Food Waste and Urban Gardens

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | March 28, 2019

Participating Schools:

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

Location(s):

  • Johnson Canyon Landfill, 31400 Johnson Canyon Rd, Gonzales, CA
  • Sun Street Transfer Station, 139 Sun St, Salinas, CA
  • Rescate Verde, 669 East Market St. Salinas, Ca

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Patrick Mathews – Salinas Valley Recycles
  • Estela Gutierrez – Salinas Valley Recycles
  • Nicolas Chavez – Rescate Verde Community Garden

Summary of the Day:

Food Waste is not something that is talked about regularly in Agriculture, but the different types of wastes produced by the Ag industry will have to go someplace. Salinas Valley Recycles (SVR) knows just where to put it. At first thought, you may think everything goes to the landfill to be buried forever but many students in FARMS Leadership were surprised to learn that it doesn’t all go in the ground. SVR gave us a tour of the Johnson Canyon Landfill as we talked with Patrick Mathews about the different kinds of waste he sees from the Agricultural industry. Anything from plastics to food waste to food trapped in plastic; Patrick and his team try to find different ways to minimize what they put into the ground. Students saw an innovative machine called a De-Packer that takes foods that are still in their packaging, like canned foods or bagged salad greens, and separates the food waste from the container. The food waste is then composted and turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer.

After the landfill, we all headed to Salinas to learn more about composting and some of the ways consumers can turn their kitchen scraps into plant food. A quick tour of Sun Street Transfer Station ended in a garden where students learned about small scale backyard composting with worms, also known as vermicomposting. Estella took some time to encourage students to begin to think about the waste they create and how they can reuse items, reduce their consumption and teach others. Estela regularly teaches others to compost in El Jardin El Sol learning garden located at the SVR Offices and at many other gardens throughout the county.

Another way to reduce waste is to grow your own food and community gardens can provide support to those interested in doing so. Nicolas Chavez spoke to students about his community garden and how it got started and why. Students were able to cut fresh greens and herbs to take home and they tasted the many flavors in the garden all without any packaging or single-use plastic.

A Rainy Spring day at Petersen Ranch

Rio Vista High School at Petersen Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 20, 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
Matthew Young, Fish Biologist, California Water Science Center, USGS
Luke Petersen, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS

Summary of the Day
The first day of spring was the second day out in the field for Rio Vista students at Petersen Ranch, but the weather turned out to be more wintry than we’d hoped – it was a light steady rain for most of the day, and windy as well. So windy, in fact, that during opening circle the pop-up canopy that was sheltering the breakfast table went tumbling across the field! It took several mentors chasing it down and affixing it to the side of the truck before we could continue.

We played a round of group juggle to familiarize ourselves with names before Chris Carlson of Solano RCD demonstrated our tasks for the day. It was too muddy to access our original site, so we were at a different location on Petersen Ranch to put the finishing touches on an existing project – weeding around previous planted trees and shrubs, planting grass and forb plugs, and installing emitters for all of these native plant species. Students worked through a rainy morning before breaking for lunch. Most students ate their burritos sheltered by the RCD trailer!

After lunch, there was a fun surprise – mentor Matt Young and his colleague MJ Farruggia had caught some fish near our field site. MJ showed students several species of native and non-native fish including mosquitofish, largemouth bass, Sacramento pikeminnow, and bigscale logperch. Groups rotated between MJ and Matt, who explained what he does as a fish biologist while teaching students how to use a casting net. Students were thrilled to catch Western mosquitofish and a fathead minnow in the drainage ditch near our planting site and almost every student remarked that this was their favorite part of the day!

We didn’t get the weather you would expect on the first day of spring, but mentors were so impressed that they didn’t hear one complaint or even comments about the unpleasant, rainy weather.

‘Till the cows come home

FARMS Leadership| Tehama County | March 19, 2019

Location of Field Day
Gerber, CA

Field Day Host
Bryce Borror 
Linda Borror
Bill Borror

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

Theme
Modern Farming and Sustainability

Summary of the Day:

The morning began with perfect weather! The students were very excited for the experience at hand. They watched with much anticipation and wide eyes while the cowboys finished bringing in the first group pairs. Linda Borror was preparing the table with vaccines, tattoo equipment, a drench gun for worming as well as her binder full of records on each cow and calf.

Once the cows were sorted from calves, we huddled around Linda and Bryce to hear a brief history of Tehama Angus as well as what our jobs were going to be and why this was so important. Tehama Angus raises registered Angus cattle and focuses on providing quality seedstock (bulls) that excel in maternal quality to cattlemen across the county. Bryce explained to the students the importance of herd health and the investment they needed to make into their stock to result in the highest quality product to their consumer. So today the students were going to join the crew and help by vaccinating, worming, tattooing, weighing, and recording all this data on a group of about 75 calves that were about to be weaned from their mommas.

As things started rolling, the students really got into a grove and The Borror Family truly let the kids dive in and become part of the crew. They all took turns at each task and learned how to rotate as well as work together to make things run smoothly and efficiently. It was more than just learning how to worm, vaccinate, tattoo, and record, it was learning the skills of seeing a hole and filling it, picking up the slack if someone was falling behind, helping others, teamwork. Once we had finished processing the last calf, and then run the cows through to get weights and measurements on them, we braked for lunch and enjoyed a wonderful taco bar that Mrs Linda Borror had prepared!

After lunch, Bryce Borror took us for a tour on the hay wagon of the entire ranch. He explained to the students how important it is in current times especially to be very divers in your farming. Tehama Angus not only raises registered angus cattle, they also farm hay, grow almonds and walnuts, and are sustainable by having solar power that generates much of their electricity. Students asked many great questions as we watched Mr Bill Borror fertilize an irrigated pasture that is used to grow hay, then pasture cattle on as well as when we ended in their feed shed and saw the grinder/mixer that they mix their own feed rations in and were explained the importance of a balanced ration when raising quality seedstock.

Over this year these students have grown so much and today they shined! Tehama Angus was very impressed with the students which says a lot and we greatly appreciate the time and opportunity they gave to us today. Thank you Tehama Angus, we greatly appreciate your parntership!

Nursery & Greenhouse Management

On Tuesday, March 19, 2019, the South Central Valley group of the FARMS Leadership Program ended their year at TSL & Seed in Huron, CA. The schools represented at this field day were Lindsay High School, El Diamante High School and Mt. Whitney High School.
Upon arrival, students met with their coordinator Katie Wortman for a daily agenda, breakfast and to sign the thank yous for the day’s speakers. 3 students were today’s leadership team. Their job was to meet and introduce our speakers as well as help with organizing lunch clean up and thanking our speakers at the end of the day.

The FARMS theme for the day was learning about Greenhouse and Nursery Management. Students engage in experiential learning that demonstrates the balance between ag production, they learned about the size and scope including the economic impact of the agricultural industry in the county, state, and nation. Students also gained an understanding of the natural resources used in agriculture production and the ecological impact on the environment. We were excited to learn that the high humidity and misting water system was low usage at the 9 greenhouses on the property. Students were able to see the entire process of sewing seeds and see the different stages of those seeds and finally seeing them planted in the fields.

Ice cream in the Capay Valley

Woodland High School at Pharm Schaer
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 14, 2019

Participating School
Woodland High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Candice Schaer

Mentors
Fanny Ye, Soil Conservationist, NRCS
Gina Radieve, Environmental Scientist, California Department of Water Resources
Miles Daprato, Environmental Steward for UCD Campus Planning and Environmental Stewardship Department

Summary of the Day
For our last field day out in the beautiful Capay Valley (Guinda, to be exact) Woodland High students arrived as they always do – ready to WORK! Our task for the day was mulching around the 170 native plants on the perimeter of Candy Schaer’s property. Mulching will give these plants a better chance of survival as it will reduce weed growth and moisture loss around these young plants.

Before we could get started, we gathered for opening circle and a few rounds of PVC golf. Then Alex Tremblay of Yolo County Resource Conservation District showed students how to properly mulch, putting cardboard around the base and then spreading nearly a wheelbarrow full of mulch around each individual plant. This was quite the task, as the irrigation line was 1400 feet long – meaning full wheelbarrows needed to be carted all that way, over and over again!

Luckily Woodland students were eager to tackle this ambitious project and quickly settled into an efficient routine. Some students took on the task of laying down cardboard and spreading mulch, while others loaded up wheelbarrows, while others volunteered to be the “muscle”, pushing heavy, full wheelbarrows all the way to the end of the line. Students switched tasks when they got tired, but many students enjoyed the hard work and wanted to be wheelbarrow-pushers for the entire morning. One student kept everyone entertained by speaking in a southern accent and giving herself a funny nickname!

After a well-deserved lunch, Candy had a fun surprise for the students – ice cream she had made, leftover from the Capay Valley Almond Festival! This was a wonderful treat for our last field day, and was especially delicious after such a busy morning.

After lunch students had a chance to interview mentors to learn more about their education and career paths. Since many of these students are about to graduate and start their own journeys, interviewing mentors is a fantastic opportunity to learn about careers in the environmental sciences, and get advice from professionals in the field. To close the day, we gathered to reminisce on our favorite memories from the past three Field Days. Thank you to the small but mighty crew of students from Woodland High!

Restoring wildlife habitat with Florin High School

Florin High School at River Garden Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 12, 2019

Participating School
Florin High School

Partners/Landowners
Audubon California
River Garden Farms

Mentors
Aaron Haiman, Environmental Scientist and Tribal Liaison, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy
Esther Tracy, Environmental Scientist, Department of Water Resources
Fanny Ye, Soil Conservationist, NRCS
Jacob Byers, Partner Biologist, Sacramento NWRC

Summary of the Day
After donning the now-ubiquitous yellow rainsuits, Florin High students gathered with mentors and River Garden Farms staff to begin their final Field Day at River Garden Farms. After a fun round of PVC golf, we tromped through the mud to the site of our first Field Day. Students worked hard last December to install a complete drip irrigation system, and today it was time to plant the native shrubs and milkweed that will make use of this water.

Students worked in mentor group to plant native shrubs, with milkweed plugs planted as “associates” next to these larger plants. “Two years from now there will be something here” one student remarked, “we should come back here for graduation!”. And he’s correct – though the hedgerow doesn’t look very impressive yet, these plants will continue to grow and eventually provide habitat for pollinators and other native species.

Once sections of plantings were complete, students began installing Wood Duck nest boxes along the hedgerow. Since there are relatively few trees in this agriculture-heavy area, it can be difficult for Wood Ducks to find suitable nesting habitat. Students worked together to pound 10 posts into the ground along the planting area and affix wood duck nest boxes to each. Perhaps next season, some of these boxes will be occupied!

With such a long irrigation line, we realized by the end of the morning some students had walked over 3 miles, planting all the way! Florin students planted an impressive 125 native shrubs and 150 milkweed associates, and installed 10 wood duck nest boxes by lunchtime. Students found worms, frogs, hawks, turkey vultures and even a dead skunk!

After lunch students interviewed mentors about their education and career paths, before we gathered for closing circle. More students than ever before said their favorite part of SLEWS was making new friends and working as a team with their mentor groups. What a fantastic project with fantastic students!

A day of mulching at Sequoia Farms

Davis High School at Sequoia Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 8, 2019

Participating School
Davis High School

Partners/Landowners
NCAT
Solano Resource Conservation District
Sequoia Farms

Mentors
Amanda Lindell, UC Davis graduate student
Claire Kouba, UC Davis graduate student
Dani Gelardi, UC Davis graduate student
Elaine Swiedler, California Farm Academy Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning

Summary of the Day
For our final Field Day with Davis High school, we were back where our project started – at Sequoia Farms in Dixon. On our first Field Day, we planted 600 plants along the perimeter of this organic walnut orchard. Today, it was time to remove weeds around the plants and apply a thick layer of walnut shell mulch. This will help reduce future weed growth and retain water around the plant, giving these native plant species a better chance at survival.

For our final Field Day with Davis High school, we were back where our project started – at Sequoia Farms in Dixon. On our first Field Day, we planted 600 plants along the perimeter of this organic walnut orchard. Today, it was time to remove weeds around the plants and apply a thick layer of walnut shell mulch. This will help reduce future weed growth and retain water around the plant, giving these native plant species a better chance at survival.

After our opening circle and a game of PVC golf (in which students work together to transport a golf ball through pieces of PVC pipe to a designated target), we set off to the property perimeter and began our task of the day. Students observed the vast differences between the organic Sequoia Farms orchard and the conventional walnut orchard nearby – most due to the cover crop Sequoia Farms had planted. Cover crops are plants used to improve soil health, increase biodiversity, improve water availability, control weeds, and more, and are especially important in organic agriculture. Students immediately the increased number of insects and birds on the Sequoia Farms side, and wondered aloud why the other orchard looked so barren.

As students pulled weeds and surrounded plants with buckets of mulch, Rex Dufour of the National Center for Appropriate Technology led mentor groups in a nitrogen sampling activity. Each group of students cut and weigh sections of cover crop, and did calculations to estimate how much nitrogen was in their sample, and the orchard as a whole. This will give Sequoia Farms a better idea of how much nitrogen the cover crop is contributing to the orchard which well help them better manage their farm.

After mulching about 300 plants, we headed back to the workshop area to build barn owl boxes. Barn owls are cavity nesters, and with so much agriculture in the Central Valley, naturally occuring tree cavities can be difficult for nesting owls to find. These nest boxes provide suitable habitat for nesting owls, which in turn help with pest control for Sequoia Farms. An all-female group of students finished constructing their box first, announcing that they did it for “women everywhere” – after all, it was International Women’s Day!

After lunch, David Lester of Sequoia Farms gave a talk on organic farming practices, and how they manage their orchards. He helped provide the students with context of how their work will positively impact not just the environment, but also their farming operation.

To end the day, students interviewed mentors to learn more about their education and career paths, and wrote a thank you note to someone who made their SLEWS experience possible. I was proud to see students asking mentors about internship opportunities in their respective fields.

Thank you to all who made these Field Days possible!

FARMS Advanced visits Chico State

FARMS Advanced| Tehama County | March 5, 2019

Location of Field Day
Chico, CA

Field Day Host
Sarah DeForest, College of Agriculture Director of External Relations

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

Theme
College Exploration, Integrated Pest Management

Summary of the Day:

The morning began with meeting Sarah DeForest, the director of external relations, at the Chico State Farm. There we began our networking and practiced our professional introductions. Sarah invited us on a tour where we visited each of their 4 animal units; dairy, beef, swine, sheep as well as saw how diverse they are with having 800 acres of orchards, row crops and garden plots with green houses.

At the dairy unit, we learned about there operation and how and why they transitioned from a conventional herd to the current organic herd they have which allows them to market “organic milk”. With the current milk market, and the college operating a small herd of 80 cows they are able to sell their milk for a higher price as organic as well as give their students a leg up in the industry by learning the practices that come with organic farming. We toured the milking parlor which can hold 6 cows at a time and is equipped with automatic grain feeders as well as RFID readers that record the data from each cow as they enter and are milked. Then we went out and saw all the calves that are bottle raised and will be used as replacement cows as they get older and are ready to join the milk string. Of course everyone loved them! We went on to see the swine unit which houses 30 sows with their largest market for the babies being project hogs for local 4-H and FFA kids. Next we saw the sheep unit where they raise Southdowns, Suffolk, and Hampshires all again which are bred and raised for market or breeding animal youth projects. Lastly we explored the beef unit where we learned about their past partnership with Sierra Nevada Brewery which demonstrated the importance of networking as well as saw their current production feed experiment and the technology associated with it.

After our fun with the livestock units, we joined a Plant Science 101 lab and were able to see hands on how a college laboratory goes. The students jumped right in and joined the lab groups which were testing the nitrogen levels in soil between two different test groups, one with an additive and one that was a control.

Lastly, we headed over to the main campus for a quick lunch in the dining hall, followed by a brief tour of campus. I can not thank Chico State enough for this opportunity to showcase the school to our FARMS Advanced students!