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!

What kind of belly is the best belly? – A Full Belly!

Full Belly Farm Field Day

FARMS Leadership Program: Sacramento Valley: November 14th, 2019

Location of Field Day: Guinda, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Haley Friel – Director of Outreach and Education at Full Belly Farm
  • Sierra Reading – Director of Outreach and Education at Full Belly Farm

Theme: Organic Farming Practices

Summary of the Day:

Today’s field day was at Fully Belly Farm’s in Guinda, CA. The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership Program was welcomed by Haley Friel and Sierra Reading, the directors of Outreach and Education at Fully Belly Farm. We took a tour of the 400-acre farm and learned about the different crops grown and the practices in which they use to keep the farm organic and sustainable. Full Belly Farm is planting, growing and harvesting over 80 crops year around keeping them very busy. Full Belly sells there produce to 4 main markets; wholesalers who buy pallets of produce at a time, to CSA (community Supported Ag) members, at local farmer’s markets, and to bay area restaurants. Full Belly Farm picks their produce to order so it is always fresh and they currently have 1,200 CSA members.

On our tour we were able to see their mobile chicken coops where the farm is raising organic chicken eggs that sell for $9.00 a dozen.  The students were also able to see the pigs, sheep and cattle raised at at Full Belly Farm and see where the produce is washed and prepped for sale. We also visited the flower shop where not only are fresh flower’s made into bouquets, but flowers are also dried and made into wreaths.

After lunch we went out into a field where peppers were currently being grown. We harvested and cleaned bouquets of peppers that will be dried and sold. The students also learned about soil and compost. At Full Belly Farm they us 10,000 pounds per acre of compost every year.

What can the Soil Tell us About the Land?

FARMS Leadership | Monterey & Santa Cruz | November 7th, 2019

Location(s) of Field Day:
D’Arrigo Ranch – 18742 Gould Rd. Salinas, Ca
Hartnell College Alisal Campus – 1752 E Alisal St. Salinas, Ca

Participating Schools:
Gonzales High School
Soquel High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Resource Conservation District for Monterey County(RCDMC)
Paul Robins – Executive Director 
Megan Baker – Project Administrator 
Laura Murphy – Soil Scientist
Chelsea Rutt – Student Trainee (Soil Conservation)
Shaun Richards – Ag Water Management Specialist

National Resource Conservation District(NRCS)
Drew Mather – Conservation Planner 
Allison Tokunaga – Rangeland Conservationist

D’Arrigo Brothers
Ed Mora – PCA
Saul Lopez Jr. – D’Arrigo Superintendent / PCA 

Summary of the Day:

When it comes to soil conservation the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County (RCDMC) are the experts. Students had the opportunity to spend the day with these local experts and learn more about soil science, land judging and possible careers in Ag and Conservation.

Students arrived at the D’Arrigo Ranch promptly to a warm breakfast. After breakfast, we headed out to a freshly harvested field to meet our field day mentors. Paul Robins started with an overview and history of the NRCS and the RCD, and how they support local farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners wanting to make conservation improvements to their land. One of the local ag companies that work with the RCDMC is D’Arrigo Brothers and we were lucky enough to have Saul Lopez Jr. and Ed Mora from D’Arrigo on-site to greet students.

It was time to learn how to judge the land for the land judging competition. There was a lot to cover and Laura Murphy, Shaun Richards, and Drew Mather gave students a crash course on soil properties and proper ways of observing and analyzing soil and topography. With that, students were ready to try it on their own.

“It’s kinda cool, right? From where we started with color and texture we’re sort of predicting out. Just from texture you can tell so much about what you can do with your soil, from available water to instability for building or for growing plant life.” – Drew Mather, NRCS

In order to make the land judging contest more competitive, the RCD has agreed to provide the first place winner with a scholarship to California Range and Natural Resources Camp at Elkus Ranch in Half-Moon Bay. Students will spend 10 minutes in the pit and 10 minutes outside the pit at 2 different locations. Each student and team will get an opportunity to make observations and record their findings on a scorecard that would later be graded. Judges will combine the two scores to determine the winner. Students do their best and turn in their scorecards.

We head to Hartnell College for lunch and some team building activities while the scorecards are graded. Before the winners are announced students split up into groups of two to meet the experts and practice their networking skills. Professionals share information about their careers and what they do and why they like it while asking students to share more about their own interests and future plans for themselves.

Finally, it is announced that the top two scorers for the land judging competition go to Kayli Plazola and Sophia Lopez from Gonzales High School.

A big thank you to Megan Barker from the RCDMC for working with FARMS to plan this field day.

Chico State – “The Harvard of the West!”

FARMS Leadership Program: North State: November 5, 2019

Location of Field Day: Chico, CA


Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Sarah DeForest – Director of External Relations
Hayden Clement – CSU, Chico Meats Lab Manager
Gracie Pachie – CSU, Chico Tour Coordinator and Guide

Theme: College Exploration and Career Opportunities

Summary of the Day:

We began our visit to Chico State with an introduction to the campus, student housing, different courses available at Chico State, as well as studying abroad.  After we concluded our presentation Gracie Pachie, the Tours Coordinator and Guide showed us around campus. We toured the campus and saw classrooms, visited the Bell Union Memorial (BMU) saw student housing and the dining halls and concluded our tour at the campus gym which just celebrated its 10th year. Once our tour ended we headed in to the BMU dining hall where the students all got to enjoy a college style dining experience. We also checked out the campus store and students and their teachers were able to buy some shirts, hats and other cool Chico State gear.

Following lunch, we all went back to our vehicles and drove out to the University Farm. We were greeted by Sarah DeForest, who took us on a tour of the farm and told us about it’s history and how it got to where it is today. We visited the beef unit, dairy facility, swine unit, sheep unit, and meats lab. We were also able to check out the orchards where they grow pecans, almonds, walnuts and peaches. As well as 400 acres of row crops that the student employees are able to work in as well. The CSU, Chico Farm employees 45 students in part time positions as well as numerous interns each semester. The FARMS Leadership students all had different interests so they were all able to explore the different units. After our farm tour we headed into the meats lab where Hayden Clement, the Manager, gave us a tour.  The meats lab processes cattle, hogs, and sheep from the farm as well as animals from local fairs and ranches. It is a USDA inspected facility and sells meat to customers Thursdays and Fridays every week.

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!

A Little Dirt Never Hurt!

Boggs Tract Community FARM

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: October 29, 2019

Location of Field Day: Stockton, CA


Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Kenda Templeton – Puentes Executive Director
Clifton Maxwell – Puentes Farm Manager and Nursery Specialist
Jessica Bryant – Puentes Urban Forestry Coordinator, Owner and Farmer of Corn Poppy Produce

Theme: Urban Agriculture


Summary of the Day:

For our first field day of the 2019-2020 school year, the San Joaquin FARMS Leadership Program visited Boggs Tract Community Farm in Stockton, CA. Boggs Tract Community Farm is managed by the Puentes organization and their goal at Boggs Tract is to connect the community with the land and help provide them with a space to grow farm fresh produce. We began our day with a tour of the farm by Clifton Maxwell, the Farm Manager. Clifton showed the students the different garden plots that can be rented by the community, the outdoor education area, the chicken coop, compost site, bee hives, and tree nursery. Following our tour Clifton lead the students in different farming activities where the students were able to get their hands dirty and plant seeds, spread mulch and create a new garden bed. The students worked for about an hour and then we took a break for lunch.


Following lunch, the students were introduced to Jessica Bryant. Jessica not only works at Boggs Tract but is also an incubator farmer and leases the land across the street which is where she has her farm Corn Poppy Produce. Jessica provides farm fresh produce to the Stockton community and sells at farmer’s markets, her farm stand, and has also done work with the local culinary program. The FARMS Leadership students helped weed her garden beds, prep beds for new crops, and plant winter crop seeds. This is where we concluded our day in Stockton learning about urban agriculture and getting a lot of hands on experience at Boggs Tract Community Farm.

Wind and rice and everything nice

Florin High School at River Garden Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | October 29, 2019

Participating School
Florin High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
River Garden Farms

Mentors
Colin Fagan, Lab Assistant, Williams Lab
Dana Stokes
Miles Daprato, Environmental Steward for UCD Campus Planning and Environmental Stewardship Department
Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA
Ryan Bixenmann

Summary of the Day
On Tuesday, October 29th, the Sacramento Valley SLEWS season began! Florin High students made the journey to River Garden Farms in Knights Landing for the third year in a row. This time, rather than planting hedgerows alongside a levee road, students gathered in the middle of a walnut orchard. Powerlines above the orchard make a strip of land unsuitable for trees. River Garden Farms saw this as an opportunity to create a corridor of native vegetation to increase biodiversity and provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators. Yolo County Resource Conservation District helped plan the project – 5 parallel rows of plants, with the outer two being mostly deergrass and the inner 3 being native shrubs and vegetation. The irrigation line was already in place, and students would be tackling the rest of the project.

After warming up with hot cocoa and breakfast, we got familiar with each other’s names with a game of group juggle. Alex Tremblay of Yolo County Resource Conservation District introduced the group to the project and the task of the day – removing flags where there would not be plants, and installing emitters and spaghetti tubing onto the irrigation line. Students divided into their mentor groups and tackled the project at hand, despite very windy conditions. Much to everyone’s amusement, the hot pink irrigation poker tools that Alex initially made fun of turned out to be the best tool for the job and were highly sought after!


Though it was windy and sometimes challenging to access the irrigation lines through the weedy overgrowth, students had incredibly positive attitudes throughout the morning and it was truly a joy spending time with them. Some mentor groups even came up with team names to stay motivated – I believe I heard one group call themselves “the Scarlet Dragons”.

After lunch, students boarded the bus to make their way to River Garden Farms’ Tyndall Mound Warehouse. Warehouse Manager Joe took showed students how they weigh and sample shipments as they head out on the trucks before leading us on a tour of the rest of the facility. The highlight was DEFINITELY the warehouse – students were able to climb and play in an enormous warehouse full of loose, unhulled, dry rice! The rice drying machine was also fascinating – rice slowly travels downward over many, many stories as airflow helps it to dry out. 

We had to end the day in a hurry to get students back to school on time so we went around our closing circle to share just one word to describe the day. What was by far the most popular word? FUN!

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.

There’s a Fungus Among Us!

Premier Mushrooms and Colusa Industrial Properties
FARMS Leadership | North State | October 22, 2019

Location of Field Day:
Premier Mushrooms and Colusa Industrial Properties
Colusa, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
John Ashbaugh – Premier Mushrooms, CEO
Misty Castellanos – Premier Mushrooms, Growing Analyst
Ed Hulbert – Colusa Industrial Properties, CEO

Theme: Sustainability

Summary of the Day:
We kicked off the 2019-2020 North State FARMS Leadership Program with a field day at Premier Mushrooms in Colusa, CA. Premier Mushrooms employees the largest number of people within Colusa Industrial Properties (CIP) at around 230 employees. They are also operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To start off the day the the students did ice breaker activities to get to know the different students from the schools participating this year. The North State FARMS Leadership Program is made up of 6 different high schools including Marysville, Maxwell, Yuba City, River Valley, Core Charter, and Pierce.  At the end of our final ice breaker we headed over to the property where Premier Mushrooms has their growing operations.

John Ashbaugh the CEO of Premier Mushrooms gave us an introduction to the company. He then introduced us to our tour guide for the day, Misty Castellanos. During our tour Misty took us into the grow houses where we were able to see mushrooms at all different stages of production. Since mushrooms are a fungus Premier Mushrooms plants millet seed inoculated with the mushroom strain to grow their mushroom varieties. It takes approximately 50 days from planting the seeds until the mushrooms are ready to harvest. Harvest of the mushrooms last 3 to 5 days and each room will grow 2 or 3 crops that can be harvested before they have to clean the room and prep it for another cycle.

After our tour we headed over to Colusa industrial Properties where they hosted us for lunch. We wrapped up our field day learning about the property and the many different businesses that it houses. Thank you Colusa Industrial Properties and Premier Mushrooms for a great start to the year!

Family Farming in the Salinas Valley

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | October 10, 2019

Participating Schools:

  • Gonzales High School
  • Soquel High School

Location(s):
Pura Ranch, 28531 Corda Rd. Gonzales, Ca 93926
Pisoni Family’s Estate Vineyard 34361 Paraiso Spring Rd. Soledad, Ca 93960

Field Day Host(s) and Mentor(s): Pisoni Family Vineyards

  • Mark Pisoni – Owner, Farmer and Vineyard Manager
  • Jazmin Lopez – Compliance Manager of Special Projects
  • Elias Gandara – Vineyard Manager
  • Jesus Camacho – Ranch Manager

Summary of the Day:
It is the start of a new FARMS Leadership program and for our first field day, we will be with Pisoni Family Vineyards. FARMS Leadership is the first-year program for students and our focus is on career exploration in ag and resource management. Once the students arrived at Pura Ranch, ate a quick breakfast we immediately did some introductions. This is the first time students are all in the same space together. An icebreaker name game gets us out of our seats and warmed up. Students were ready for the day.

Jazmin Lopez would be our guide throughout our day and introduce students to a multitude of careers, beginning with her own. Students learned about Jazmin’s personal pathway and how and why she started at a liberal arts college, worked for the CA Strawberry Commission, became a Master Gardener and now works for Pisoni Vineyards as the Compliance Manager of Special Projects. We would see some of those special projects later in the day.

The Pisoni Family has a beautiful vegetable farm of 500 acres in Gonzales, California. Students had some hands-on experience taking soil samples and harvesting cauliflower from the fields. That cauliflower would later be our lunch.

With about a dozen heads of cauliflower, we got into our vehicles and made our way further South to Pisoni Family Vineyards the Family’s Estate Vineyard in Soledad, California. The views from the vineyard overlooked the Salinas Valley and they were spectacular. This is where we met Mark Pisoni, the owner, farmer, and vineyard manager. Mark spoke about his personal pathway into his career and gave students some very good advice throughout the day. Mark gave us a tour of the vineyard and shared his knowledge about the land and the business of growing grapes. Students were very engaged while they tasted chardonnay grapes and listened to Mark talk about how the grapevines grow and are maintained. The tour ended with a walk through the insectary (one of Jazmin’s special projects) and of course some lunch.

It was over lunch when Mark introduced Elias Gandara as one of his best employees and trusted friend. Mark stressed the importance of learning Spanish and really being serious about it and immerse yourself in the culture if you can. Communication is such an important part of being a great leader. The final piece of advice Mark Pisoni left students with was a lesson on networking. Everyone received a card from Mark after lunch with his contact information and he encouraged them all to send him an email introducing themselves and following up on the professional connection. Mark shared a trade secret with students that can be just as valuable as going to college and that is, sometimes it’s who you know in agriculture and the relationships you maintain.

Following lunch, students had a chance to learn about bees and apiary management, just another special project by Jazmin Lopez. This was a first time experience for the students and for the coordinator. The sound of the bees flying around your head is loud and filled with energy as wings buzz to and fro. The best part was learning about Jazmin’s experience keeping bees and of course we enjoyed tasting honey fresh from the hive!

Thank you Pisoni Vineyards for such a wonderful FARMS Leadership Field Day!