Farmer Training in the Salinas Valley

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | December 5th, 2019

Location(s) of Field Day:
ALBA Campus 1700 Old Stage Road, Salinas Ca

Participating Schools:
Soquel High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Nathan Harkleroad – Education Program Director
Nancy Porto – Community Relations and Environmental Education Officer

Summary of the Day: 
At today’s field day students had to make their way through roadblocks and detours to get to the ALBA Campus. Last night’s storm caused a levy to break and flooded several South Monterey County Cities including Gonzales. By morning Gonzales HS had to close for the day and Gonzales HS students in the FARMS program could not make it to the field day.

Luckily, Soquel High School students made it safely to the field day site ready to learn about Organic Farmer Training. ALBA stands for Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association. Students spent the morning learning about the farmer education course that provides hands-on training and college-accredited coursework to the next generation of organic farmers. The course allows aspiring farmers to learn about organic farming production, pest management, marketing, record keeping, labor laws and much more. 

Nathan Harkleroad the education program director taught students about organic pest management and careers in pest management like crop planning and research. He shared research from the USDA on an experiment using alyssum as a conservation bio-control. Alyssum can be very beneficial for organic farmers because it attracts hoverflies that help control aphids. Students had the opportunity to plant a hundred alyssum plants in the fields. 

Finally, the day ended with a farm tour and included meaningful discussions about: 

  • Sustainability practices like straw bale buildings, solar panels to power buildings and well pumps.
  • Water wells and the limited water resources in the area as well as some water regulations affecting farmers today. 
  • Hedgerows, cover crops, windbreaks, and how beneficial these are for the soil and land conservation.
  • The visible differences from how ALBA manages their land and how the neighboring conventional farmers manage their land.

Organic Pest Management

FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | February 21, 2019

Participating Schools:

Soledad High School

Location(s):

1700 Old Stage Road, Salinas

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Nathan Harkleroad – ALBA 
  • Octavio Garcia – ALBA 

Summary of the Day:

Students arrived at ALBA with coffee in hand. They found a seat at the front and I began with a greeting and check-in. ALBA stands for Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association and they provide educational courses on organic farming. Today students would learn more about IPM in an organic setting.

The Definition of IPM – The use of various methods to reduce pest population below economically damaging levels without adverse secondary effects

Students were presented information on IPM by Nathan Harkleroad. He showed the different levels of pest control management which are:

  1. Cultural Control
  2. Physical Mechanical Control
  3. Biological Control
  4. Chemical Control

Following Nathan’s IPM introduction was Octavio Garcia, a hardworking young man with an inspiring story about his journey to becoming a PCA and Farmer. He then explained what his typical day looks like and what his responsibilities are as a PCA. Students asked great questions about the workload and the difference between conventional IPM and organic IPM. Octavio shared that the IPM model was the same for both Organic and Conventional with exception of the types of controls used in Chemical Control level.

Nathan had a small hand lens for students to use out in the field. We headed outside to the strawberry beds to test out the lenses and drop predatory mites by hand. The beds were still wet from the rain and we all had soggy boots and feet when we were done. We then watched some informative videos by USDA researcher Eric Brannan and his findings on using asylum flowers as an insectary plant and hedgerows to manage pests by providing habitat for pollinators and birds that can help manage rodents and insects. The last activity on the agenda was a skills assessment activity to talk with students about soft and hard skills. It was a fun activity to do with students and I could vouch for their soft skills because I have seen these skills demonstrated.

  • Estrella is enthusiastic, social and reliable.
  • Andrea is organized, a team player and responsible.
  • Diana is patient, positive and a great listener.
  • Precious is honest, hardworking, and patient.
  • Aaron is loyal, task-oriented with an outlandish personality.

All of them are excellent public speakers, intuitive, mature, caring, fast learners and a pleasure to work with.