The Founder’s Harvest

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | Thursday November 12, 2020

Location(s) of Field Day:
Sierra Orchards – Winters, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Craig McNamara – Owner & Founder
Ramon Del Toro – Farm Manager
Sean McNamara – Farm Manager
Emily McNamara – Apprentice Farm Supervisor
Attila Kolozsi – Loading Supervisor & Farmhand

Theme:
Organic Walnut Production, Conservation, & Food Security

Summary of the Day:
The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership class commenced the 2020-2021 program a bit differently than previous years; Opting for a digital model that abides by the social-distancing safety standards necessitated by the Coronavirus pandemic. Students and teachers from Grant Union High School, Luther Burbank High School, and River City High School all joined Craig McNamara, owner of Sierra Orchards in a Zoom webinar for a screening of the virtual tour of his organic walnut orchard. In the post-tour Q&A session, one standout Junior of Luther Burbank, held Mr. McNamara to task with a battery of questions about his experience in the organic growing industry. FARMS Leadership students and a couple lucky teachers were provided Hands-On Learning Kits that included: organic walnut pieces, organic in-shell walnuts, crushed walnut shells, Sierra Orchards compost, organic cover crop mix, and a walnut grading sheet exhibiting the various defects that can befall the nutty legume; all complements of Craig McNamara and Sierra Orchards.


For more information or to view November’s Field Day, ‘click’ the YouTube link below:

A day of irrigation along two creeks

Winters High School at Putah Creek Dry Creek Confluence
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | November 1, 2019

Participating School
Winters High School

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

Mentors
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
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 Sac Valley SLEWS day of the year brought us to the confluence of Putah Creek and Dry Creek in Winters, CA. Landowners Michael Barbour and Valerie Whitworth have been working with Yolo County Resource Conservation District to plan a habitat restoration project in an area that was damaged by fire in October 2018. This will increase biodiversity in the area as well as provide habitat for pollinators and the wildlife of the creek. We were happy to involve Winters High School students with this project, walking distance from their school!

After students arrived on foot and enjoyed breakfast, we gathered in our opening circle to introduce ourselves and the project goals, and learn names with a round of group juggle. From there Amy Williams of Yolo County Resource Conservation District led us towards the creek to teach us about a very important plant – blue elderberry. There are special rules and protective measures surrounding this plant. Why? It is the only host plant for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, a federally protected species of insect. Its habitat has been greatly reduced due to agriculture and urban development. To protect the beetle, the blue elderberry plant is protected from disturbance, trimming, and removal. Our project site has a sizeable elderberry shrub in the middle of it, so we took extra precautions to make sure it was not damaged during our work.

To start our project, we had to move a bunch of brush that was in the way of our project site. Though there was a sizeable amount of cut branches, students and mentors made extremely short work of it. Next the entire class gathered together to lay out the longest irrigation line. This is a group effort – students space themselves about 20 feet apart and carry the line all the way to the end as the spool of irrigation tubing unspools. One this line was “stapled” down, students got in their mentor groups to divide and conquer.

One group worked on installing emitters on existing oak trees, another created a “grid” of irrigation for the pollinator meadow, and the other two groups laid out 3 more lines of irrigation in the main planting area, taking care around the elderberry of course. By lunch time, students had installed 2500 feet total of irrigation and installed 280 emitters!

Once we were done eating, we ventured down to Putah Creek where Amy and mentor (and biologist!) Corey Shake talked about the significance of the creek and the wildlife that calls it home – especially spawning salmon! We even saw some wildlife of our own on the field day including western fence lizards, a fuzzy caterpillar, beetles, and birds. After exploring the creek, students found a quiet spot to sit and reflect on their first field day in a field journal. This low energy activity was probably a welcome end to the day – a mentor’s fitbit tracked that we walked 4 miles while working throughout the field day, not even counting the students’ walk to and from school!

Kick off to the 2019-2020 Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership Program!

Sierra Orchards and Mariani Nut Company

FARMS Leadership Program: Sacramento Valley: October 24th, 2019

Location of Field Day: Winters, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Craig McNamara – Owner and Manager, Sierra Orchards
Gus Mariani – Operations Manager, Mariani Nut Company Max Mariani – Production Manager, Mariani Nut Company

Theme: Walnut Production and Sustainability

Summary of the Day:

The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership Program kicked off the 2019-2020 program year at Sierra Orchards in Winters, CA. Sierra Orchards is home to Craig McNamara who founded the FARMS Leadership Program in 1993. The field day began with an introduction to the Program and the Farm followed by activities to introduce the students from different schools to one another. The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership Program is made up of students from 5 high schools in the Sacramento and Yolo counties; Luther Burbank, Grant Union, Sacramento, River City, and Esparto High Schools.

After the activities concluded the group headed on down the road to Mariani Nut Company. We were greeted by Gus and his nephew Max Mariani who work at and manage the facility. They gave us an overview of the family owned company and then took us on a tour. We were able to see the different stages of production from when the walnuts were dropped off in shell to how they are sorted and processed. They sell walnuts and almonds all over the world in different forms including in shell, sliced, whole, flavored, etc. You name it and they probably have a market for it. The students were then able to work on the factory line and help the quality control team sort walnuts.

Following our tour of Mariani Nut Company we headed back over to Sierra Orchards where we were met by Craig McNamara. Craig gave an overview of Sierra Orchards and then took the Sac Valley FARMS group on a tractor ride tour of the property. We went out into the orchard and were able to see the crew harvesting as well as visit the huller and see walnut shipments come in and be sorted and dried.