We are Back In-Person with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County

FARMS Advanced |Central Coast Region | Sept 23, 2021

Location(s) of Field Day:
Farm Bureau of Monterey County and ALBA

Participating Schools from Monterey & Santa Cruz Region:
Alisal High School (virtual)
Gonzalez High School (in-person)

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Jacob Dixon – FARMS Alumni and Senior at Cal Poly
Juan Perez – FARMS Alumni and Senior at Cal Poly
Laura Murphy – Soil Scientist with the RCD of Monterey County
Paul Robins – Executive Director of the RCD of Monterey County
Megan Barker – RCD of Monterey County
Mary Kimball – CEO of the Center for Land-Based Learning
Andrea Tinajero – ALBA
Norm Groot – Monterey County Farm Bureau


Theme: What can Resource Conservation Districts do to create a more inclusive dialogue about conservation work?

Summary of the Day:  It feels so good to be back in-person with students. The Advanced Cohort had the pleasure of kicking off the year! Since the Advanced students are our second year students their field days are a bit more involved and require professionalizm, critical thinking and a willingness to step out of their comfort zones just a bit.

Advanced begins early in the morning as I pick up students. This is the first time we are meeting face to face. Their leadership year was entirly online. After pick up we head to the Monterey County Farm Bureau and we have some brealfast. We are luck to have Mary Kimball joining us from Woodland. We begin with an icebreaker and students stand and introduce themselves with confidence and assertiveness. We invite Norm Groot to join us for our morning icebreaker, Two Truths and a Lie. We all learn so much about each other from this excersice it is a lot of fun! Norm Groot took the floor and shared his career pathway, the history of Farm Bureaus’ and what they do to support farmers and the Ag industry.

From there Megan signed us on to zoom and we met with Alisal HS students and FARMS Alumni, Juan Perez and Jacob Dixon. Both Jacob and Juan participate in the RCD Speak-off Contest when they were in the FARMS program. They shared their experience with students and gave them pointers on public speaking and speech writing. Jacob encouraged students that the speak-off judges only want to help and be supportive and students should not be nervous or afraid of them. Juan let students know that when it comes to writing a speech the key is starting early so you can have time to revise, practice and then revise & practice again. Next we discussed the speak-off contest and the speech prompt for this year.

Speak -Off Topic

“What can Resource Conservation Districts do to help create a more inclusive dialogue about conservation work?”

the Californina Association of RCD’s

The topic is not an easy one by any means and it required quite a bit of dicussion. I took notes as we broke down the topic and defined key words like “enclusive dialogue” .

It was time to head out to ALBA to meet some farmers and eat some lunch. After lunch we gave students the opportunity to discover how the RCD of Monterey County engages farmers in dialogue. Students where tasked with asking Farmers questions themselves. Some students took it apon themselves to ask their questions in Spanish which was a great way of demonstrating inclusive dialogue. Andrea Tinajero organized an amazing line-up of farmers to meet with students and share honestly and candidly thier experiences as Farmers and business owners.

Here are some of the questions students asked:

  1. What led you to farming?
  2. What resource conservation concerns do you have?
  3. How can you best be reached to have discussions about resource conservation (for example, email, cell phone, in-person visits, etc.)?
  4. Where do you want to have those discussions (for example, over the phone, online, in public meetings, in groups, during 1-on-1 personal visits to your farm, etc.)?

The day ended with a hands on soil sampling and test activity that students did with Farmers in their fields. It was a beautiful day to be in the fields and a perfect day for our first FARMS Advanced Field Day.

Driscoll’s Berries in California

Bi-Regional FARMS Advanced | Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Tehama Region| March 15, 2021

Location(s) of Field Day:
Redding & Watsonville, California

Participating Schools from Monterey & Santa Cruz Region:
Soquel High School
Gonzalez High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Carmelo Sicarios – Raspberry Planning Manager
James Moller -Strawberry Foundation & Breeding Nursery Manager
John Pierre – Agronomist and Nursery Supply Manager
Isabel Andrade – Administrative Clerk
Cristal Verduzco – Senior Supply and Raspberry Forcast Manager
Diego Nieto – Entomologist Research Scientist

Theme: Careers in Berries

Summary of the Day: 
Since we are virtual this year we had a unique opportunity to combine two of Driscoll’s operations, the Nursery in Redding, Ca, and the Headquarter operations in Watsonville, Ca. This field day brought FARMS Advanced students from two different regions together to learn about multiple careers. All students received a kit with Driscoll’s swag and some raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries.

Students received a company overview from Carmelo Sicarios who has been in the industry for 30 years. Students heard from James Moller spoke about the nursery side of Driscoll’s and talked about the life cycle of the Driscoll’s strawberry which begins with breeding and selecting varieties to produce. Strawberry plant production is quite complicated and involves many different steps before plants get to the fields. The Driscoll’s Nursery produces 410 million strawberry plants that are planted at various sites throughout California, Florida, Mexico, China, Australia, and Europe.

Next up was John Pierre and he gave us a great presentation on what he does as an Agronomist. Like many folks in Ag, he didn’t intend to be in the ag industry but rather stumbled upon Ag in college. John explained that his job requires him to have knowledge of a combination of things like genetics, plant nutrition, soil science, physiology, Ag economics, and much more. Most of John Pierre’s work with Driscoll’s has been working with raspberries, which is his favorite berry to work with.

“Raspberries are pretty cool, we’re able to do a lot of crazy things with them that you wouldn’t even think is possible.”

John Pierre

We were very lucky to have Isabel Andrade speak with students about her work as a clerk in the nursery. She has a very important job with multiple administrative responsibilities that keep the office functioning like a well-oiled machine. Isabel encouraged students to learn a second language because it will help them in their future careers.

Cristal Verduzco started her presentation by sharing all the colors of raspberries. Cristal shared her background and her memories of playing in the fields with her mom as a young girl. Ag was a part of her life at an early age. In high school, she pursued opportunities in ag by participating in FARMS Leadership which really influenced her choice to pursue ag as a career. Cristal shared some very important advice for students to go after things that they are passionate about even if it’s not agriculture. She emphasized networking and internships as key to career success.

“What I tell my nieces and nephews is, that in life you are going to have to work. You might as well work doing something that you love. Right?”

Cristal Verduzco

Our final speaker was Diego Nieto representing the Entomology Research Department at Driscoll’s. Diego talked about how his research supports growers to help manage pests in the field and minimize the use of chemical controls like miticides and pesticides. He introduced students to different kinds of pests that he works with. The first was the white grub which can be controlled by adding nematodes to the soil to feed on the white grub. Diego talked about multiple biological controls that help growers with pests, like using parasitic wasps that take care of the spotted winged fruit fly and using beneficial mites to combat spider mites. Diego’s advice for students is to work on their writing skills. He explained that oftentimes writing is overlooked as a key skill for success in whatever you do.

I am always impressed with the passion and excitement Driscoll’s employees have for the work that they do. We appreciate the knowledge and advice that all the speakers brought to our field day. Thank you Driscoll’s for a fabulous virtual field day!

What happens to the soil during a fire?

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | December 7, 2020

Location(s) of Field Day:
Resource Conservation District of Monterey County
744 La Guardia St., Suite A
Salinas, Ca

Participating Schools:
Soquel High School
Gonzalez High School
Alisal High School
Greenfield High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Drew Mathers – Soil Conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Services
Megan Barker – Project Administrator/ Environmental Scientist with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County
Laura Murphy – Soil Scientist with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County

Theme: Post-Fire Soils

Summary of the Day: 

2020 has been a challenging year on so many levels and this summer we had one of the worst wildfire seasons in California history. All of our students and teachers were affected by the wildfires. In Santa Cruz County, there was the CZU Lightning Complex Fire that burned 86,509 acres, and in Monterey County, there was the River Fire that burned 48,088 acres. With the trauma of the summer fires fresh in their minds, students had a chance to learn about soil and how it is affected by wildfires. Drew Mathers from the NRCS and Laura Murphy with the RCDMC sourced 6 different types of soils for student’s to experiment with. The field day was packed with information on the challenges and the benifits of wildfires. Students learned about the different severity levels of wildfires and how to observe the landscape to determine how severe a fire was in an area of land. There were polls and experiments and we all had a lot of fun learning about soil conservation and wildfires.

Video Recording coming soon!

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