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 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.

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!

The land calls yee-haw!

Mar Vista High’s Poseidon Academy at the Tijuana River Valley Community Garden

SLEWS Program | San Diego County | May 11, 2019 | Field day 3

Participating School: Mar Vista High School

Location: Tijuana River Valley Community Garden in Southwest San Diego

Land Manager: Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County

Mentors:

  • Samantha Cook, San Diego State graduate in Sustainability
  • Christine Lambert, Associate Archaeologist & Project Manager, Petra Resource Management
  • Emanuel Storey, San Diego State doctoral student in Geography
  • Thomas Strand, Environmental Planner, Chambers Group, Inc.

Summary of the day

Mar Vista students and their teacher arrived for our third and final SLEWS field day on a drizzly Saturday morning. Despite the light rain, everyone seemed ready for a day spent outdoors and not a single complaint was heard!

As usual, the day started with an icebreaker activity. This time, we divided the group in two for a friendly game of ‘flip the tarp’. Students had to stay on the tarp, working as a group to figure out how to flip it over without stepping off. This definitely got everyone moving and thinking!

The field work of the day was centered on planting. We returned to the hedgerow first to survey the plants and bee nesting blocks installed last time, then divided into mentor groups for our legacy project. Each group planted a pomegranate seedling into the hedgerow, made a gopher cage to protect it, and designed a plant marker for their tree. Some groups even named their tree! We hope students will come back over the years to visit the pomegranates and watch them grow. While planting, we observed many insects – most notably a wolf spider mother with her babies riding on her back. This was a first time sighting for most of us, and a really fun and interesting discovery.

Next, we moved to the Carbon Farming Demonstration plot which the students learned about during their first field day. Each group planted a bed of either broccoli, leeks, bok choy, or red cabbage and leaned about growing from starts. This led us up to lunch. As students filed out of the plot, they were invited to pick snap peas to taste. Some commented they had never picked and eaten fresh vegetables before. They seemed to really enjoy the experience!

We gathered for our lunch of sandwiches from Jersey Mike’s (on the request of the students), and chatted while we ate. After lunch, we headed back to the hedgerow for a plant ID activity and to further investigate the differences between the plants growing there. Then it was back to the carbon farming plot to sow some sunflower seeds, with the intention of attracting beneficial insects to the plot.

Last field day we ran out of time for reflection and wanted to be sure we included ample time for this element. Students gathered back into their mentor groups and worked on haikus about their SLEWS experience. They were encouraged to both write haikus on their own and with their group. Students and mentors volunteered to share their haikus at the end. It was fun hearing what everyone came up with. Here is one example: The clouds were sad today | Promise looked beautiful, now | The land calls yee-haw!

After reflection, it was time to wrap up our SLEWS experience with Mar Vista. We held our final closing circle, inviting everyone to say one word about the day or their experience as a whole. Words like fun, amazing, thank you, beautiful, sunshine, and gratitude were used. We certainly are grateful for our inaugural SLEWS program – to Mar Vista for participating and for our mentors for being such excellent role models. We can’t wait until the next time!

Accomplishments:

  • 4 pomegranate seedlings planted, gopher caged, and mulched in the hedgerow
  • Planted 4 beds of veggie starts in the Carbon Farming Demo Plot
  • Planted 2 beds of sunflower seeds in the CF Demo Plot
  • Many awesome haikus written – each student wrote three on average

A Berry Good Day

FARMS Leadership| Tehama County | May 16, 2019

Location of Field Day
Red Bluff, CA

Field Day Host
Melissa Macfarlane
Shannon Lambert
Chris Hunter

Participating Schools
Red Bluff High School
Mercy High School
Los Molinos High School
Corning High School

Theme
Technology

Summary of the Day:
To wrap up the Tehama County FARMS Leadership year, we were treated to a “berry good day” at Driscoll’s. Students arrived eager to pick and eat strawberries straight from the field. Little did they know that at the Red Bluff Driscoll’s nursery location, it is just that….a nursery. Their focus is growing the plants that will then get shipped to growers all over the world, who then plant them in fields to grow berries for our eating. However, in true Driscoll’s fashion, breakfast consisted of platters of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries with yogurt and granola to enjoy the best parfait’s they ever have had.

Melissa Macfarlane welcomed us with a great presentation about Driscoll’s as a company and explained just what they did at their nursery and why it is so important. Students learned the difference between a “sibling” and a “clone” as well as why it was necessary for the farmers to be planting clones and not siblings. She then turned it over to Chris, who gave a presentation on “mapping” and the technology that is associated with it. He went over: What is a map? The difference between a geographical map and position map and then introduced the students to what our hands on tasks would be for the day once we broke up into 3 groups.

Each group explored a different job that takes place at the nursery. One group went out into the field and learned what goes into planning how many plants a farmer is going to need and just how to go about planting and multiplying those plants on the nursery level. Another group spent their time in “the office” learning all that goes into mapping from the computer level and the importance of data collection in the field being entered into their system correctly. They also had the opportunity to identify a problem, and learn the procedure for correcting the problem and communicating with other staff the changes that were made and corrections that needed to take place out in the nursery. The last group went out to one of the screen-houses and did a map check validation. They were shown how the plants are planted into bins and then maintained to allow for optimal growth of daughter plants. Then they were given a map which they needed to review and check that the information printed was actually what was physically in the screen-house. They did such an excellent job and found 4 corrections that needed to be made.

Once we all gathered again, the groups took time to prepare a power point presentation to share with their fellow FARMS members what they learned and why it was important. This entire field day was fabulous at showing the importance of technology and how high tech farming is. Each student was encouraged to continue to expand their computer skills and knowledge throughout their education because agriculture as an industry is very progressive and continues to grow with our times.

A Day in the Woods

After a bit of a drive, Tehama FARMS Advanced was greeted with the fresh mountain air on a late spring morning and temperatures that didn’t even warrant a sweatshirt. Sierra Pacific Industries invited our group to attend the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference Inc. “In Woods Forest Harvest Demonstration Day”. This is a day where a group of industry supporters take the time to carve out of the forest a 1-mile trail for groups of students who are led by experts in logging to hike and stop at several stations to see the very impressive logging equipment at work as well as meet and network with a variety of industry professionals.

Once we had been properly fitted with fancy hard hats to ensure everyone was exercising supreme safety, we started off following our leader who was a Wildlife Biologist for Sierra Pacific Industries. As we wandered through the woods we heard from many different local volunteer programs such as The Backcountry Horsemen and Shasta County Search and Rescue and the different ways they work with our logging industry to accomplish different tasks. Not only did we meet volunteer units, we also met Jim Lepage from Lepage Company who’s focus is building and maintaining the logging roads. He spoke with the students about the career opportunities with heavy equipment and why their jobs are so important to the logging companies. Of course safety comes first, so without quality roads the big rig drivers driving heavy loads of logs could not safely get in and out of these deep woods locations, but also how roads that they can safely drive a moderate speed on will increase efficiency and the number of loads one trucker can make with logs in a day. Time = Money.

As we rounded the bend we could hear the loud sound of a saw and smell the fragrance of freshly cut wood. This began our walk into what truly happens in the forest during a harvest. First we learned the different ways there are to fall, or cut down, a tree. We heard from a 30 year wood cutter about the tools and manual labor that goes into cutting a tree by hand which he demonstrated on a HUGE pine tree right in front of us. It was amazing to see his skill, precision, and speed with his chainsaw as well as the ability to make the tree fall exactly where he wanted. He was able to fall and cut into logs roughly 50 trees a day and therefore is used to process the trees who’s trunks are too large in diameter for the heavy equipment that we watched but are able to do closer to 1500-2000 trees in a day. We then followed the process to the landing site that was set up where a harvester was delimbing and cutting trees into “logs” of appropriate length, then a feller-buncher was gathering and loading logs onto a truck to be hauled off the mountain and to a processing plant. It was such an amazing experience to see first hand these GIANT machines at work and meet the men who were behind the controls.

Thank you too all those who took part at the In Woods Demonstration Day and Sierra Pacific Industries for inviting us to take part. The students thoroughly enjoyed it and have a much greater understanding and appreciation for the logging industry as a whole. We hope to be apart of it in the future!

Mechanized Ag with JG Boswell

FARMS Program | Kern County | May 6, 2019

Participating Schools
Independence High School
Bakersfield Christian High School
West High School
Frontier High School

Our last field day was spent touring JG Boswell’s Kern Operation. We were greeted by Joey Mendonca – Kern County Ranch Manager and Charlie Riddle – Kern Lake District Manager.

Students witnessed the tomato transplanting process. The transplanter’s speed is set and a person refills the transplanter with the small tomato plants. Students commented on the efficiency of the process. The settings are precise for the depth of the soil and measured spacing between plants.

Transplanting in Action

We discussed the irrigation methods and how drip tape is the most efficient use for these tomatoes. We walked to the field next store where the tomatoes were a bit older. You could smell the freshness of the tomato plants. We talked about varieties of tomatoes. The field we were standing in and learning about were Roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are bred to have thicker skin for shipping. They are known as “canning tomatoes” but because of their great taste, they began marketing them as Roma tomatoes. We talked about harvesting as well and how critical the handling can be for tomatoes.

Characteristics of Roma Tomatoes

We walked over to the neighboring safflower field. Students were able to pick a sample and feel the prickly outer shell. Inside is the yellow flower that we eventually see blooming as we are driving. To battle pests, they use a sweep net attached to a vacuum. This vacuum pulls the pests off the plant and they are able to study and treat based upon their findings. It was a very creative and resourceful tool!

Studying Safflower

As with any farming operation, irrigation and water management is key. Boswell’s resourceful water management practices are critical given the regulations that are being placed on farming operations in California. We toured the pump area and taught us about the construction of the different pumps and the technology involved to manage it. Joey Mendonca and Max Bricker – Water Dept. Project Manager gave a historical and current view on Kern County water. JG Boswell has its own water department that helps them to understand and implement these complicated regulations.

Touring the Pump Station

We arrived at the shop where Assistant Shop Manager, Aaron Flores and his team BBQ’d an amazing spread for us. During lunch, Human Resources Coordinator, Christina Martinez talked to students and staff about application processes and the pitfalls associated with social media.

After lunch, it was time to tour the equipment! We were able to explore the heavy equipment including the astounding Cotton Harvester! Students were asked about the size and cost guestimates of some of the equipment. They were shocked at the expense! Students loved seeing all of the technology built into the tractors too. There is another piece of equipment that pumps the water from one canal into another. It is a huge piece of equipment that is amazingly run by only two workers!

Our last stop was to the onion fields. Slavo Pavlovic, an Agronomist at Boswell, taught the students about planting, irrigating and harvesting of onions. It was a very informative day networking with the staff at JG Boswell!

Seeds by Design at Emerald Farms

FARMS Leadership Program: North State: May 1, 2019

Location of Field Day: Maxwell, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Leon Etchepare
Patty Buskirk
Andrew Pentecost

Theme: Seed Production

Summary of the Day:

For our final field day of the 2018-2019 school year the North State FARMS Leadership Program visited Emerald Farms. We began our day with an introduction from Leon, Andrew and Patty. They also served the students some breakfast snacks, which included a sampling of one of their new products, Maple Walnut Butter. One of the new entities of Emerald Farms is their walnut butter production line named Wellnut Farms.

After our introductions we headed down the road to the first set of crops we visited for the day. Patty took over and explained her duties as a plant breeder and the science used behind the decisions she makes to produce the best seeds for her clients and customers. The first crop we looked at was a crop of Purple carrots. Unlike many farms, Patty’s goal with her crops is to market the produce but instead to create the best seeds. This enterprise much like Wellnut Farms is also a part of Emerald Farms but is named Seeds by Design. Next we toured a variety of different crops and then Patty, Leon, and Andrew passed around jars of seeds for each of the crops we looked at so the students could see all stages of the crops and the differences between them.

Next we toured Emerald Farms Almond and Walnut Orchards. The students learn some of the different practices used within the production each of the orchards. We then were given a tour of the processing facilities. We walked through the huller and dryer and then headed to the warehouse where the new Wellnut Farms walnut butter line is being constructed. We then concluded our tour at the seed mill. We were able to see a variety of different seeds being cleaned, packaged, sorted and stored. Thank you to all of the staff at Emerald Farms for a great final field day of the program year.

The final SLEWS day of the (school) year

Sacramento Charter High School at Clark Ranch 1
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 17, 2019

Participating School
Sacramento Charter High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms
Bruce Clark

Mentors
Bob Ream, retired
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Dana Stokes
Jess Rudnick, UC Davis graduate student

Summary of the Day
For the final Field Day with Sacramento Charter High School (and final Field Day of the 2018 – 2019 SLEWS season!) we were back at our original site, Clark Ranch. Our first Field Day was here back in December, but for our second day we installed irrigation at a site in Woodland. It had been over 4 months since our day at this site and it was remarkable how much had changed. In December the site was so muddy we couldn’t bring vehicles in, and it rained intermittently throughout the day. This time, it was plenty dry to drive on and at eighty degrees was the hottest SLEWS day of the season!

Students were excited during breakfast to find a native butterfly we identified as a Painted Lady. We played PVC golf to connect with our mentor groups before heading out to see the plants we had planted back in December. As this site had experienced a lot of wind and some flooding with the stormy winter we had, our task was to replace bamboo poles, adjust tubes and emitters, and weed around the plants to increase their chance at survival. One student found caterpillars while working along the hedgerow and wondered if they might be Painted Ladies – the same species we saw earlier in the adult (butterfly) form.

After completing our restoration work, mentor Jessica Rudnick, a UC Davis Graduate Student, led the students in a fun educational activity. She explained that they would be investigative journalists, and their assignment was to figure out how the farm was addressing environmental issues. Students rotated between stations learning about pollination (and native habitat benefits!), weeds and cover crops, irrigation, and predators on the farm. Students got to try immature almonds and were surprised to find they tasted like cucumbers! And appropriately, as mentor Corey Shake was discussing predators on the farm, a Swainson’s Hawk flew overhead.

Once students had had a chance to learn about all aspects of the farm, they compiled their reports. Some students elected to share their findings – one memorable and report was a student who chose to be a critical reporter and delivered a hilariously negative story about the almond orchard.

After lunch, we celebrated student Jordan’s birthday before ending the day with a closing circle. Many students remarked that they really enjoyed seeing how much their plants had grown in the past four months!