanked each person for sharing with us and taking a little bit of time out of their busy day. Students followed the end of the day with a career assessment and finishing out their KWL worksheets of what they learned about the day. We truly had a great day! Thank you again Fresno Equipment Company for your generosity with hosting a great field day for your students.

Sustainable to the Last Fiber

FARMS Leadership | Tehama | Thursday, January 16, 2020

Location of Field Day:
Sierra Pacific Industries – 19794 Riverside Ave. Anderson, CA 96007

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Kristy Lanham, Community Relations Manager Katie Luther, Workforce Development and Communications Coordinator Drew Peterson, Electrical Supervisor Tanner Estes, Safety and Environmental Coordinator Angie Harris, Office Coordinator Fabrication Shop

Theme:
Technology and Manufacturing

Summary of the Day: Tehama County FARMS Leadership kicked off our year on January 16th at Sierra Pacific Industries in Anderson, CA. They have been a generous supporter of our FARMS programs throughout the state and this field day was no exception. While the weather was a bit grey and drizzly, we still took full advantage of our visit and were able to explore their sawmill, cogen plant, and fab/tech shop.

Kristy Lanham, SPI’s Community Relations Manager, and Katie Luther their Workforce Development and Communications Coordinator greeted us and gave some wonderful background information into Sierra Pacific Industries and what sets them apart from many other companies. They truly pride themselves on being a 3rd generation family run company that believes in growing their people, investing in their communities and being sustainable to the last fiber.

Largest crane west of the Mississippi loading logs onto the log deck.

Tanner Estes, Safety and Environmental Coordinator then joined us to be our guide as we headed out to see exactly how they are sustainable to the last fiber. We began by watching the largest crane west of the Mississippi River placing logs on the log deck. These logs have come from somewhere on the 2 million acres of forests Mr. Emmerson owns in CA and WA, making Sierra Pacific the 2nd largest lumber producer in the United States. As the logs enter the sawmill they are run through a de-barker and cut into lengths appropriate for the boards they will be but into. The students were absolutely fascinated by the technology, speed and size of the equipment being used. We met several of the employees that were inspecting the lumber for quality as well as operating some of the equipment along the way. Seeing the process from raw log to 2 X 4 that you could purchase at Home Depot was amazing! As we walked out of the sawmill Tanner talked to us about the waste they produce and how every single fiber is consumed wether it be shipped out as lumber, or used as fuel for their cogen plant. As we stood and watched the cogen steam we learned that they not only produce enough power to run their facility, but they feed energy back into the grid to provide power for much of the community. They also use the steam to dry their own lumber and any of the steam that is left over is looped around and continued in the cycle. Talk about efficient! Wow!

Lastly we headed over to the Fab/Tech Shop where Drew Peterson, Electrical Supervisor, toured us through this very high tech and state-of-the-art facility. We learned that Sierra Pacific designs and builds all of their equipment so they employ computer designers, electrical and mechanical engineers, fabricators, and many others that support this process. As we walked through the fab shop Drew showed how far the technology has come and that it is moving more and more into robotics. This is one of the highest tech operations in our area and truly offers wonderful opportunities for not only careers but also internships for those interested.

Our day wrapped up with a fabulous lunch provided by SPI and an opportunity for questions to be answered. The students were impressed by the company values as well as career opportunities they learned about. Many were surprised that they could begin a job right out of high school if they wanted and grow within the company into a very respectable career position. They also were intrigued with the scholarship opportunities that SPI offers to the children of their employees. Thank you Sierra Pacific Industries for all you pour into our program and the youth of today!

Fruits of our Labor

FARMS Advanced Program | Central Valley | Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Location of Field Day:
Lindcove Extension Research Center
22963 Carson Ave, Exeter, CA 93221

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Dr. Elizabeth E Grafton-Cardwell Ph.D. – Director of Lindcove REC & Research Entomologist UC Riverside
Kurt R. Schmidt – Principal Superintendent of Agriculture
Don Cleek – Agricultural Supervisor
Stephanie Doria – Staff Research Associate I
Adam Kagy – Agricultural Technician

Summary of the Day:
On Wednesday, January 15, 2020, the Central Valley FARMS Advanced Program visited with the folks at the Lindcove Extension Research Center (LREC). We were greeted by Kurt Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt explained that the Lindcove Extension Research Center (LREC) greenhouses, orchards and packline are used by researchers for a variety of studies including developing new citrus rootstocks and scions, evaluating the effects of the local environment on rootstock and scion combinations, screening seedless varieties of mandarins, detecting freeze damage of fruit, and analyzing chemical treatments for pests and post harvest diseases. After learning about what LREC does we went into the citrus grove with their picking crew to learn more about labor in the citrus industry. We learned that there were no mechanical ways of picking and that the labor into the picking was very time consuming and dependent on how quickly they worked and how accurately they picked the best pieces of fruit. We then took what the students picked on their own to the packline to see the automated machines and new technology at work. The California citrus industry, through the California Citrus Quality Council, donated a complete citrus packing line to the LREC in 1995. This 5,000 square foot facility has available for research an FMC high-pressure scale washer, Brogdex waxing and drying equipment, and a Compac fruit-grading unit that can measure number, size, weight, shape, color, texture, density, ºBrix, grade of fruit, and other parameters. This equipment also allows analysis of fruit from individual trees. Students were excited to take some fruit home to enjoy. We thank the team at Lindcover Extension Research Center again for their time and commitment toward our students and our program.

Plants under the powerlines

Florin High School at River Garden Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 14, 2020

Participating School
Florin High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
River Garden Farms

Mentors
Colin Fagan, Lab Assistant, Williams Lab
Dana Stokes
Jacob Byers, Partner Biologist, Sacramento NWRC
Miles Daprato, Environmental Steward for UCD Campus Planning and Environmental Stewardship Department
Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA

Summary of the Day
Our second Field Day at River Garden Farms was warmer than anticipated, and thought it had rained the night before the dirt road was only damp, not muddy! After a breakfast of bagels and fruit, we got moving with a game of “Where the Wind Blows” before heading over for our planting demonstration.

Planting was tricky on this day – we were planting both tiny plugs and container plants, and putting protective tubes around each plant. Alex Tremblay of Yolo County Resource Conservation District gave a demonstration on all the necessary steps before we divided into mentor groups to play “Steal the Native Plant”, a variant of “Steal the Bacon”. Students learned how to identify sage, elderberry, coyotebrush, toyon, lupine, and wild rose before racing to be the first group to identify these native plants.

After gathering tools, mentor groups ventured out towards their assigned section. River Garden Farms had some tree tubes they wanted to reuse, but they were too small to fit around some of our larger shrubs. Students improvised to fit two tubes together to make one megatube that would fit around the plants! This was a slower process than usual, but students were meticulous in their work and did a great job planting. Some students began even naming plants as they went!

I have to hand it to Florin students for being so enthusiastic and dedicated to the project – this was the first time I’ve ever had to beg students to come back for lunch!

After some well-deserved burritos, students had the opportunity to interview all of the mentors about their differing education and career paths. I heard students asking mentors for advice and some great off-script questions, including “what’s your favorite superhero?”. One mentor, who’s in the restoration field, replied that he’d pick time travel so he could travel back in time to see what the area really was like so he’d be better at his job. Perhaps some of the same native plants that would have been around back then are once again back in the area thanks to Florin students!

An invertebrate-heavy day in Winters

Winters High School at Putah Creek Dry Creek Confluence
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 10, 2020

Participating School
Winters High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Valerie Whitworth and Michael Barbour

Mentors
Josh McCabe, Restoration Coordinator at ACRT Pacific
Lea Pollack, UCD Graduate Student
Marisa Alcorta, Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning

Summary of the Day
Our second field day at the confluence of Putah and Dry Creek in Winters brought us many eager students, both familiar and new to the program.

A guest speaker joined us for opening circle – Jessa of the Xerces Society, an organization focused on invertebrate conservation. She spoke about the alarming decline in the population of the Western Monarch Butterfly (population down 86% from 2017 to 2018) and how the results of this restoration project will help support monarchs in their migration. We finished our opening circle with a game of “Where the Wind Blows” to identify similarities within our group.

After dividing into mentor groups and gathering our tools for the day, we headed down to the project site for our planting demonstration. Amy Williams of Yolo County Resource Conservation District began by introducing students to four of the plants we’d be planting that day – deerweed, toyon, fuschia, and wild rose. As these plants were passed around, students learned their ecological benefits and how to identify them. Then Amy demonstrated the main task of the day, planting trees, shrubs, and forbs. Each plant would be planted in specific spots along the irrigation line, and an emitter would be installed next to it to provide the plant with adequate water.

Mentor groups enthusiastically tackled this job in different areas, with some groups following to install “spaghetti” line to ensure the water would reach the plants. Once groups finished planting the larger plants, Amy showed them how to plug plant smaller “plugs” by poking holes in the ground using a “dibble”. We were all impressed by how much we accomplished by lunchtime!

After lunch, mentor Lea Pollack gave a presentation on the work she’s doing in her Ph.D. program. She studies behavioral ecology and works with black widow spiders. Students were surprised to learn that black widows have personalities! The more “aggressive” (not to people – to other spiders and prey) spiders build their webs in a different way than less aggressive individuals, and you can actually see the difference when the webs are sprayed with water! Mentor groups were each given a misted web (without a widow in it) and counted the number of “gum footed” lines in the web to figure out whether the spider that made it was aggressive or not.

During closing circle, students reflected on what they had learned that day. Many students shared facts about monarch migration, others shared the planting techniques they learned, and even more mentioned black widows – that they have personalities, that only the females build webs, and that the web structure can tell us about their behavior!

Planting through the fog

Davis Senior High School at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 7, 2020

Participating School
Davis Senior High School

Partners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Yolo Basin Foundation

Mentors
Aaron Haiman, Environmental Scientist and Tribal Liaison, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy
Brian Keegan, Sacramento State Graduate Student
Randy Wittorp
Xerónimo Castañeda, Conservation Project Associate, Audubon CA

Summary of the Day
Drier weather made access easier for our second day at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, but it was still a bit difficult to find the site as the bypass was blanketed in a thick layer of fog all day! Students were troopers in the foggy, cold weather – it didn’t get above the mid 40s all day, and the sun never did come out.

We played “Where the Wind Blows” during our opening circle, an activity where students, mentors, and partners identify commonalities within the group. After this, we divided into mentor groups so each group could learn to identify mugwort, wild rose, California blackberry, coyotebrush, quailbush, and deergrass in preparation for the “Steal the Native Plant” game. Students raced to be the first to correctly identify each plant and earn points for their mentor group. This came in handy later – students were able to recall the names and ecological value of the plants as they planted them!

Alex Tremblay of Yolo County Resource Conservation District demonstrated proper planting technique before mentor groups headed out to tackle their trestles. You might recall that on this project we are helping to vegetate 4 former railway trestles, and each mentor group is adopting one! It requires a bit more flexibility than a typical SLEWS planting plan, as each trestle presents different challenges and obstacles. One group experienced extremely rocky soil, another had to avoid planting next to larger rocks. By the end of the morning, students had planted 350 container plants of native shrubs and forbs, and 80 deergrass plugs as “companion” plants!

After lunch, educator Sabreena Britt of the Yolo Basin Foundation led students in a water quality testing activity. After explaining the what’s and why’s of water quality testing, she had students rotate through 8 stations where they tested water turbidity, dissolved oxygen, salinity, conductivity, temperature, pH, total dissolved solids, and oxidation reduction potential. The data students collected was uploaded to Earth Echo International as citizen science data that can be used by real scientists! Check it out here: http://www.monitorwater.org/.

SLEWS returns to Yanci Ranch!

Grant Union High School at Yanci Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 12, 2019

Participating School
Grant Union High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms

Mentors
Kathy Rightmire, Director of Development, Center for Land-Based Learning
Dani Gelardi, UCD Graduate Student
Carolyn Kolstad, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
MJ Farruggia

Summary of the Day
Yanci Ranch, a cattle ranch about 7 miles north of Winters, has hosted three SLEWS projects in the past – and this year, the project is large enough that we will have two schools adopting the site! Grant Union High kicked us off with the first field day, two years after their classmates completed a project on the same property.

A foggy morning obscured the beauty of the site, which includes a picturesque pond and views of the hills (though that made for a fun surprise when the fog cleared later that morning!). We began our day as we always do, in an opening circle. Landowner Bruce Rominger introduced the site to the students and Amy Williams of Yolo County Resource Conservation District shared the project details before we broke the ice with a game of group juggle.

After gathering our supplies and putting on mud boots, we walked down to the project site. Bruce had used a slip plow to pre-bury a line of irrigation, so our first steps would be to measure along the line and place flags every 10 feet. One mentor group tackled this, while the others followed and installed emitters and spaghetti line at each flag. This was harder than it sounds as the line was buried – to access the line, students had to first dig down to it! Grant Union student’s keen eyes noticed many signs of wildlife throughout the morning, from deer on the way in to millipedes, centipedes, and frogs along the planting area. We even found some cow bones – this is a cattle ranch, after all! After installing emitters (!), Bruce was kind enough to give students a demonstration of how the slip plow works. He showed students how the spool of irrigation tubing fits on the back, and as he drives the tractor, the line is buried under the soil.

One irrigation was complete, students plug planted sedges and rushes in an area susceptible to erosion. These plants will help alleviate this problem while also contributing to the quality of habitat.

After a well-deserved burrito lunch, students got a chance to talk with each mentor about their education and career paths. Since they will see these mentors at each field day, it was also a great opportunity to get more comfortable with our Yanci Ranch team!

Milkweed for Monarchs at the Maples

Woodland High School at the Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 11, 2019

Participating School
Woodland High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District

Mentors
Bob Ream, retired
Grace Auringer, Technician, Genomic Variation Lab
Mandi Finger, Associate Director, Genomic Variation Lab
Matt Clement

Summary of the Day
You may have heard that the Center for Land-Based Learning is moving from our current headquarters at the Farm on Putah Creek in Winters to The Maples in Woodland. The new office is coming together quickly (check out our new headquarters here!) and we have plans to do SLEWS projects onsite for many seasons to come – starting now!

As part of the site construction, a stormwater retention basin was installed alongside our future California Farm Academy plot. Since this area won’t be actively used, it’s a great opportunity to create habitat for wildlife!

You may have heard the unfortunate news that monarch butterflies are at risk – the California population plummeted by 86% in just one year (from 2017 to 2018). To help address this, the Xerces Society has developed “Monarch and Pollinator Habitat Kits” to distribute to restoration partners. Yolo Resource Conservation District is implementing one of these kits here at the Maples. These kits consist of native milkweeds (the host plant for monarchs, essential to their breeding success) and nectar plants to support adult monarchs and other pollinators. Along with the Xerces kits, the Yolo County RCD planned to line the bottom of the basin with native grasses.

We will have two field days at the Maples with Woodland High School, and at our opening circle I recognized many familiar faces – several of the students participated in SLEWS last year and were back for more! As we relocated to the stormwater basin after opening circle we realized we had a surprise visitor – Mary Kimball, Executive Director of the Center for Land-Based Learning! She assisted the Yolo County RCD staff in giving a stellar planting demonstration, in the process planting the very first plant of this restoration project!

We had a TON of work slated for this first field day, yet as always Woodland High students shocked us with their enthusiastic and unwavering work ethic. We started by laying down two 750+ foot lines of drip irrigation, and followed by planting 225 container plants and installing drip emitters for each. After that students moved on to plug planting in the basin itself, planting more than 2000 plugs! Finally, students planted 150 milkweed rhizomes in the pollinator meadow area.

A productive morning of work was rewarded with burritos from Chuy’s Taqueria, and we were fortunate to finish the field day just as the rain started! Our next field day with Woodland High will be at Capay Open Space Park, and I cannot wait to see what we accomplish there!

Aquaculture Education

FARMS Leadership | Central Valley North | Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Location of Field Day:
California Department of Fish & WildLife – San Joaquin Hatchery – 17372 Brook Trout Drive, Friant, CA 93626

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
William Branch
Cheryl Moxley
Brian Erlandsen

Theme:
Aquaculture and Natural Resources

Summary of the Day:
Students from LeGrand High School, Madera South High School and Firebaugh High School met on Wednesday, December 11th at The San Joaquin Hatchery of California Department of Fish & Wildlife. Students met and practiced an introduction and thank you practice for use in the day for introducing our hosts. Students also learned about the end of the year Community Action Project they would need to complete as a requirement of the FARMS Leadership Program. The Community Action Project is any project undertaken by students that applies the skills and knowledge attained throughout the program to address problems or concerns in the students’ own communities. Students will present what they have contributed to their communities during the last field day in April. Next, we were joined by Cheryl Moxley who runs the FINS Program. The FINS Program is an interpretive nature trail designed to teach children the life cycle of trout. Given the slightly older nature of our group, she covered other more age-appropriate information such as native plants, grant funding information, and interpretive design. Next, students rotated between two programs with lunch provided by FARMS to split up these two rotations. The first was SCARF: A salmon restoration project for the San Joaquin River. This covered topics such as conservation, endangered species, and the science behind genetic matrix and testing. Followed by SJH: The hatchery itself, where we discussed what it takes to raise fish, plant it out, and deal with such things as water quality, biosecurity, and fish health. At the end of the day, students presented thank you’s to all of our hosts. We had a really enjoyable hands-on day. We were very impressed with what the state of California does for our natural resources. Thank you again, William, Cherly, Brian and your entire team.