Grass and forb planting at Petersen Ranch

Rio Vista High School at Petersen Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 6, 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
Karleen Vollherbst, Partner’s for Fish & Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Matthew Young, Fish Biologist, California Water Science Center, USGS
Luke Petersen, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS

Summary of the Day
The morning of this Field Day was the coldest so far – it was 28 degrees when I arrived to load up the truck with gear in the morning! After finding another water source (the faucets were frozen shut!) we loaded up the truck with hot water for cocoa and were on our way, passing frost-covered cows on the drive.

The restoration site was at the end of a dirt road that had become quite muddy in recent rains – just getting there was a 4wd adventure! Rio Vista High soon arrived with a small but mighty crew of students. After changing into rain boots, we were at our field site in no time.

We started our first Field Day with opening circle, where Chris Carlson of Solano RCD introduced the multi-year project at Petersen Ranch. Just last year, students from Rio Vista High installed irrigation, planted grasses, trees, and shrubs and installed bird boxes. This year’s students will help put the finishing touches on this restoration project. After a game of “Where the Wind Blows” where we learned Rio Vista students enjoy fishing, welding, and spending time outdoors we divided into mentor groups and gathered supplies for the day.

Chris led an informative and entertaining demonstration of our activity for the day – planting “plugs” of native grasses, forbs, and sedges. Mentor groups tackled different areas near the irrigation ditch, planting plugs of mugwort, purple aster, western goldentop, creeping wildrye, and saltgrass. Groups working further from the water source also installed drip emitters on the irrigation line and placed a protective covering around the plug. Rio Vista students worked incredibly fast – 800 plugs were in the ground in under an hour! Luckily Chris had some acorns ready for planting, and explained how oaks planted from acorns tend to live longer than those planted from saplings, as the tap root is undamaged. Students made short work of these acorns as well, planting 15 acorns in the riparian area. It’s amazing to imagine how different the area will be when those trees start to mature!

We still had some time before lunch, so mentor groups grabbed binoculars and bird ID cards and ventured up onto the levee. Some of the bird species we spotted included white-tailed kite, marsh wren, turkey vulture, red tailed hawk, white crowned sparrow, caspian tern, and lots of raptors. After lunch, we returned onto the levee to spend some time reflecting on the day in field journals. Students were great about spreading out to experience the site solo – some students were perched on the levee, while others found quiet spaces near the water.

At closing circle, many students remarked that they most enjoyed learning how to plant and spending time outdoors. Mentors and partners enjoyed this as well, but the adults in our group were most pleasantly surprised by this awesome group of respectful, hardworking, and fun-to-be-around students. Can’t wait for our next day in the field!

Full Belly Farm, Certified Organic since 1985!

FARMS Leadership Program: North State: February 5th, 2019

Location of Field Day: Guinda, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Haley Friel – Director of Outreach and Education at Full Belly Farm

Theme: Sustainability and Organic Farming Practices

Summary of the Day:

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to be spent at Fully Belly Farm’s in Guinda, CA. The North State FARMS Leadership Program was welcomed by Haley Friel, the director of Outreach and Education at Fully Belly Farm. We then took a tour of the 400-acre farm and learned about the different crops grown and the practices in which they use to keep the farm organic and sustainable. Full Belly Farm is planting, growing and harvesting over 80 crops year around keeping them very busy. The students were able to see the pigs raised at at Full Belly Farm and see where the produce is washed and prepped for sale. They even were able to sample so freshly picked produce including oranges, carrots and several other crops some of which we brought back to add to our salads at lunch.

After lunch we went over to the barn where the sheep are currently being housed during lambing season. The North State FARMS students were excited to see lambs that were a few days old as well as some that were just hours old. One ewe even started to go into labor while we were there visiting. Once we left the sheep barn we gathered some baskets and headed over to the mobile chicken coops. We concluded our day collecting baskets full of organic chicken eggs which are currently being sold for $9.00 a dozen.

Agri-Tourism and Science

FARMS Program | Kern County | February 5, 2019

Participating Schools
Independence High School
Bakersfield Christian High School
West High School
Frontier High School
Ridgeview High School

Summary of the Day
There is no better place to study Agri-Tourism than at Murray Family Farms. Students have traveled here throughout their childhood to go to the maze, pick pumpkins in the fall or berries in the summer. This trip, they learned the other side of Murray Family Farms.

Steve Murray greeted us on this cold February day with a coffee in hand showing us around his pride and joy – Murray Family Farms. It was easily the most beautiful day we have had in Kern County. Steve shared his extensive journey and through perseverance and incredible opportunities he was able to land his dream.

Learning the History

We then walked through the many commodities grown on site. We learned about apples and stone fruit first. We talked about water and the effects on farming. We talked about grafting and the science behind the different types of grafting which allowed them to create unique fruit for consumers.

We then went up to the small hill for the students to jump. When you are at Murray Family Farms, you must take a jump on their massive bouncing bubble! While some may ask, “What does this have to do with Ag?” It has a lot to do with Agri-Tourism. Families come to make a memory through picking their own fruit and every now and then you have to get your wiggles out.

Now back to learning! We have a first-hand look at grafting from Steve’s son, Steven. Steven shared his journey and his many accomplishments including speaking 7 different languages! He shared how this diversity helped him. He showed us the different ways to graft and discussed the pros and cons of each as well.

Heading out to our picnic lunch we had to taste the fruits which is a favorite past time. The Pomelo’s tested like fresh lime-aid! We loaded up for our trek to Steve’s favorite spot on the farm.

We had a great lunch while learning about the history of the American Indian tribes who lived right where we sat. The unique history and the learning that took place all while taking in the breathtaking views from this spot. It was a beautiful way to experience Ag.

College Bound?

FARMS Leadership| Tehama County | February 5, 2019

Location of Field Day
Chico, CA

Field Day Host
Ashley Person, College of Agriculture
Patrick Doyle, Professor and Program Coordinator

Participating Schools
Red Bluff High School
Orland High School
Mercy High School
Los Molinos High School
Corning High School

Theme
College Exploration

Summary of the Day:
Having the opportunity to take students to explore a 4-year university makes for a wonderful day. While maybe not all FARMS Leadership students think that college is the right fit for them, taking the time to walk around a university and hear the reality of college life from current students can really make an impact, and possibly set some on a new path they never thought possible.

Our morning began with getting a first hand experience of what the parking situation is at 8:30 AM on a college campus! Wow! What a mess! Needless to say, everyone managed to park and meet up in time to catch our college ambassador who was taking us on a walking tour of campus. On our campus tour we learned about the different resources available to students, and that there are special resources for first year students and those who are first generation college bound. We learned where the library, dining halls, dorms, various classrooms, as well as the favorite places to catch some sun and relax during a busy day on campus are. After we walked enough to work up an appetite, the students got to eat lunch in one of the dining halls that they would be eating at if they lived in the dorms on campus. That was a fun treat and they all enjoyed the “all you can eat” option which included dessert!

The afternoon was spent out at the Chico State Farm. We enjoyed a tour of each “living laboratory” including the organic dairy, swine unit, sheep unit, organic vegetable project, orchards and finished at the beef unit where Dr. Doyle met us to give the students a chance to see what a college lab would entail. He gave a short lecture on the anatomy of a cows stomach while explaining to them how much research is done on their farm by their students while they partner with industry. One of the resources they have to use are cannulated cows which is a cow that has been surgically fitted with a cannula. A cannula acts as a porthole-like device that allows access to the rumen of a cow, to perform research and analysis of the digestive system. Each student got to reach their hand inside the rumen via the cannula and feel the rumen wall as well as retrieve rumen matter out and collect samples to be looked at later. Once everyone had their turn, we took some of the liquid that was taken out of the rumen into a laboratory to test pH as well as see what type of organisms were living in the rumen of this cow.

These hands on activities are truly amazing and make HUGE impacts on students. I can not thank Chico State and their staff enough for this wonderful day!

A wintry finish in Winters

Winters High School at Winters Putah Creek Nature Park Extension
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 5, 2019

Participating School
Winters High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Putah Creek Council
City of Winters

Mentors
Alex Tremblay, Project Manager, Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Karin Young, Education Program Manager, Putah Creek Council
Marisa Alcorta, Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning
Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA

Summary of the Day
Our last Field Day at the Winters Putah Creek Nature Park Extension brought us many more students – some who were participating in a Field Day for the first time! We were introduced to these students in our opening circle, the start of a very cold morning on a very cold day. We attempted to warm up with a game of PVC golf, a game in which each student is given a half piece of PVC pipe. A golf ball must pass through each student’s piece – without letting the ball drop or stop – before making it into the goal at the other side. This is trickier than it sounds – many groups found themselves just one step away from the goal when the ball repeatedly dropped, sending them back to the starting line!

After our morning icebreaker, Tanya Meyer of Yolo County Resource Conservation District instructed us on our tasks for the day – plug planting, straw mulching, and building and installing bluebird boxes.

Plug planting came first, which proved to be much more difficult than usual! Sticky, muddy conditions made the dibbles (the tools which pokes holes for the tiny plants) difficult to remove from the earth but students persevered and planted 1500 grass plugs by the end of the morning. Our next task was straw mulching, which will help prevent moisture loss and discourage weed growth around plants we planted on our second Field Day. At least 1 flake of straw hay needed to go around each of the 200 plants, yet it felt like this task was accomplished in just a few minutes! Winters students were great at working hard, and working together.

Guest speaker Hanika of the UCD Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology joined us to speak about cavity nesting birds. Naturally occuring tree cavities can be difficult to come by for native bird species, especially with competition from invasive cavity nesters. Installing bird boxes tailored to specific bird species is one way to increase nesting opportunities for native species. To put the finishing touch on our restoration project, each mentor group would be installing a bluebird box on the south side of the site, near Putah Creek. Installation was a bit tricky, but mentor groups worked together to put up 4 bluebird boxes. Come spring, we’ll be able to see if any birds have taken up residence.

After lunch, students were given the opportunity to interview mentors about their education and career paths. Small groups of students rotated between each mentor, asking great questions about the steps they had taken to get to where they are in their careers. SLEWS is a great way for students to gain hands-on restoration experience, but it also provides exposure to professionals in the fields of agriculture, restoration, and environmental science.

To wrap up our SLEWS project at Winters Putah Creek Nature Park Extension, students wrote a Thank You card to someone who made their SLEWS experience possible – perhaps a mentor, funder, restoration partner, or their teacher, Ms. Roberts. At closing circle, we reflected on our favorite moments of our three days together – for many of us, it was exploring Putah Creek and seeing the spawning salmon!

I am thrilled to have completed three field days with the stellar, hardworking students of Winters High and our project partners, Yolo County Resource Conservation District and Putah Creek Council. Because these students are Winters locals, they will be able to return to this site many times in years to come – one student remarked that “it’ll be so cool to see how this place changes once the trees grow!” and I must say, I completely agree!

SJCOE Durham Ferry SLEWS Kick Off

Mr. Barrett’s class from Stagg High School is working with the San Joaquin County Office of Education Durham Ferry Outdoor Education Center for their SLEWS project.

On January 31st, 2019 Mr. Barrett’s Agricultural Biology class arrived at the SJCOE Durham Ferry Outdoor Education Center to begin their SLEWS project. This year, students will be transforming a plot of land to make it safe for the younger students access it. Currently, the plot of land has non-native plants like star thistle and other thorny less desirable weeds. The students will be sheet mulching the land to remove the unwanted non-native weeds and then planting native drought tolerant species that are more desirable.

Kristine Stepping, Program Manager at Durham Ferry, introduces the students to nature journaling. This approach was taken to provide a skill for students to learn about the plants at Durham Ferry and to begin to look for patterns in where these plants are found geographically.

Steve LaGraffe, a volunteer with over 30 years of irrigation and gardening experience, helps provide valuable advice regarding sheet mulching of the area.

Stagg High School students begin planning and surveying the land in order to begin their SLEWS project. They will produce a list of tools and supplies necessary for the future work on this project.

Students will be back in February to sheet-mulch this plot of land and learn more about the native and non-native species that exist at Durham Ferry. This information will aid them as they make choices for what will be a sustainable plant to replace the weeds that occupy this space in the summer and fall season.

Mar Vista High participates in San Diego County’s First SLEWS program!

SLEWS Program | San Diego County | January 26, 2019 | Field day 1

Participating School
Mar Vista High School

Location
Tijuana River Valley Community Garden in Southwest San Diego

Mentors

  • Samantha Cook, San Diego State University graduate in Sustainability
  • Christine Lambert, Associate Archaeologist & Project Manager, Petra Resource Management
  • Emanuel Storey, San Diego State University doctoral student in Geography
  • Thomas Strand, Environmental Planner, Chambers Group, Inc.

Land manager
Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County

Summary of the day
RCD staff and our team of mentors greeted students from Mar Vista for our first field day at the Tijuana River Valley Community Garden (TRVCG) and our first ever SLEWS program!

It was a sunny January day, and students mingled and shyly snacked while everyone got settled in. A game of Group Juggle to learn names helped break the ice and get people smiling. It being our first field day, we spent some time going over the SLEWS program, the history of the site, and what participants could expect over our three field days together. We then did another activity to get to know each other – everyone selected a bird, mammal, plant, herptile, or weed card and shared two interesting things they learned about their chosen species, as well as their favorite place in nature.

We then took a quick tour of the community garden, the ¼ plots on site, and our carbon farming demonstration plot before arriving at the native plant hedgerow (dense, woody vegetation planted in a linear design to achieve a natural resource conservation purpose) where we will be concentrating our field day projects. Students broke up into their mentor groups and surveyed the section of the hedgerow assigned to them. They observed the number of living, dead, and damaged plants; any evidence of wildlife; the condition of the irrigation lines; and presence of mulch on the ground. This was done in preparation for the planting and mulching project for Field day 2. It was great to hear excitement from the students as they encountered lady bugs, butterflies, and even a tiny lizard.

Following our exploration of the hedgerow, each group took two soil samples from within their section of the hedgerow – one to be sent to a lab, and one for a mason jar soil particulate test. Before taking the samples we discussed soil characteristics, the different reasons for testing soil, and that different plants have different needs from the soil. In line with the SLEWS norms we agreed on that morning, everyone participated and got their hands in the soil.

After lunch, we did a reflection activity called Postcard from the Field then reconvened for closing circle before the students got back on the bus.

We really enjoyed our inaugural SLEWS experience and can’t wait for Field Day 2!

Accomplishments
– 8 soil samples taken for the hedgerow.
– Hedgerow surveyed for living/dead/damaged plants in preparation of planting.

A strong start at Jack Rice’s

Sacramento Charter High School at Jack Rice’s
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 30, 2019

Participating School
Sacramento Charter High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Jack Rice

Mentors
Bob Ream, retired
Dana Stokes
Jess Rudnick, UC Davis graduate student
Lea Pollack, UC Davis graduate student
Sarah Gaffney, UC Davis graduate student

Summary of the Day
Sacramento High students got a change of scenery for their second Field Day – instead of working at Clark Ranch in Winters, we went to a property in Woodland! Landowner Jack Rice has been working with Natural Resources Conservation District and Yolo County Resource Conservation District to edge his property with native plant species. The first step to this process is installing an irrigation system, and Sac High students arrived enthusiastic to contribute to this project.

As students changed into rubber boots and enjoyed breakfast, excitement started to build about the animals on the property including a dog named Zorro and a horse named Ranger. Students asked Jack many questions about his animals and property before gathering for our opening circle. After a game of “Where the Wind Blows”, mentor groups were given a bucket of irrigation supplies to explore. Especially after planting along an installed irrigation system on their first Field Day, students were quickly able to figure out how to close the end of the tube, poke holes, and install emitters. This was great practice for our restoration activity of the day!

After meeting Ranger the horse, it was time to start our restoration work. We needed to first lay down the irrigation tubing that will transport water along the edge of Jack’s property. The entire class worked as a team to accomplish this – one mentor group helped Brandon Baker of Yolo County Resource Conservation District work the “spooler” to uncoil the tube, while all other students, mentors, and teachers grabbed a section of the line and walked it along the planting area. Through this process, we were easily and accurately able to lay down 1800 feet of tubing, even rounding the northeastern corner.

Jack had done his best to move the large amount of mulch covering the area, but there was one area he couldn’t access. It needed to be cleared so that the next group of students can plant in soil, not mulch. Sac High students grabbed shovels and made short work of this before dividing back into mentor groups to finish the job. One group measured in 10-foot increments and placed flags along the line while the other three groups spread out to install an emitter at each flag, and secure the line to the ground as they worked. After installing 180 emitters, students seemed tired and we thought that might be enough work for one morning…until one student spoke up, “we’re all already here! We might as well keep going!”. She was able to convince the entire class to dig a trench that will help connect the irrigation line to the water supply, and they finished this extra project before lunch!

After a well-deserved break, students had the opportunity to interview our volunteer mentors. Apart from working alongside students on the restoration work, mentors are a wonderful resource for students to learn more about different career paths in environmental sciences and more. Every student had the opportunity to ask mentors questions about their professional journey and as I was walking between groups I overheard one student ask, “What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do?”. Even though these students are Freshmen in High School, they are already thinking about their futures!

Soaring through California!

The California Raptor Center

Program: FARMS Leadership Region: Sacramento Valley: January 29th, 2019

Location of Field Day: Davis, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Jo Cowan – Raptor Center Volunteer
  • Lis Fleming – Raptor Center Volunteer
  • Jolene Maiden – Raptor Center Volunteer
  • Brittany Cavaletto – Goat Facilities Manager

Theme: Habitat, Conservation, and Ecology

Summary of the Day:

The Sac Valley FARMS Leadership Students had a great time learning about conservation and maintaining the natural habitat for wildlife to thrive at the California Raptor Center. Jo Cowan hosted us at the California Raptor Center and we began our day in their classroom learning about the different raptors native to California, how they benefit us, and how we can help protect their environment and ensure they can survive. After gaining a better understanding of raptors, the students split into 3 groups and toured the facility, visited the raptor center museum, and were able to see different species of raptors up close. The students had a very unique and awesome opportunity to learn about raptors and their impact on agriculture up close and personal. In the first portion of the day we learned about different raptors native to California. Then we learned the vital roles each one plays in agriculture and how farms and ranches can benefit from them.

Once we concluded our tour we took a lunch break where the students were able to take pictures with one of the raptors and also help feed a bottle baby goat. Then after lunch we headed next door to the UC Davis Goat Facility. Brittany Cavaletto, the Facilities Manager, took us on a tour where the students were able to see the two different herds at Davis. They have a herd of dairy goats and a herd of Boer goats, which are a breed of meat goats. The students were able to walk thru the milking parlor and see the construction of the new dairy that they are building. They also were able to help the student employees vaccinate some of the baby goats in the barn.

More Than Just the College Experience at UC Davis!

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: January 24th,  2019

Location of Field Day: Davis, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Dan Sehnert
  • Ed DePeters
  • Katharina Ullman

Theme: College and Career Exploration

Theme: College and Career Exploration

Summary of the Day:

Dan Sehnert, the UC Davis Department of Animal Science Facilities Coordinator, welcomed the San Joaquin FARMS Leadership students to UC Davis. The students were then split up into 4 groups and toured the Dairy Cattle Facility, Horse Facility, Avian Hatchery, and the Meats Lab. At the dairy the students were able to assist in treating a sick cow, see new born calves, and help UC Davis student employees vaccinate. At the horse facility the students were given a tour and learned about the different ways in which horses are studied at UC Davis. Afterwards the students were given the opportunity to groom the horse’s as well as see a week old foal that was bred and born at the facility. At the hatchery student’s learned how to candle eggs and were able to see different varieties of birds at different stages of incubation. The final facility the students visited was the Meats Lab. Students were given a tour, the different processing practices used to process cattle, hogs and lambs were discussed and the students were able to sample some beef jerky and snack sticks that the Meats Lab produced.

After the facility tours we all met back at the UC Davis Cole Facility where Dr. Ed DePeter’s joined us. He discussed with the FARMS Leadership students the college experience. Dr. DePeter’s is a professor at UC Davis and went over the different classes and opportunities that both UC Davis and the Animal Science Department offer. After our visit with Dr. DePeter’s we headed to campus where the students had the opportunity to dine like a college student at Tecero Student Dining Hall.

We concluded our day at the Student Farm and Market Garden. Katharina Ullman, the Director of the Student Farm, welcomed us and gave the students a tour. The students were able to learn about the different crops and herbs grown at the Student Farm as well as see the Market Garden and learn about the CSA program that UC Davis students implement.  Afterwards the students toured some near by classes and walked through one of the labs in the Plant Science building. We ended our day with an activity and the students collected cuttings from different plants and made mini bouquets with different aromas from flowers and spices.