Wetlands, Waterways & Watersheds

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | April 11, 2019

Participating Schools:

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

Location(s):

Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 1700 Elkhorn Rd, Castroville, Ca 95012

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Dave Feliz – California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Virginia Guhin – California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Ariel Hunter – California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Summary of the Day:

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarian Research Reserve or Elkhorn Slough Reserve for short is located halfway between the cities of Santa Cruz and Monterey. The middle ground between 2 counties and our FARMS Leadership Program which spans both Santa Cruz County and Monterey County. The Reserve itself is owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The day started with a quick breakfast, housekeeping, and an ice breaker. Virginia Guhin, the education programs coordinator started the discussion off by asking students about their career interests to warm them up and start the conversation. From there she shared more about the Elkhorn Slough Estuary Reserve and her role as the education coordinator. She then introduced Dave Feliz who delivered a speech connecting everything Virginia shared about the Reserve to the land and ultimately agriculture. He spoke about different ways of using agriculture fields for both profit and conservation like how rice farmers can support water foul populations. In the end, we all need to work together to preserve land, water, species, and food systems.

The inspiring talk was a perfect lead into the two activities. Students were split into two groups. One took a hike to the boardwalk to see the slough and the other group did a fun hands-on activity with Ariel Hunter called Watershed Masters. The word watershed is not a word that is taught in schools so it was not a surprise when students had no idea what a watershed was. I must admit that I personally hadn’t heard that word until my 20’s so I was happy that students would have the opportunity to learn about watersheds way before I did. The groups did a quick switch and once everyone had a chance to hike and participate in a hands-on activity we ate lunch and departed for Moon Glow Dairy.

Moon Glow Dairy was once a dairy and is now known as the Hester Marsh Restoration Site. This site is a new experimental idea to restore the marshlands and plant native plants that create habitats for different wildlife and organisms. It is an exciting and innovative restoration project to witness in the beginning stages. Elkhorn Slough has restored the site by strategically placing dirt in the area that was engineered to mimic a natural occurring marshland that once was there before the dairy. Students helped with the conservation efforts by weeding out some of the invasive species that are not welcome. Students asked questions about the different plants they saw and before you know it was time to clean up and head back to the vehicles.

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.

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.

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

Hartnell College – Alisal Campus

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | January 24, 2019

Participating Schools:

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

Location:

Hartnell College Alisal Campus

1752 E. Alisal Street, Salinas, CA 93905

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Anely Meneses – Field Day Planning Support
  • Melissa Casillas, Director of Career Training
  • Belen Gonzales – Coordinator of job and internship placement
  • Dr. Emily Rustad – Plant Science Instructor
  • Michael Davis – Welding Instructor
  • Fabiola & Sam – MakerSpace

Summary of the Day:

We arrived at the beautiful Alisal Campus promptly at 9 am. Students began the day by talking about their plans after high school and where they see themselves in 1 year and in 5 years.

“[I would like to] go to a 2-year college then transfer. [I want to] play basketball and  have a good job. Or I will go straight into a 4-year college”- Janet Arias, WHS

“ In one year I hope to be redeeming a scholarship to a four year college.” – Randy Huynh, NSH

“ I will attend Hartnelll College. I see myself with my degree and working my career.” – Vicky Aceves, GHS

Continue reading Hartnell College – Alisal Campus

RCDMC – Resource Conservation District of Monterey County

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | November 15, 2018

Location(s) of Field Day
DiCarli Ranch 25420 Old Stage Rd. Chualar, Ca
Buena Vista Grange

Schools Participating
Gonzales High School
North Salinas High School
Soledad High School
Watsonville High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors
Paul Robins, Executive Director with RCDMC
Megan Baker, Project Administrator with RCDMC
Laura Murphy, Soil Scientist with RCDMC
Ken Oster, Soil Scientist with NRCS
Wayne Gularte, Grower

Summary of the Day

DiCarli Ranch is chilly in the morning as students grab a breakfast burrito and some warm champorado. Students slowly begin warming up as we listen to Wayne Gularte, a farmer who has been working with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County for many years and has allowed us to use his fields to have our field day. Wayne kicks off the field day by sharing his profession and what lead him to farm, and he recalls working on the field during the summer as a young boy. Wayne encourages students to spend time working in the fields at least once in their life as a way to build a strong work ethic.

Students receive a demonstration on land judging from Ken Oster a long time National Resource Conservation Service employee. There are a lot of different land characteristics that students will have to look for – characteristics like soil texture, soil thickness and they must determine the slope of the land. Then students use the data and information to identify some potential land uses, management needs and land limitation.

It’s a quick lesson before we split the students into groups by school and they alternate between 2 pit locations. Students record their findings and observations on a scorecard.

After our time in the pits, we drove to the Grange Hall for lunch. Student scorecards were graded while we heard from a Monterey FARMS Alumni, Kyla Monroe. Kyla had won the land judging contest years back and received a scholarship to range camp. She shared her experience at range camp.

Winners of The 2019 Land Judging Contest
and Recipients of The Range Camp Scholarships

  1. Jessica Rodriguez – Watsonville High School
  2. Luis Gomez – Watsonville High School
  3. Hailey Higgins – Soledad High School

We ended the Field Day with group interviews. where students had an opportunity to ask the industry professionals questions about their jobs and professions were able to ask students about their plans after high school.

Integrated Pest Management at Cassin Ranch

FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | October 28, 2019

School(s) Participating: Soledad High School

Location(s) of Field Day:

Cassin Ranch, 151 Silliman Rd. Watsonville, Ca. 95076

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

Driscoll’s

  • Cristal Verduzco – Sr. Forecasting Manager Berries & FARMS Alumni
  • John Siletto – Main Speaker
  • Diego Nieto – Staff Scientist in Entomology
  • Micheal Moore – Director of Quality Operations
  • Fred Cook – Plant Pathology Research and Development
  • Gavin Sills – Breeding
  • Jenny Broome – Sr. Research Manager Global Plant Health
  • Ahna Miller – GIS Planning Analyst
  • Miranda Ganci – Plant Pathology Research Associate
  • Kelly Ivors – Plant Pathology
  • Kyle Rak – Plant Breeding

ParaBug

  • Chandler Bennett – Owner and Founder
  • Kevin Hill – ParaBug Pilot

Summary of the Day

The day begins with a waffle breakfast with lots of beautiful Driscoll’s berries at Cassin Ranch. Students participate in a quick icebreaker and I introduce our host and FARMS Alumni Cristal Verduzco who is the Senior Raspberry Forecaster for Driscoll’s. We do an activity with students to gauge what their understanding of Integrated Pest Management is. Student’s ideas were surprisingly really close.

“I believe that Integrated Pest Management is when you create an artificial ecosystem to eliminate any unwanted item in the plant without the use of pesticides.” – Aaron Arriago

Dr. Kelly Ivors who is very knowledgeable in IPM helped us learn more. Aaron was surprised to discover that integrated pest management still uses pesticides but does so as a last resort. Dr. Ivors also introduced the term P.C.A. or pest control advisor which plays a huge role in pest management because they offer growers advice on the pests they find and recommend the best ways to eliminate the pests. The discussion led to a talk about student’s plans after high school. Both Cristal and Dr. Ivors share their stories and offered some sound advice to students. It was a very casual and informative discussion.

John Silleto came by and talked to students about Driscoll’s as a company and touch on the values and the history of Driscoll’s. John was very open about some of the challenges they face as an international organization and encouraged students to go to college so they can help with some of those challenges. FARMS Advanced students asked questions and were very professional during the presentation.

From there we went into the labs with Diego Nieto to see pests and dissect bugs to see if they had parasites in them. It was very shocking to see a bug ripped apart on a magnified screen. It was a first for all of us.  After mutilating bugs we stepped outside with Kyle Rak to learn about his work in the raspberry test fields. In the background, Kevin Hill and Chandler Bennet prepped their ParaBug Drone for a demonstration.

In integrated pest management, one step to fighting pests is biological control and Chandler created a business that focusses on biological control by spreading predatory insects to fight crop-damaging pests. Students helped load the chamber with bugs and Kevin marked out a flight path and sent the drone to work. Meanwhile, students learned about how ParaBug started and asked many questions about what he does as a business owner and operator. It is hard to believe but we still had time to squeeze in one more activity before lunch.

We headed back to the lab, this time the plant pathology lab with Dr. Ivors and Miranda Ganci. Students put on their lab coats and helped investigate and diagnose a sick raspberry plant. The smashed pieces of the plant to a pulp so they could test for a specific phytophthora enzyme. The hands-on experience and support from professionals in the lab made students consider plant pathology as a potential career path.

Back at the conference room, Cristal Verduzco had lunch and a panel of Driscoll’s employees waiting to share their career pathways and open up about life challenges and successes. Students shared their plans for the future and panelist were very impressed by their public speaking skills, confidence, and professionalism to slow things down we took a trip to the lawn to take some group photos with employees and students. Then it was back inside for a discussion on GIS or geographic information systems with Ahna Miller. Ahna’s career pathway was interesting to hear and her sense of humor and fun energy captured students attention.

“ My favorite activity was the labs. I am really interested in Dr. Ivor’s career. I [also] learned more about how drones are used in Ag.” – Diana Mendoza

ALBA – Agriculture Land-Based Training Association

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | October 11, 2018

Participating Schools:
Everett Alverez High School
Gonzales High School
Soledad High School
Watsonville High School

Location(s) of Field Day:
ALBA Campus 1700 Old Stage Road, Salinas Ca

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Nathan Harkleroad, ALBA Education Program Director
Patty Howe, ALBA Administrative Director
Samantha Tuttle, ALBA Student Intern
Juana Hernandez, ALBA Administrative Assistant
Leo Sanchez and Rebecca Hernandez, Lazy Millennial Farms, Owners
Rudy Jimenez, Green Thumb Organics, Owner
Victor Cortez, La Granjita Farms, Owner

Summary of the Day:

Our Monterey and Santa Cruz FARMS Leadership Program kicked off their first field day with a visit to the ALBA, Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association, Campus. After breakfast, we had an icebreaker activity – a name game allowing students to get to know each other and to help us all remember names. The students collected program goodies and supplies. Then, we had an open discussion about the organic industry. We talked about what we knew about organic produce and production. We also explored the areas we had questions about and made a note to ask them along the way.

Here are some of the questions students had:

“How much is [farm] land and why is it so expensive?” – Randy Huynh, NSH

“What are the downsides [with organics]?” – Hailey Higgins, SHS

“Why is organic food more expensive?” – Sonia Vargas, GHS

“What’s the process to becoming an organic farmer?” – WHS

In our discussion, we also talked about how ALBA was a non-profit organization with a mission.


ALBA’s mission is to create economic opportunity for limited-resource and aspiring organic farmers through land-based education in the heart of the Salinas Valley. 

Continue reading ALBA – Agriculture Land-Based Training Association

FARMS Leadership Monterey/Santa Cruz Kick Off

FARMS Leadership | Monterey Santa Cruz | September 24, 2018

Location:
Hartnell College Alisal Campus – 1752 East Alisal Street, Salinas CA 93905

Industry Partners in Attendance:
Clint Cowden – Hartnell College Dean
Dennis Lane – Trical Inc.
Megan Baker – Monterey County Resource Conservation District

Theme: Welcome to FARMS Leadership 2018

Summary of the Event:
FARMS Leadership is a competitive program requiring students to apply and interview before being selected to participate. Only a handful of students are selected from each of the participating schools in Monterey and Santa Cruz County.

Everett Alvarez HS
Gonzales HS
North Salinas HS
Soledad HS
Watsonville HS

To celebrate the students who made it into the 2018 FARMS Leadership Cohort, we have a Kick Off Party. Teachers, parents and partners are invited to meet the students and hear more about the program.

This year we started by going around the room and having everyone introduce themselves. Students shared by telling us what grade they are in, what school they attend and something that interests them. Some students confidently stood up to address the group while others sat up straight in their chairs when introducing themselves. Students demonstrated many different public speaking skills and I was impressed by their willingness to participate in front of their peers, parents, and industry professionals. Continue reading FARMS Leadership Monterey/Santa Cruz Kick Off

Monterey County Food Bank and Salinas Valley Recycles

FARMS Leadership | Monterey & Santa Cruz | April 12, 2018

Locations of Field Day:
Food Bank – 815 W Market St. #5, Salinas CA 93901
Sun St. Transfer Station – 139 Sun Street Salinas, CA 93901

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Monterey County Food Bank – Sandra Nunez
Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority – Estela Gutierrez

Theme:
Food Waste and Food Systems

Summary of the Day
Students started the day by learning about the Food Bank and what they do with the food they receive and how and where it’s distributed. Students asked engaging questions about who is receiving the free food and how they are ending hunger in the county. Students participated in a team building exercise by splitting up into groups and packing bags with non perishable items that are distributed to the individuals. Students had to work together to complete one bag and they did 300 bags all together. We ended our time at the Food Bank with a tour of the facility and saw how they process the perishable foods they receive from various agriculture companies like Taylor Farms and Tanimura and Antel. We left to have lunch at the Sun Street Transfer Station. We finished lunch and had a presentation on composting and food waste. Then Estela talked about the SVSWA Company and the history of waste in our county. We received a tour of the facility and witnessed how much trash comes into the transfer station to be taken to the landfill to live forever.

” I learned that the Japanese use a certain way of compost that doesn’t involve worms [Bokashi].” – Noel Diaz, North Salinas High School

Continue reading Monterey County Food Bank and Salinas Valley Recycles