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!

FARMS Alumni in the House

FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | November 9, 2020

Location(s) of Field Day:
Multiple locations

Participating Schools:
Soquel High School
Gonzalez High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Amanda Lindsey | General Farm Manager at LC Farms of Puerto Rico | FARMS 2018 Graduate
Juan Perez | Founder of First Few Podcast | Junior at Cal Poly |FARMS 2018 Graduate
Jesus Amador | President of Latinx Cultural Association | Junior at Cal Poly | FARMS 2018 Graduate

Theme: FARMS Alumni

Summary of the Day: For this month’s field day we had a chance to spend an hour with three FARMS Advanced Alumni panelists. Current FARMS Students prepared questions for Alumni and helped facilitate the panel discussion. Amanda, Jesus, and Juan shared stories about their journeys from high school up until this point in their careers and education. Alumni gave solid and sound advice to students and they even demonstrated how to do an “elevator speech” or “30-second-me”. It was so much fun to reconnect with Alumni and have them encourage the next generation of FARMS Advanced students.

As the FARMS Leadership Coordinator, I couldn’t be more proud of our Alumni as they work hard in college and in the workforce. I am so thankful for their wisdom, expertise, and time. Keep up the good work!

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!