A day of habitat creation in San Diego’s Tijuana River Valley

SLEWS Program | San Diego County | February 23, 2019 | Field day 2

Participating School
Mar Vista High School

Location
Tijuana River Valley Community Garden in Southwest San Diego

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.

Land Manager
Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County

Summary of the Day

Mar Vista students and their teacher arrived for our second SLEWS field day on a sunny morning following a rainy period. The site was pretty muddy, but no one seemed to mind too much! Students mingled and snacked while the team geared up for the day’s activities.

We kicked things off with an invigorating game of Where the Wind Blows, which got everyone moving and laughing. We then headed off to the hedgerow for our morning of restoration work. Last field day, the hedgerow was divided into four sections – one for each mentor group. Groups returned to their sections to observe the plant life already in the hedgerow. They then spent some time weeding around existing plants and where new plants would be planted (thanks to the rain, weeds were plentiful – especially in section 4!). The groups then planted the plants allocated to their section – 45 native potted plants and ten mulefat cuttings taken from the surrounding area were planted. After planting, students created a watering basin and mulched around each new plant.

The Community Garden is located in a historically agricultural area. Although few farms remain, there are several stables in the area, including one adjacent to the garden owned by the family of a teacher at Mar Vista! The teacher, Mr Jara, rode by the garden during Field Day 1 and saw the students, and invited us over for a tour on our next field day. After our planting project, we headed over to the horse ranch to meet some of the horses and hear about what goes on at the ranch. Students (and mentors) even got to take turns riding a horse!

After our tour, we returned to the garden for lunch – we had burritos in response to a request from the students. Following lunch, we built native bee nesting blocks and installed a barn owl box. At the first field day, groups decided which project they would work on this time. Three selected bee boxes, and one selected the owl box. Students had lots of fun using power tools to drill holes in the nesting blocks and attaching a roof. They even decorated their nesting blocks before installing them within the hedgerow. The group that installed the owl box had an interesting time examining the box, which had been used before and still had remnants from the previous inhabitants! They attached a metal pole to the box, dug a hole for the pole, and erected the box. Hopefully by the next field day we’ll be able to observe wildlife utilizing their new habitat.

By the time the owl box had been erected and the nesting boxes installed in the hedgerow, we could see the bus pulling up. How was it 2pm already? After a quick group poem to reflect on our day (each participant said one word that summed up their experience of the day), the students headed back onto the bus.

We all had a great time and are excited for Field Day 3!

Accomplishments:

  • 55 native plants planted in the hedgerow
  • Weeding and mulching of the hedgerow
  • 3 native bee nesting blocks and 1 barn owl box installed on site

Happy Cows Come From California, Smart Cows Come From UC Davis!

FARMS Leadership Program: Sacramento Valley: February 21st, 2019

Location of Field Day: Davis, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Dan Sehnert – Department of Animal Science Facilities Coordinator
  • Ed DePeters – UC Davis Professor and Master Advisor for Animal Science major’s
  • Katharina Ullman – Director of UC Davis Student Farm

Theme: College and Career Exploration

Summary of the Day:

Dan Sehnert, the UC Davis Department of Animal Science Facilities Coordinator, welcomed the Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership students to UC Davis. The students were then split up into 4 groups and toured the Dairy Cattle Facility, Horse Facility, Avian Hatchery, and the Meats Lab. At the dairy the students were able to assist in treating a sick cow, see new born calves, and help UC Davis student employees vaccinate. At the horse facility the students were given a tour and learned about the different ways in which horses are studied at UC Davis. Afterwards the students were given the opportunity to groom the horse’s as well as see a week old foal that was bred and born at the facility. At the hatchery student’s learned how to candle eggs and were able to see different varieties of birds at different stages of incubation. The final facility the students visited was the Meats Lab. Students were given a tour, the different processing practices used to process cattle, hogs and lambs were discussed and the students were able to sample some beef jerky and snack sticks that the Meats Lab produced.

After the facility tours we all met back at the UC Davis Cole Facility where Dr. Ed DePeter’s joined us. He discussed with the FARMS Leadership students the college experience. Dr. DePeter’s is a professor at UC Davis and went over the different classes and opportunities that both UC Davis and the Animal Science Department offer. After our visit with Dr. DePeter’s we headed to campus where the students had the opportunity to dine like a college student at Tecero Student Dining Hall.

We concluded our day at the Student Farm and Market Garden. Katharina Ullman, the Director of the Student Farm, welcomed us and gave the students a tour. The students were able to learn about the different crops and herbs grown at the Student Farm as well as see the Market Garden and learn about the CSA program that UC Davis students implement.  

FARMS Leadership Student Quotes:

“I had a lot of fun learning about the background and specifics that go into horse breeding!” – Melina C.

“I really enjoyed working with the calves and getting to help vaccinate them!” – Tyler R.

Organic Pest Management

FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | February 21, 2019

Participating Schools:

Soledad High School

Location(s):

1700 Old Stage Road, Salinas

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Nathan Harkleroad – ALBA 
  • Octavio Garcia – ALBA 

Summary of the Day:

Students arrived at ALBA with coffee in hand. They found a seat at the front and I began with a greeting and check-in. ALBA stands for Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association and they provide educational courses on organic farming. Today students would learn more about IPM in an organic setting.

The Definition of IPM – The use of various methods to reduce pest population below economically damaging levels without adverse secondary effects

Students were presented information on IPM by Nathan Harkleroad. He showed the different levels of pest control management which are:

  1. Cultural Control
  2. Physical Mechanical Control
  3. Biological Control
  4. Chemical Control

Following Nathan’s IPM introduction was Octavio Garcia, a hardworking young man with an inspiring story about his journey to becoming a PCA and Farmer. He then explained what his typical day looks like and what his responsibilities are as a PCA. Students asked great questions about the workload and the difference between conventional IPM and organic IPM. Octavio shared that the IPM model was the same for both Organic and Conventional with exception of the types of controls used in Chemical Control level.

Nathan had a small hand lens for students to use out in the field. We headed outside to the strawberry beds to test out the lenses and drop predatory mites by hand. The beds were still wet from the rain and we all had soggy boots and feet when we were done. We then watched some informative videos by USDA researcher Eric Brannan and his findings on using asylum flowers as an insectary plant and hedgerows to manage pests by providing habitat for pollinators and birds that can help manage rodents and insects. The last activity on the agenda was a skills assessment activity to talk with students about soft and hard skills. It was a fun activity to do with students and I could vouch for their soft skills because I have seen these skills demonstrated.

  • Estrella is enthusiastic, social and reliable.
  • Andrea is organized, a team player and responsible.
  • Diana is patient, positive and a great listener.
  • Precious is honest, hardworking, and patient.
  • Aaron is loyal, task-oriented with an outlandish personality.

All of them are excellent public speakers, intuitive, mature, caring, fast learners and a pleasure to work with.

Access to the Best Walnuts in the World!

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: February 14th, 2019

Location of Field Day: Linden, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Jennifer Williams – Marketing Director for California Walnuts
  • Joseph Stacher – Production Manager for Prima Frutta
  • Katie Arce – Walnut Quality Control for Prima Noce

Theme: Walnuts and Ag Technology

Summary of the Day:

For our fifth field day of the 2018-2019 year we headed to Prima Noce in Linden California to learn about Walnut production and processing and the technology used in this booming industry. With the anticipation of upcoming rain showers we began our field day inside the break room of the apple processing building at Prima Frutta (the fruit processing division of the Prima company).  Once we finished our ice breakers and the students all finished their breakfast Jennifer Williams, the Marketing Director for California Walnuts introduced her self and joined us for the day at Prima Noce. Since there was a break in the rain in the morning we then headed outside for a tour of the orchards and processing facilities lead by Joseph Stacher the Production Manager for Prima Frutta.

While out in the orchards the students were able to see different varieties of walnut trees. We were also able to learn about the different stages of production between the various orchards and also the different styles of growing walnut trees including the grafting process. Joseph gave us a great over view of how things are managed at Prima Noce and the history of the company and then Jennifer gave her insight on how they compared to the walnut industry as a whole.

After leaving the orchard we toured the walnut processing facilities. The students put on hair nets and washed up at the high tech washing stations and then we were able to see all stages of Prima Noce’s production line. We saw everything from in shell walnuts, chopped walnuts, sliced walnuts to the packaging of walnuts. After finishing the tour of the walnut processing facilities we then tour the cherry processing facility which is gearing up to begin again in April and the apple processing facilities which is just wrapping up their season. We finished our tours just as the rain began to pick up and we headed back into the break room where we began our day.

The students took a break for lunch and then Joseph introduced Katie Arce, the woman in charge of Walnut Quality Control for Prima Noce. They taught the students how quality control works in the walnut industry and then the students were split into groups and able to work on sorting 100 walnuts in trays based on quality.

Sierra Cascade Logging Expo

FARMS Advanced | Tehama County | February 7, 2019

Location of Field Day
Anderson, CA

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

Field Day Host
Sierra Cascade Logging Conference, Sierra Pacific Industries

Summary of the Day:

Tehama County FARMS Advanced was invited by Sierra Pacific Industries to visit the Sierra Cascade Logging Expo in Anderson, Ca and learn all about the diversity in the logging industry. Living in Tehama County, we daily see logging trucks traveling down the road and these FARMS Advanced students also visited Sierra Pacific Industries during their year in FARMS Leadership which is one of the largest logging companies in Northern California. However, students don’t always think of logging as part of agriculture, so this opportunity was very fitting and gave the students an up close look at the equipment, and companies that are involved in the daily operations of this very demanding and regulated industry.

Walking into the largest forest products and construction equipment exposition in the west was very impressive and the students were greeted by Tommy 2×4 the mascot as well as some HUGE equipment. Throughout the day we explored all the different types of equipment that are used in the logging industry such as skidders, log loaders, and feller bunchers and were able to network with different operators as well as reps for the companies that manufacture the equipment.

“I was impressed at how expensive the equipment is and the amount of advanced technology they use for every job.” -Mary Pat Peterson, Mercy High School

Of course, at expo’s it’s not all business…the students also went through stations that included other aspects of the industry including a wildlife presentation, learning about sustainability of forests, how Cal Fire is involved and wildfire prevention, college students who were competing in different ax throwing contests, as well as watching a wood carver.

“It was very interesting being able to look inside the cockpit of the CalFire helicopter as well as being able to climb in where the firefighters would sit!” -Stephanie Mills, Red Bluff High School

Strawberries, Drones, Fumigation & the Ag Commissioner

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | February 7, 2019

Participating Schools:

  • Gonzales High School
  • North Salinas High School
  • Soledad High School

Location:

Ag Commissioner’s Office, 1428 Abbott St. Salinas, ca

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Barbara LaVake – TiCal Field Day planner and support.
  • Dennis Lane – TriCal
  • Abbie Asche – TriCal
  • Carolyn O’Donnell –  California Strawberry Commission
  • Henry Gonzales – Monterey County Ag Commissioner
  • Kevin Hill – ParaBug
  • Chandler Bennett – ParaBug

Summary of the Day:

Pests and disease are agricultures biggest adversary. Producers of all kind are always battling or protecting crops from bugs and killer diseases. FARMS Leadership Students met with Carolyn O’Donnell to learn how the Strawberry commission plays a key role in promoting strawberry consumption and sharing the amazing benefits of eating strawberries as a part of a healthy diet.

“Today I learned that 88% of straberries are grown in California.” – Annabel Uribe

First up, TriCal Inc. a family owned business that provides soil fumigation services to sterilize the soil before strawberry plants are placed in their beds. Students learned about TriCal and their commitment to their employee’s safety and well being by paying applicators a living wage with benefits and full-time year-round work. Students spoke with employees and learned about the different jobs TriCal offers. We were able to see the applicator machines and personal safety gear. Abbie Asche talked about her job as a Pest Control Advisor (PCA) with TriCal. Abbie explained the leading diseases that need soil fumigation, like nematodes, bacteria, fungi, and insects. TriCal’s motto is Healthy Fields, Healthy Yields. TriCal is a leader in regulatory requirements that help ensure the health of the consumers and growers.

“Today I learned about TriCal and what it takes to be a PCA or a CAA.” – Brenda Vasquez

Who regulates and permits TriCal to do what they do? The Ag Commissioner. Henry Gonzales is the Ag Commissioner for Monterey County and presented to students about what he does and the career pathway that brought him to the position of Ag Commissioner. Students were extremely engaged and interested in hearing about how Henry Gonzales grew up in Salinas at a local high school.

Continue reading Strawberries, Drones, Fumigation & the Ag Commissioner

Grass and forb planting at Petersen Ranch

Rio Vista High School at Petersen Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 6, 2019

Participating School
Rio Vista High School

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District

Mentors
Carolyn Kolstad, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Emily Snider, UCD graduate student
Karleen Vollherbst, Partner’s for Fish & Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Matthew Young, Fish Biologist, California Water Science Center, USGS
Luke Petersen, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS

Summary of the Day
The morning of this Field Day was the coldest so far – it was 28 degrees when I arrived to load up the truck with gear in the morning! After finding another water source (the faucets were frozen shut!) we loaded up the truck with hot water for cocoa and were on our way, passing frost-covered cows on the drive.

The restoration site was at the end of a dirt road that had become quite muddy in recent rains – just getting there was a 4wd adventure! Rio Vista High soon arrived with a small but mighty crew of students. After changing into rain boots, we were at our field site in no time.

We started our first Field Day with opening circle, where Chris Carlson of Solano RCD introduced the multi-year project at Petersen Ranch. Just last year, students from Rio Vista High installed irrigation, planted grasses, trees, and shrubs and installed bird boxes. This year’s students will help put the finishing touches on this restoration project. After a game of “Where the Wind Blows” where we learned Rio Vista students enjoy fishing, welding, and spending time outdoors we divided into mentor groups and gathered supplies for the day.

Chris led an informative and entertaining demonstration of our activity for the day – planting “plugs” of native grasses, forbs, and sedges. Mentor groups tackled different areas near the irrigation ditch, planting plugs of mugwort, purple aster, western goldentop, creeping wildrye, and saltgrass. Groups working further from the water source also installed drip emitters on the irrigation line and placed a protective covering around the plug. Rio Vista students worked incredibly fast – 800 plugs were in the ground in under an hour! Luckily Chris had some acorns ready for planting, and explained how oaks planted from acorns tend to live longer than those planted from saplings, as the tap root is undamaged. Students made short work of these acorns as well, planting 15 acorns in the riparian area. It’s amazing to imagine how different the area will be when those trees start to mature!

We still had some time before lunch, so mentor groups grabbed binoculars and bird ID cards and ventured up onto the levee. Some of the bird species we spotted included white-tailed kite, marsh wren, turkey vulture, red tailed hawk, white crowned sparrow, caspian tern, and lots of raptors. After lunch, we returned onto the levee to spend some time reflecting on the day in field journals. Students were great about spreading out to experience the site solo – some students were perched on the levee, while others found quiet spaces near the water.

At closing circle, many students remarked that they most enjoyed learning how to plant and spending time outdoors. Mentors and partners enjoyed this as well, but the adults in our group were most pleasantly surprised by this awesome group of respectful, hardworking, and fun-to-be-around students. Can’t wait for our next day in the field!

Full Belly Farm, Certified Organic since 1985!

FARMS Leadership Program: North State: February 5th, 2019

Location of Field Day: Guinda, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

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

Theme: Sustainability and Organic Farming Practices

Summary of the Day:

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to be spent at Fully Belly Farm’s in Guinda, CA. The North State FARMS Leadership Program was welcomed by Haley Friel, the director of Outreach and Education at Fully Belly Farm. We then 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. The students were able to see the pigs raised at at Full Belly Farm and see where the produce is washed and prepped for sale. They even were able to sample so freshly picked produce including oranges, carrots and several other crops some of which we brought back to add to our salads at lunch.

After lunch we went over to the barn where the sheep are currently being housed during lambing season. The North State FARMS students were excited to see lambs that were a few days old as well as some that were just hours old. One ewe even started to go into labor while we were there visiting. Once we left the sheep barn we gathered some baskets and headed over to the mobile chicken coops. We concluded our day collecting baskets full of organic chicken eggs which are currently being sold for $9.00 a dozen.

Agri-Tourism and Science

FARMS Program | Kern County | February 5, 2019

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

Summary of the Day
There is no better place to study Agri-Tourism than at Murray Family Farms. Students have traveled here throughout their childhood to go to the maze, pick pumpkins in the fall or berries in the summer. This trip, they learned the other side of Murray Family Farms.

Steve Murray greeted us on this cold February day with a coffee in hand showing us around his pride and joy – Murray Family Farms. It was easily the most beautiful day we have had in Kern County. Steve shared his extensive journey and through perseverance and incredible opportunities he was able to land his dream.

Learning the History

We then walked through the many commodities grown on site. We learned about apples and stone fruit first. We talked about water and the effects on farming. We talked about grafting and the science behind the different types of grafting which allowed them to create unique fruit for consumers.

We then went up to the small hill for the students to jump. When you are at Murray Family Farms, you must take a jump on their massive bouncing bubble! While some may ask, “What does this have to do with Ag?” It has a lot to do with Agri-Tourism. Families come to make a memory through picking their own fruit and every now and then you have to get your wiggles out.

Now back to learning! We have a first-hand look at grafting from Steve’s son, Steven. Steven shared his journey and his many accomplishments including speaking 7 different languages! He shared how this diversity helped him. He showed us the different ways to graft and discussed the pros and cons of each as well.

Heading out to our picnic lunch we had to taste the fruits which is a favorite past time. The Pomelo’s tested like fresh lime-aid! We loaded up for our trek to Steve’s favorite spot on the farm.

We had a great lunch while learning about the history of the American Indian tribes who lived right where we sat. The unique history and the learning that took place all while taking in the breathtaking views from this spot. It was a beautiful way to experience Ag.

College Bound?

FARMS Leadership| Tehama County | February 5, 2019

Location of Field Day
Chico, CA

Field Day Host
Ashley Person, College of Agriculture
Patrick Doyle, Professor and Program Coordinator

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

Theme
College Exploration

Summary of the Day:
Having the opportunity to take students to explore a 4-year university makes for a wonderful day. While maybe not all FARMS Leadership students think that college is the right fit for them, taking the time to walk around a university and hear the reality of college life from current students can really make an impact, and possibly set some on a new path they never thought possible.

Our morning began with getting a first hand experience of what the parking situation is at 8:30 AM on a college campus! Wow! What a mess! Needless to say, everyone managed to park and meet up in time to catch our college ambassador who was taking us on a walking tour of campus. On our campus tour we learned about the different resources available to students, and that there are special resources for first year students and those who are first generation college bound. We learned where the library, dining halls, dorms, various classrooms, as well as the favorite places to catch some sun and relax during a busy day on campus are. After we walked enough to work up an appetite, the students got to eat lunch in one of the dining halls that they would be eating at if they lived in the dorms on campus. That was a fun treat and they all enjoyed the “all you can eat” option which included dessert!

The afternoon was spent out at the Chico State Farm. We enjoyed a tour of each “living laboratory” including the organic dairy, swine unit, sheep unit, organic vegetable project, orchards and finished at the beef unit where Dr. Doyle met us to give the students a chance to see what a college lab would entail. He gave a short lecture on the anatomy of a cows stomach while explaining to them how much research is done on their farm by their students while they partner with industry. One of the resources they have to use are cannulated cows which is a cow that has been surgically fitted with a cannula. A cannula acts as a porthole-like device that allows access to the rumen of a cow, to perform research and analysis of the digestive system. Each student got to reach their hand inside the rumen via the cannula and feel the rumen wall as well as retrieve rumen matter out and collect samples to be looked at later. Once everyone had their turn, we took some of the liquid that was taken out of the rumen into a laboratory to test pH as well as see what type of organisms were living in the rumen of this cow.

These hands on activities are truly amazing and make HUGE impacts on students. I can not thank Chico State and their staff enough for this wonderful day!