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.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

Cal Waste Recovery Systems and the California Department of Food and Agriculture

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: November 19, 2019

Location of Field Day: Galt, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Dave Vaccarezza – Owner of Cal Waste
MaryBeth Ospital – Community Outreach Coordinator at Cal Waste
Chris Vicense – Equipment Manager at Cal Waste
Dr. Kevin Williams – Senior Insect Biosystematist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture
Dr. Peter Kerr – Senior Insect Biosystematist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture

Theme: Environmental Science

Summary of the Day:

We began our field day with an introduction to Cal Waste from MaryBeth Ospital. She told the group about the history of the company. Cal Waste is a family owned business who just welcomed the 5th generation into the world a couple weeks ago. Cal Waste is also the largest, locally-owned waste collection and material recovery operation in the region, providing residential, commercial and industrial services to areas throughout Sacramento, Calaveras, Alpine and San Joaquin Counties.

We began our day in the Outreach and Education room at Cal Waste and on the far side of the room was a large window that over looked the MRF, which is the Materials Recovery Facility. This is where all of the recycling and garbage is brought in, processed, and sorted by material type. After our introduction we took a tour of the facilities. The San Joaquin FARMS Leadership students were able to get up close in personal with the trucks, the shop and even get a closer peak into the MRF which is currently be renovated and upgraded to a more technology based system. This new system will allow for the waste being processed to be more thoroughly sorted and cleaned of any contaminated materials.

After our tour we met back in the Outreach and Education room. The group was then met by Dr. Kevin Williams and Dr. Peter Kerr from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Both Kevin and Peter work in the Plant Pest Diagnostic Center at the CDFA in Sacramento, CA. They presented on Plant Health and Pest Prevention. They also shared with the students some insect displays as well as some pest traps that they use for insect collections.

“They say a picture is like a thousand words. Well looking at a specimen is like looking at 1,000 pictures” – Dr. Kevin Williams, CDFA

After the conclusion of our CDFA presentation we took a lunch break before introducing our next guest speaker, Chris Vicense. Chris is the Equipment Manager at Cal Waste and started with the company when he was 16 years old. He has been with the company for over 25 years and was an inspiring testament to what it is like working or a family owned business. He also spoke to the students about the importance of trade schools and apprenticeships and the different opportunities in which they can get involved at Cal Waste.

Our final speaker for the day was Dave Vaccarezza the Owner of Cal Waste. He shared with the students more insight on the family history of the business and told the students how true the saying is “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”. With the MRF currently down for 6 weeks while it is being upgraded, there are 54 employees who are out of jobs. Rather then letting them go and trying to refill positions in 6 weeks Dave found positions as well as made new positions for all of his employees! Thank you Cal Waste for the hospitality and hosting the San Joaquin FARMS Leadership Program for a field day!

Strawberries, Drones, Fumigation & the Ag Commissioner

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | February 7, 2019

Participating Schools:

  • Gonzales High School
  • North Salinas High School
  • Soledad High School

Location:

Ag Commissioner’s Office, 1428 Abbott St. Salinas, ca

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Barbara LaVake – TiCal Field Day planner and support.
  • Dennis Lane – TriCal
  • Abbie Asche – TriCal
  • Carolyn O’Donnell –  California Strawberry Commission
  • Henry Gonzales – Monterey County Ag Commissioner
  • Kevin Hill – ParaBug
  • Chandler Bennett – ParaBug

Summary of the Day:

Pests and disease are agricultures biggest adversary. Producers of all kind are always battling or protecting crops from bugs and killer diseases. FARMS Leadership Students met with Carolyn O’Donnell to learn how the Strawberry commission plays a key role in promoting strawberry consumption and sharing the amazing benefits of eating strawberries as a part of a healthy diet.

“Today I learned that 88% of straberries are grown in California.” – Annabel Uribe

First up, TriCal Inc. a family owned business that provides soil fumigation services to sterilize the soil before strawberry plants are placed in their beds. Students learned about TriCal and their commitment to their employee’s safety and well being by paying applicators a living wage with benefits and full-time year-round work. Students spoke with employees and learned about the different jobs TriCal offers. We were able to see the applicator machines and personal safety gear. Abbie Asche talked about her job as a Pest Control Advisor (PCA) with TriCal. Abbie explained the leading diseases that need soil fumigation, like nematodes, bacteria, fungi, and insects. TriCal’s motto is Healthy Fields, Healthy Yields. TriCal is a leader in regulatory requirements that help ensure the health of the consumers and growers.

“Today I learned about TriCal and what it takes to be a PCA or a CAA.” – Brenda Vasquez

Who regulates and permits TriCal to do what they do? The Ag Commissioner. Henry Gonzales is the Ag Commissioner for Monterey County and presented to students about what he does and the career pathway that brought him to the position of Ag Commissioner. Students were extremely engaged and interested in hearing about how Henry Gonzales grew up in Salinas at a local high school.

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