The first last SLEWS day of the year

Davis Senior High School at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 4, 2020

Participating School
Davis Senior High School

Partners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Yolo Basin Foundation

Mentors
Aaron Haiman, Environmental Scientist and Tribal Liaison, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy
Brian Keegan, Sacramento State Graduate Student
Randy Wittorp
Xerónimo Castañeda, Conservation Project Associate, Audubon CA

Summary of the Day
Of all the SLEWS projects so far this season, the two coldest days have BOTH been with Davis High School at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area! Our third and final field day was quite chilly and windy, but Davis students simply put on an extra layer and didn’t seem to mind. We attempted to warm up with a game of PVC golf (all four mentor groups were able to successfully transport the golf ball into the goal!) before heading out to finish our SLEWS project.

We had 106 container plants and 15 plugs to plant, and did quality control (securing tree tubes after some severe wind) on every plant on the four trestles. We thought we’d be lucky to finish all that before lunch. Imagine my surprise when the group finished…at 10:30am! Finishing early gave us time to to do some wildlife observation, and we were in luck because mentor Aaron Haiman is an excellent birder. He showed students how to use and focus their binoculars, and we set off on a birding adventure. Species we spotted included Horned Lark, Savannah Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon, White-crowned Sparrow, Red Tailed Hawk, Western Meadowlark, blackbirds, and White-throated Swifts.

We also had time to do a reflection activity. Students found a spot to sit by themselves and had the opportunity to write a thank you card to someone who made their SLEWS experience possible. Students wrote note to mentors, restoration partners, their teacher, funders, guest speakers, and parent drivers – all people who were essential components of this project.

Since it was the last SLEWS Field Day, we had a mini celebration at lunch, complete with cupcakes decorated with trestle mounds and deer antlers! It was a throwback to photos students saw at the beginning of this project, an aerial view of deer trapped on a trestle mound taken when the bypass flooded last year. When the bypass floods next time, hopefully those stranded animals will find it to be much more suitable habitat, thanks in part to Davis students!

After lunch, students gathered to hear from Yolo Basin Foundation’s Corky Quirk, a bat expert. Corky even brought 3 live bats to show students (a pallid bat, a Mexican free-tailed bat, and a big brown bat). Students were absolutely enthralled by her presentation, and asked tons of excellent questions. Do all bats live in colonies? (No) How many babies do they have? (our native species tend to have just one per year) Does pregnancy affect their flight? (probably!) Are bats blind? (no) Do vampire bat bites hurt? (not really – their saliva contains an analgesic!) Corky discussed bats in the bypass and all around the world, and touched on topics like rabies, and white nose syndrome.

Like our first field day, during closing circle, we shared our favorite moment of SLEWS. On the first field day, however, many students answer was “the burritos!”. This time, only one student mentioned burritos – most students mentioned planting, birding, and bats as some of the highlights of their experience. What a great season with Davis High!

Veterinarians in training

FARMS Advanced Program | Kern County | Tuesday, January 30, 2020

Location of Field Day:
UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center
18830 Rd 112, Tulare CA

Field Day Host
Dr. Melissa Macias Rioseco
Karen Tonooka
Jennifer Crook

Theme
Veterinary Science

Summary of the Day:
On Friday, January 30, 2020, the Kern County FARMS Leadership Program from McFarland High school started off their year at the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center. We first met with Dr. Melissa Macias Rioseco and started watching a Necropsy (an Autopsy on an animal) video of a calf. She was explaining to us the different organs throughout the video and what was abnormal as the kids were trying to diagnosis what was wrong with the sick calf. No one got sick haha! They loved it! The calf ended up having pneumonia and the kids guessed it correctly.

We then met in the Milk Quality lab with Karen Toonka as she talked about in detail how they take their milk samples and diagnosis the issue going on in the dairy. They can test for almost anything in a little sample of milk. They start off by taking a tiny drop and putting the milk into a dish and incubating it for 24-48 hours as the bacteria soon grows inside the dishes. They then take samples under the microscope and solve the problem by figuring out which pathogen is causing the issue. The students loved it! They got to look under the microscope at a bacteria called Mycoplasma. They described it as looking at a fried egg. It has a cell in the middle with a clear membrane wall around it.

We then moved onto the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) lab with Jennifer Crook. She went into detail on molecular biology. Using small samples they are able to make copies of short sections of DNA where they are then able to identify bacteria, viruses and much more. It was great to see the lab and all the machines they use on completing these steps. Lots of information to take in and the kids loved every second of it!

We then went back to our starting point to have some delicious lunch and snacks. After lunch we did a fun activity that the students loved! We were practicing being veterinarians and giving intramuscular and subcutaneous injections to our orange patients. We started off with green food coloring and was giving a subcutaneous shot. A subcutaneous shot is a injection given under the skin. When we then cut into the oranges the green food coloring should be on the perimeter of the skin. We then used red food coloring for the intramuscular shot. A intramuscular shot is an injection given directly into the muscle. When cutting open the orange the red food coloring should appear in the meat of the orange. This showed the kids different ways shots are given in the livestock world. Everyone showed their true vet skills and did it correctly! Thank you UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center for a day filled of great information and fun for myself and the kids! Can’t wait to come back we loved it!

Second round of plants at Yanci Ranch

Pioneer High School at Yanci Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 31, 2020

Participating School
Pioneer High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms

Mentors
Dominic Carrillo, Development Associate, Center for Land-Based Learning
Elaine Swiedler, California Farm Academy Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning
Gina Radieve
Jen Metes, Conservation Programs Administrator, The Freshwater Trust

Summary of the Day
Our second field day with Pioneer High School at Yanci Ranch began as planting days often do, with a game of “Where the Wind Blows” during opening circle. In this game, students cross the circle to find a new carpet square to stand on whenever the person in the middle says something that applies to them. These students moved FAST – mentors and restoration partners ended up in the middle far more than the students themselves!

After reuniting mentor groups from the previous week, students learned about five native plants to play, you guessed it, a game of “Steal the Native Plant”! Similar to “Steal the Bacon”, students race against other mentor groups to be the first to identify the plant species as they’re called out. This time, students learned to identify elderberry, interior live oak, buckwheat, foothill pine, and coffeeberry, five of the species we’d soon learn to plant.

After gathering supplies, we headed down to the planting area where Michael Felipe of Yolo County Resource Conservation District gave a demonstration on the proper way to plant. Most students planted container plants, but one group also learned how to pole plant cuttings of trees. We planted along an irrigation line parallel to the one Grant Union High students planted the week prior. Students created systems to get the planting done more effectively – some groups chose to have dedicated diggers and planters, some groups switched off, and others worked in pairs. By the end of the morning, we had planted over 150 plants and installed a protective tube around each one!

After lunch, Brandon Baker of the Yolo County Resource Conservation District led us on a walk to check out earlier phases of the restoration projects at Yanci Ranch. Students recognized mature elderberry, foothill pine, and coffeeberry plants, and learned about toyon, quailbush, and coyotebrush as well. These earlier phases are very similar to the project Pioneer students are completing this year – they were just planted a few years ago. It was like looking into the future and seeing what our site will look like in several years’ time. The idea is that these phases connect to create a corridor for wildlife in an area where there are not always good food sources or places to hide. We even spotted a few deer near a more established hedgerow!

We shared a few moments of total silence to listen to the birds and look for wildlife. Throughout the day we saw lots of birds: white tailed kite, red tailed hawk, meadowlark, killdeer, blue heron, flicker, bluebird, and a Say’s phoebe. Birdwatching seemed to be a favorite activity of the day!

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 adventure across Cache Creek

Woodland High School at Capay Open Space Park
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 29, 2020

Participating School
Woodland High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Cache Creek Conservancy

Mentors
Grace Auringer, Technician, Genomic Variation Lab
Mikayla Peterson, Outreach & Watershed Education Specialist, Cache Creek Conservancy
Matt Clement, Facilities Steward, Center for Land-Based Learning
Matt Young, Fish Biologist, California Water Science Center, USGS

Summary of the Day
Our first morning in Capay Open Space Park was quick as we were trying to beat the heat – 700 beehives were near our planting area and we wanted to get as much done as we could while the bees were still relatively cold and inactive! After a game of Where the Wind Blows, we grabbed tools and headed down to Cache Creek.

To avoid walking by these 700 beehives, crossing the creek was our best option. Though the creek was shallow, it wasn’t shallow enough to make it across in our mudboots. Enter: the Argo. An amphibious ATV that works on land and water! Students donned PFDs and were ferried across in groups by Phil Zoucha of Cache Creek Conservancy.

Once everyone was across, we gathered for a quick refresher on plug planting. Students didn’t need much instruction as this was an activity we did on our first Field Day. Mentor groups each tackled a marked section and set to work plug planting – scraping away excess vegetation, “dibbling” a hole, inserting the native plant plug, and pinching the native soil over the top. Woodland High students really seem to take pride in being hard workers, and did a great job staying on task, checking the quality of their work, and helping their peers. As mentor groups finished sections, they moved to unplanted areas and even started makeshift “mulching” the plugs that were already done with the vegetation they scraped away. We planted all 1200 plugs in no time.

Before argo-ing back to the other side, we were able to spot some cool wildlife including a kingfisher, and the highlight of the day – a bird called a California Thrasher. While planting, students noticed many invertebrates including millipedes, worms, and a Jerusalem Cricket!

Our next task of the day was seeding. Depending on who you talk to in the RCD, you may hear this technique called “dinner plates” or “chia pets”. The basic technique is: clear a patch of soil (taking care to avoid native perennial grasses!), break up the soil, sprinkle seeds on top so they land about 1” apart, stir up the soil, and pack it back down. Mentor groups took on different areas of the park and planted seeds until lunchtime. Tanya Meyer of Yolo County RCD estimated we put about a pound of native seeds in the ground when all was said and done!

After lunch it was time for a SLEWS classic – mentor interviews. Sitting down and having a guided conversation with mentors about their education and career paths hopefully gets them thinking about what they may accomplish in their own lives. Students asked great questions including asking about mentor’s favorite plants, favorite college experiences, and what a “researcher” does exactly – and what they have figured out through science.

After this, students found space to sit by themselves and write and draw to reflect on the day. I saw some California Thrashers and well-planted plugs among the drawings!

With our “one word to describe the day” closing circle, popular words were “fun!” and “dibble!”. And I for one am very relieved to report we made it the whole day without a single bee sting!

Trout and Salmon, Oh My!

FARMS Leadership | Central Valley Central & South | Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Location of Field Day:
California Department of Fish & WildLife – San Joaquin Hatchery – 17372 Brook Trout Drive, Friant, CA 93626

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
William Branch
Cheryl Moxley
Brian Erlandsen

Theme:
Aquaculture and Natural Resources

Summary of the Day:
Students from Patino High School, Sunnyside High School, Kerman High School, Reedley High School and Hanford West High School met on Wednesday, January 29th at The San Joaquin Hatchery of California Department of Fish & Wildlife. Students met and practiced an introduction and thank you practice for use in the day for introducing our hosts. We were joined by Cheryl Moxley who runs the FINS Program. The FINS Program is an interpretive nature trail designed to teach children the life cycle of trout. Given the slightly older nature of our group, she covered other more age-appropriate information such as native plants, grant funding information, and interpretive design. Next, students rotated between two programs with lunch provided by FARMS to split up these two rotations. The first was SCARF: A salmon restoration project for the San Joaquin River. This covered topics such as conservation, endangered species, and the science behind genetic matrixing and testing. Students fed these fish and also checked for the success rate of the tagged fish by using the scanner provided. Finally the SJH: The hatchery itself, where we discussed what it takes to raise fish, plant it out, and deal with such things as water quality, biosecurity, and fish health. At the end of the day, students presented thank you’s to all of our hosts. We had a really enjoyable hands-on day. We were very impressed with what the state of California does for our natural resources. Thank you again, William, Cherly, Brian and your entire team.

Got GOATS?

FARMS Advanced Program | Kern County | Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Location of Field Day:
Summerhill Dairy
3755 S Sixth Ave, Hanford, CA 93230
 

Field Day Host:
Hannah Wilgenburg- Business and Sales Representative 

Summary of the Day: On Wednesday, January 28, 2020, the Kern County FARMS Advanced Program from McFarland High School started their Advanced year visiting 2,600 dairy goats at Summerhill Dairy. Students first met in the library at McFarland high school enjoying breakfast and practicing introductions for the day. The students were given a KWL worksheet where they will fill out what they know and what they would want to know about the Summerhill Dairy.

The group began the tour at the Dairy with Hannah Wilgenburg that houses 2,600 head of dairy goats of five different breeds that are; Saanen, Nubian, Alpine, Toggenburg and La Manchas. They all have their own certain characteristics from size, appearance and color. We started off getting to see the carousel milking parlor that is able to hold 84 dairy goats at a time that get milked every morning and night. Its the goats favorite part of the day.

We next walked through the barns where all the goats were housed and got to see how they are properly fed. These dairy goats are kept on a well balanced diet including a mixture of grain to help them with their production of milk and also offered roughage such as alfalfa. The students kept asking great questions left and right on everything you could imagine on managing a herd of dairy goats.

The students then got the opportunity to try fresh goat milk from the Summer-hill goat dairy. It was delicious! We then gathered some pictures out front of the beautiful facility of Summerhill Dairy. Thank you again Summerhill Dairy for a Goatastic day!


	

Emitters, plugs, and fun on day one

Pioneer High School at Yanci Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 24, 2020

Participating School
Pioneer High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers

Mentors
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Amanda Lindell, UC Davis Graduate student
Elaine Swiedler, California Farm Academy Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning
Jen Metes, Conservation Programs Administrator, The Freshwater Trust
Dominic Carrillo, Development Associate, Center for Land-Based Learning

Summary of the Day
Though I had the flu on this Field Day, Caring For Our Watersheds Coordinator (and former SLEWS Coordinator!) Beth DelReal saved the day by stepping in to lead this day. Thanks a million, Beth! From my conversation with her, here’s what happened on the day.

Since this was Pioneer High’s first field day, landowner Bruce Rominger gave an introduction during opening circle to the property and his philosophy of land management. He and Rominger Brothers Farms really make an effort to be stewards of the land and create corridors for wildlife, as evidenced by many restoration projects and SLEWS sites over the years. Corey Shake introduced the project and the importance of wildlife corridors, explaining that the work they were doing would help connect the habitats together. Beth added on by connecting this to the restoration cycle we talked about during the classroom visit and what piece they are now fulfilling.

After a fun round of group juggle to learn everyone’s names, the group headed down to the project site to get a demonstration from Joanne on emitter installation. Five mentor groups divided along the irrigation line to install 210 emitters before gathering together again to get a demonstration on how to plug plant. Beth asked students why might it be bad for chunks of earth to flow down the creek, which led to a great discussion with project partners about the importance of erosion control.

Mentor groups dibbled and plugged away, planting between 400 and 500 plugs of plants to help stabilize the soil in the area. As they planted, students asked great questions about soil, the species of plugs we were planting, and why certain species were being planted in certain locations. Kudos to Pioneer students for being such an inquisitive group!

After lunch, students spent time with their mentor to learn a little more about them before reflecting on the day by creating a postcard – drawing on one side, writing on the other. At closing circle, everyone shared one word to describe the day.

Thanks again to Beth, Joanne and the RCD team, Bruce, mentors, and teacher Ms. Lumbard for making this day happen!

Plants and postcards at Yanci Ranch

Grant Union at Yanci Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 23, 2020

Participating School
Grant Union High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms

Mentors
Kathy Rightmire, Director of Development, Center for Land-Based Learning
Dani Gelardi, UCD Graduate Student
Carolyn Kolstad, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Jacob Byers, Partners Biologist, Sacramento NWRC
MJ Farruggia, UCD Graduate Student

Summary of the Day
For our second Field Day at Yanci Ranch, Grant Union students arrived early and eager to plant! After breakfast and opening circle, we got to know one another better (and brushed up on names) with a game of “Where the Wind Blows”. After dividing into mentor groups, students learned the names, characteristics, and ecological functions of coyotebrush, sage, elderberry, wild rose, and buckwheat – five of the plants we would be planting that day.

After becoming familiar with the plants, mentor groups faced off to be the first to identify those five plants in a game of “Steal the Native Plant”. Then it was time to grab tools and head down to the planting area to learn the proper way to plant our hedgerow. Some students would be planting native trees and shrubs from containers, while others would be planting cuttings of cottonwood, red willow, and mule fat in areas that tend to have more water.

Mentor groups divided themselves down the line, working the same sections they installed emitters on back in December. By lunchtime, students had planted an impressive 179 containers and 30 cuttings!

After lunch, we took a walk to take a look at some of the earlier phases of restoration here at Yanci Ranch. Rominger Brothers Farms has been working with Yolo County Resource Conservation District for several years to increase biodiversity and create corridors of native habitat on this cattle ranch. Several SLEWS projects have taken place here, including one with Grant Union High School! Amy Williams of Yolo County RCD led us through several of these previous phases, giving students a view of what their site might look like after it’s had a few years to mature. Students were even recognizing some of the same plants they just planted, but much larger, of course!

We took a moment to reflect in a beautiful meadow as students spread out to create a postcard from the field. On one side, students drew a picture to represent their experience and on the other, wrote a postcard to commemorate the day. As we returned to our home base and circled up to close the day, students expressed gratitude for the experience and remarked on how being outside and contributing to restoration made their stresses melt away.

“Nothing Runs Like a Deere”

FARMS Leadership Program | Central Valley North | Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Location of Field Day:
Fresno Equipment Company
4288 S Bagley Ave, Fresno, CA 93725

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Reid Pinion – Controller
Philip Christensen – Integrated Solutions Manager
Matt Miller – Sales Representative
Luke Prys – Sales
Paris Gallaher – Wholegoods Specialist
Shelley Smith – Order Coordinator
John Dias – Parts Counter Sales Person
David Fishman – Service Technician

Summary of the Day:

On Wednesday, January 22, 2020, the Central Valley North FARMS Leadership Program, comprised of LeGrand High School, Madera South High School and Firebaugh High School visited our local John Deere dealer Fresno Equipment Company. Students met as a group to touch up on their leadership introduction and thanking skills. We also discussed what they knew or would want to know about John Deere and Fresno Equipment Company on their KWL worksheet.
The group toured the large facility with Matt Mill that houses administrative staff, human resources, sales representatives, parts staff, and service technicians. During this part of the tour and throughout the day the staff kept mentioning the ways of technology in agriculture. Every person at Fresno Equipment works with some sort of computer. It was also mentioned many times if you are willing to learn and work hard to go up in the company that it was possible.
After the 45 minute rotation, the groups switched and the students participated in a ride and drive course with Luke Prys. The students drove a small tractor with a bucket. In the bucket was a ball that the students drove across the cone lined course, they then used the lever and dropped the ball into the bucket. Some students had never driven before, let alone driving a tractor. What a great skill for our students to learn.
Next we had lunch and then were joined by 4 on site staff, Paris Gallager, Shelley Smith, John Dias and David Fishman. These individuals sat with 4 different groups of students where our students asked questions and were very dialed in to what the staff was saying about their job and how they ended up with Fresno Equipment Company.
Four different students thanked each person for sharing with us and taking a little bit of time out of their busy day. Students followed the end of the day with a career assessment and finishing out their KWL worksheets of what they learned about the day. We truly had a great day! Thank you again Fresno Equipment Company for your generosity with hosting a great field day for your students.