Milk. It does a body good.

FARMS Advanced | Tehama | Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Location of Field Day:
Duivenvoorden Farms – 19490 Draper Rd. Cottonwood, CA 96022

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Ali Duivenvoorden – Public Relations Manager Mark Duivenvoorden – Owner/Herd Manager

Theme:
Food Safety and Production, Labor

Summary of the Day: To kick off our Tehama County FARMS Advanced year, we visited Duivenvoorden Farms which is a raw dairy in Cottonwood, CA that has been in operation for over 50 years! As we arrived, Mark and Ali Duivenvoorden (and a whole herd of dogs) greeted us and were excited to share their knowledge and love for the dairy industry. We jumped right into the daily operation by joining Mark in the milking parlor to learn some background as well as see first hand the heart and passion that is poured into this local business. It was very touching to hear Mark tell the story of the family dairy that begun over 50 years ago when his parents immigrated from Holland and started the dairy, to him and his wife Lori taking it over in 1993 and now his son and daughter-in-law being a part of the daily operations as well. With the dairy industry being in decline in CA they were faced with finding a niche market to sell their milk in, which is why in 2009 they began selling herd shares which allowed local families to purchase the raw milk for consumption to in 2017 going full retail and building a processing facility to bottle their raw milk for retail sale at markets all over the north state!

The Duivenvoordens herd consists currently of 35 milking cows who all have names. We had the opportunity to learn the process of milking the cows and even try our hand at milking one! We then followed the stainless milk lines to the room where the milk is cooled from 102 degrees to below 50 degrees and stored in a large agitator until it is bottled and distributed twice a week. As you can imagine, with the small scale family business this is a very high labor intensive process. which Ali shared that the days they bottle and distribute, they are all hands on deck to ensure the highest quality milk is delivered to each store.

In order to achieve high quality and consistent flavor, the Duivenvoordens really go the extra mile in care and feeding of their herd. We learned how there cows have access to pasture 365 days a year and are completely grain free! They are fed high quality alfalfa hay year round and fodder during the winter months. What is fodder? In their case, it is barley seeds that are wet and allowed to sprout and grow in trays with no soil which turns into a mat of highly digestible forage for the cows. They are fed this during the months that there pasture grass is primarily dormant, to allow for consistent cream percentage and taste of the milk year round.

To wrap up our day, we took a tour of the farm where we fed the cows, visited the pigs that they feed any “dump milk” or milk that for many reasons doesn’t go into the main tank, and climbed the pile of rice hulls that they use for bedding in the free stalls that the cows can rest in. After this fun and hands on tour, Ali treated us to a glass of their delicious, cold, raw milk and we even made our own butter!

Thank you Duivenvoorden Farms! We had a wonderful day of learning and making memories! Looking forward to another visit during your Milk and Cookies day!

An invertebrate-heavy day in Winters

Winters High School at Putah Creek Dry Creek Confluence
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 10, 2020

Participating School
Winters High School

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

Mentors
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 field day at the confluence of Putah and Dry Creek in Winters brought us many eager students, both familiar and new to the program.

A guest speaker joined us for opening circle – Jessa of the Xerces Society, an organization focused on invertebrate conservation. She spoke about the alarming decline in the population of the Western Monarch Butterfly (population down 86% from 2017 to 2018) and how the results of this restoration project will help support monarchs in their migration. We finished our opening circle with a game of “Where the Wind Blows” to identify similarities within our group.

After dividing into mentor groups and gathering our tools for the day, we headed down to the project site for our planting demonstration. Amy Williams of Yolo County Resource Conservation District began by introducing students to four of the plants we’d be planting that day – deerweed, toyon, fuschia, and wild rose. As these plants were passed around, students learned their ecological benefits and how to identify them. Then Amy demonstrated the main task of the day, planting trees, shrubs, and forbs. Each plant would be planted in specific spots along the irrigation line, and an emitter would be installed next to it to provide the plant with adequate water.

Mentor groups enthusiastically tackled this job in different areas, with some groups following to install “spaghetti” line to ensure the water would reach the plants. Once groups finished planting the larger plants, Amy showed them how to plug plant smaller “plugs” by poking holes in the ground using a “dibble”. We were all impressed by how much we accomplished by lunchtime!

After lunch, mentor Lea Pollack gave a presentation on the work she’s doing in her Ph.D. program. She studies behavioral ecology and works with black widow spiders. Students were surprised to learn that black widows have personalities! The more “aggressive” (not to people – to other spiders and prey) spiders build their webs in a different way than less aggressive individuals, and you can actually see the difference when the webs are sprayed with water! Mentor groups were each given a misted web (without a widow in it) and counted the number of “gum footed” lines in the web to figure out whether the spider that made it was aggressive or not.

During closing circle, students reflected on what they had learned that day. Many students shared facts about monarch migration, others shared the planting techniques they learned, and even more mentioned black widows – that they have personalities, that only the females build webs, and that the web structure can tell us about their behavior!

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!