Urban greening in Vallejo

Rodriguez High School at Lake Dalwigk
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 12, 2020

Participating School
Rodriguez High School

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District

Mentors
Mary Badger, Technician, UC Davis Genomic Variation Laboratory
Natalie Kopec, UC Davis Undergraduate
Sarah Gaffney, UC Davis Graduate Student
Teska Hapig-Ward, UC Davis Undergraduate

Summary of the Day
By this time of year, most of our SLEWS projects are coming to an end – I’ve gotten accustomed to coordinating final field days with cupcakes and thank you notes and a shared sense of accomplishment. After finishing 5 of 7 SLEWS projects, it was quite an adjustment to get back in first field day mode, with introductions and name games! But that was just the case with our project with Rodriguez High School.

Our field day was at Lake Dalwigk in Vallejo, a public park in which Solano Resource Conservation District is implementing an urban greening project. The project involves planting native trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers in the park, and our contribution would be helping with the tree planting.

During opening circle, Sarah McKibbin gave students an overview of the planning process for this project, and what had been done so far. Some of the trees had already been planted, but there were over 100 left to plant, which we all agreed would be impossible to complete in the time we had. We’d plant as many as we could and call it a day!

We played group juggle to learn each other’s names before dividing into mentor groups to learn to identify 5 of the trees we’d be planting: coastal live oak, valley oak, California buckeye, western sycamore, and black walnut. Once students could do this confidently, it was time to pit mentor group against mentor group for a game of “Steal the Native Plant” with students racing to correctly identify the trees.

After gathering shovels and gloves, Sarah led a planting demonstration, showing students how to dig a hole at the right depth, make a “pedestal” for the plant to rest on, cover the potting soil with native soil, install a tree tube, and secure it with a stake inside the tube.

Mentor groups set off tackling different sections of the irrigation line. Students really seemed to get in the flow of planting – one student who at first claimed he “didn’t dig” was later seen crushing it and planting 5 trees all by himself! This group was incredibly efficient and productive, FAR exceeding the RCD’s expectations – in fact, RCD staff were scrambling to set plants out in time for students to put them in the ground! By the end of the morning, our team had planted over 100 native trees, an incredible achievement!

After a well-deserved lunch, we learned how to use binoculars so we could look at some of the birds in and around Lake Dalwigk, including MANY Canada Geese, several species of ducks, gulls, coots, and sparrows. Students received and personalized field journals, then transitioned into mentor interviews. This gave them an opportunity to get to know the mentors they’d been working with all day, especially learning about their education and career paths.

To close the day, students summed up the day in just one word. Popular ones included: FUN, green, extravagant, interesting, productive, trees, collaborative, and rewarding. I couldn’t agree more!

With schools canceled for at least several weeks (if not the rest of the school year) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains unclear whether we will be able to complete the rest of our field days. It’s possible this was the final Field Day of the 2019-20 SLEWS season. If this is the case, I could not have picked a better field day to end on.

BEEF. IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER.

FARMS Advanced Program | Kern County | Thursday, February 27, 2020

Location of Field Day:
Red House Beef
649 Enos Ln Bakersfield, CA 93314

Field Day Host
Maddie Herndon- Ranch Manager
Debbie Wise- Owner

Summary of the Day: On Thursday, February 27, 2020, the Kern County FARMS Advanced Program from McFarland High School visited Redhouse Beef. We started off the day meeting with their herd manager Maddie Herndon. Maddie started off the tour by telling us the history of the company and when it began. Next, she explained all the different breeds of cattle and described each of their breed characteristics. The majority of their herd is Angus and Red Angus cattle. These two breeds are known for being the best for meat production. We learned a lot about the marbling of meat which is the fat and gives meat a lot of its flavor. We then met with the owner Debbie Wise who explained more about the beef side of the company. Debbie has a lot of knowledge about the agriculture industry and it was very interesting listening to all she had to say.

We then moved onto the grass-fed chickens they raise at Redhouse. The hens are rotated throughout the pasture along with the chicken coop on wheels. It is very impressive. These Red House hens were so pampered living a fat and happy life. There where different varieties of chickens which means they lay different colored eggs. The girls graze on bugs, clover, and grass that make their yolks a bright orange color. Everyone loved them so much that we had to take a picture with them!

Finally, we walked the orchards to look at the almond trees. They were blooming so it was great to see them in this stage. About 20% of the flowers you see on the almond trees will then turn into almonds. The weather plays a huge role in the production of the almond’s trees. Too much chill can knock off the blooms and set them back. A crucial step is the pollination of the trees. Honey bees play a major role with around 80% of the United States crop depending on them for pollination. All bees in the colony have their own jobs. We talked a little about the jobs and how crucial each bee is to the colony. The bee colonies consist of a single queen bee, hundreds of male’s drones and 20,000 plus female worker bees. It was amazing to hear how a small creature has such an important job and how their hive works.

This was an informative experience and we are grateful for our amazing hosts at Redhouse Beef. Thank you! We look forward to our next visit!

Leadership at Cargill

FARMS Leadership | Central Valley Central | Friday, March 6, 2020

Location of Field Day: Cargill, 3115 S Fig Ave, Fresno, CA 93706

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors: 
Pedro Lopez-Ramos, Human Resources
Jahnessa Anderson Lopez, Operations Supervisor
Katrina Robertson, General Manager
Christopher Vazquez, Cattle Buyer

Theme:  Labor in Animal Agriculture

Upon our arrival at Cargill, we met with Pedro Lopez-Ramos in human resources and Jahnessa Anderson Lopez.  They talked about how their education led them to the position they work for at Cargill now.  

We were then joined by Katrina Robertson, General Manager of the Fresno plant and she talked to us about how she came up with the company. Her original major was not in Agriculture.  She talked about how she grew with the company and became the general manager.  The three of them talked about how to be an asset for where your work is being flexible and willing to be a team player.  Following her talk, we took some much-needed pictures for a great day and thank her for joining us.  Following the talk, Pedro showed us a PowerPoint about the company.  He also showed us a video of the plant and what the line looks like when they break down carcasses.  Finally, during lunch, we had some other conversations and Pedro and Jahnessa were very gracious in letting us ask many questions that were left over from the video and PowerPoint.  

We left with some great Cargill swag and many memories.

Student Alondra Ortiz from Kerman High School said, “Cargill helped us see the reality of what is portrayed by non-Ag groups and the meatpacking industry. How the meat is processed and how it is being expanded to more than just meat but by using plant-based supplements.”