We are Back In-Person with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County

FARMS Advanced |Central Coast Region | Sept 23, 2021

Location(s) of Field Day:
Farm Bureau of Monterey County and ALBA

Participating Schools from Monterey & Santa Cruz Region:
Alisal High School (virtual)
Gonzalez High School (in-person)

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Jacob Dixon – FARMS Alumni and Senior at Cal Poly
Juan Perez – FARMS Alumni and Senior at Cal Poly
Laura Murphy – Soil Scientist with the RCD of Monterey County
Paul Robins – Executive Director of the RCD of Monterey County
Megan Barker – RCD of Monterey County
Mary Kimball – CEO of the Center for Land-Based Learning
Andrea Tinajero – ALBA
Norm Groot – Monterey County Farm Bureau


Theme: What can Resource Conservation Districts do to create a more inclusive dialogue about conservation work?

Summary of the Day:  It feels so good to be back in-person with students. The Advanced Cohort had the pleasure of kicking off the year! Since the Advanced students are our second year students their field days are a bit more involved and require professionalizm, critical thinking and a willingness to step out of their comfort zones just a bit.

Advanced begins early in the morning as I pick up students. This is the first time we are meeting face to face. Their leadership year was entirly online. After pick up we head to the Monterey County Farm Bureau and we have some brealfast. We are luck to have Mary Kimball joining us from Woodland. We begin with an icebreaker and students stand and introduce themselves with confidence and assertiveness. We invite Norm Groot to join us for our morning icebreaker, Two Truths and a Lie. We all learn so much about each other from this excersice it is a lot of fun! Norm Groot took the floor and shared his career pathway, the history of Farm Bureaus’ and what they do to support farmers and the Ag industry.

From there Megan signed us on to zoom and we met with Alisal HS students and FARMS Alumni, Juan Perez and Jacob Dixon. Both Jacob and Juan participate in the RCD Speak-off Contest when they were in the FARMS program. They shared their experience with students and gave them pointers on public speaking and speech writing. Jacob encouraged students that the speak-off judges only want to help and be supportive and students should not be nervous or afraid of them. Juan let students know that when it comes to writing a speech the key is starting early so you can have time to revise, practice and then revise & practice again. Next we discussed the speak-off contest and the speech prompt for this year.

Speak -Off Topic

“What can Resource Conservation Districts do to help create a more inclusive dialogue about conservation work?”

the Californina Association of RCD’s

The topic is not an easy one by any means and it required quite a bit of dicussion. I took notes as we broke down the topic and defined key words like “enclusive dialogue” .

It was time to head out to ALBA to meet some farmers and eat some lunch. After lunch we gave students the opportunity to discover how the RCD of Monterey County engages farmers in dialogue. Students where tasked with asking Farmers questions themselves. Some students took it apon themselves to ask their questions in Spanish which was a great way of demonstrating inclusive dialogue. Andrea Tinajero organized an amazing line-up of farmers to meet with students and share honestly and candidly thier experiences as Farmers and business owners.

Here are some of the questions students asked:

  1. What led you to farming?
  2. What resource conservation concerns do you have?
  3. How can you best be reached to have discussions about resource conservation (for example, email, cell phone, in-person visits, etc.)?
  4. Where do you want to have those discussions (for example, over the phone, online, in public meetings, in groups, during 1-on-1 personal visits to your farm, etc.)?

The day ended with a hands on soil sampling and test activity that students did with Farmers in their fields. It was a beautiful day to be in the fields and a perfect day for our first FARMS Advanced Field Day.

Exploring the Plant Materials Center

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | November 9, 2021

Location of Field Day:
NRCS Plant Materials Center – Lockeford, CA

Field Day Host and Mentors:
National Resource Conservation Service
Plant Materials Center – Matthew Bronson, Margaret Smither-Kopperl, Shawn Vue

Theme:
Interaction of Conservation and Agriculture

Our San Joaquin FARMS Leadership crew spent their second field day at the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Lockeford, where staff work to test plant species related to California conservation concerns. Students explored how the PMC conducts research on cover crops and pollinator species and then works directly with agricultural workers to help implement practices that maximize soil health and native wildlife on farm land.

During a breakfast of yogurt, granola, Asian pears and bananas, students were formally introduced to FARMS Student Leadership Roles. These are 4 different roles (Question Master, Nutrition Educators, Waste Management Warriors, and Partner Experts–see attached photo for a full description of each leadership role!) that are assigned to a new set of students each field day in order to help them practice the hard but oh so necessary leadership skills of decision-making, public speaking, direct communication, self-reflection, and research. Afterwards, our very first Question Master of the year kicked off our opening circle by choosing and posing the reflection question to the group “What is your top priority over the next 6 months?” Students had some incredible answers, like learning more about nutritious foods and how they impact bodies and becoming fluent in Russian!

Next we were joined by Margaret the PMC’s Manager, Matthew the Farm Manager, and Shawn the coordinator of all things PMC. Each shared about the mission of the PMC, their individual backgrounds and career journeys, and their individual roles at the PMC. Matthew then led us on a tour of the PMC facilities starting with the PMC’s shop, seed cleaning and storing facilities, laboratory, machinery storage shed, and lath house. Then we all hopped into a vehicle for a driving tour of the PMC’s farm land. Margaret led us across one field containing an experimental plot of cover crops, in which students feasted on sunflower seeds plucked directly from sunflower heads. Many of them twisted off the heads packed with seeds to plant their own sunflower patches at home.

During lunch, our Nutrition Educators went above and beyond to gather some background research on three fresh foods we were chowing on in our lunch dishes: squash, spinach and basil. After they gathered their information and eloquently presented the nutritional benefits of each food item to their peers, we prepared for our afternoon venture: planting an educational native pollinator garden for future generations of students to enjoy. Matthew briefed students on the process beginning to end including measuring and staking out the plots, cutting and securing down weed paper, and planting seedlings into the holes within the paper.

The sun escaped cloud cover just in time for us to head down to our plot and students set right to work. After some problem-solving and utilization of geometry class skills to ensure plot angles were correct, students measured and laid weed paper and planted away. Along the way, students discovered plenty of new worm, beetle and spider friends and by the end of the afternoon, they had established a garden with over 150 new plants!

Closing the day with our reflection circle, students had plenty to appreciate about the day. Many loved getting their hands dirty while planting fresh green life, others remembered climbing up into tractors and seed-distributing machines, and others most enjoyed traipsing through the PMC fields and learning about their cover crops. One student who has long wanted to go into the medical field shared that the last two field days have her re-thinking her career plan; now she’d like to find a professional path that combines medicine with agriculture and conservation efforts. Music to any FARMS Leadership Coordinator’s ears!

Native Love at Vino Farms

FARMS Leadership | San Joaquin | October 22, 2021

Location of Field Day:
Lodi, CA

Field Day Host:
Vino Farms – Chris Storm & Viticulture Team

Theme:
Sustainable Viticulture & Native Conservation

Our San Joaquin FARMS Leadership crew ventured out to Vino Farms for a day of sustainable viticulture and native conservation efforts. With a rather soggy start to the day, students embraced the rain whole-heartedly during an introduction to Vino Farms from Viticulturist Chris Storm and his team. We then ventured down to one of Vino’s biodynamic sustainable growing blocks seated right next to a 28 acre habitat restoration site (installed by a group of high school students in CLBL’s SLEWS Program 12 years ago!). With healthy breakfast burritos in hand, students first spent time on some self-reflection and community connections, creatively answering the questions ‘Where do you come from?, Where are you now?, and Where are you going?’ through collage art.

As the sun finally began to grace us with its presence, we dove into a day of native conservation efforts. Though Chris Storm gave the crew some wonderful background on the current plight of the Monarch Butterfly, our LHA students were no strangers to this wide-spread issue. After discussing how dwindling milkweed populations are contributing to the decline of the Monarch, students, partners and teachers traversed Vino’s habitat restoration site spreading 2 pounds of milkweed seed in the hopes to help re-establish the local Monarch population (shout out to Xerces Society and NRCS Plant Materials Center for donating the milkweed seed!).

After giving some love to the butterflies, we shifted our focus to native bee populations. Chris led us in a discussion of the importance of all native bees for their crucial pollination efforts. Our students were well aware that pollinators are essential for ⅓ of the world’s crop production. So in order to boost native bee populations, students spent some time building bee blocks from scratch. Let me tell you, they were power drill masters! After lunch down by the creek with watermelon grown by Center for Land-Based Learning Incubator Farmers, students and partners set to work installing the bee blocks on trees throughout the restoration site.

Our final activity of the day was a smelly surprise for us all: owl pellets collected from Vino Farms’ many owl boxes. Students were enthralled to find entire mouse skulls buried within the pellets!

We finished out our day with a closing circle during which everyone reflected on their favorite parts of the day: some students marveled at the sustainability efforts Vino takes (a massive solar installation, free-ranging sheep acting as lawnmowers, managing pests by introducing native insects, and precise drip irrigation systems) while other students loved drawing the connections between their observations at Vino and the environmental systems they’ve learned about in their Environmental Science class. Everyone left counting down the days to our next field day!