FARMS Leadership Program | Kern County | Tuesday, October 19th

Field Day Partner:

AC Foods/Columbine Vineyards

Field Day Host
Louis Gonzalez-Director of Farming

Dave Watson-VP of Sales

John Carter-Director of Operations

Vincent Sorena-VP of Compliance

Dan Rosas-Quality Assurance Manager

Summary of the Day: On Tuesday, October 19th, 2021, the Kern County FARMS Leadership Program kicked off the year with a field day at AC Foods/Columbine Vineyards. Students from McFarland High School, West High School and Ridgeview Highschool came together to explore the different job opportunities that consists of managing a grape operation. We started off with Louis Gonzalez the Director of Farming as he went over many exciting things that we all learned about. We went into detail about the fertilizer that is used on the grapes and all the ingredients that are in it to make it so valuable. We got to see up close and touch the different additives to fertilizer that are used such as earth worm poop. They use an Aerobic Tea that blends all the ingredients of the fertilizer together with water and it is then pumped into the lines of the vineyards.

We then went over to the Sales Team of Columbine Vineyards and got to sit in and meet the VP of sales Dave Watson. They began to start and show us the pitch they would give to future buyers and anyone interested in their grapes. It was very interesting to see all the different data and reports they do to figure out what the consumers like best about picking the perfect bag of grapes. They have to be sure the label is perfect and placed in the correct spot as well. Presentation is everything!

We then went on to the vineyards and got to actually cut and pick our own bundle of grapes. They went on to show and tell us the specific characteristics the grape bundles must reach to be sale ready. We had to cut and trim to make the bundles uniform and eye appealing to the consumer. We also used a refractometer to practice measuring the sweetness in the grapes. We all had a great time and got to taste some AMAZING grapes!!!

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!

Redhouse Beef!

FARMS Advanced & Leadership Program | Kern County | Tuesday, March 23rd

Field Day Partner:

Redhouse Beef

Field Day Host
Debbie Wise-Owner

Maddie Herndon-Ranch Manager

Summary of the Day: On Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021, the Kern County FARMS Advanced and Leadership Program from McFarland High School had a Regional Zoom field day with Redhouse Beef. Redhouse Beef is located in Bakersfield, CA and they operate a grass-fed beef operation. Their main goal is to serve high quality meat straight from the pasture to your table. Our video tour included walking around the ranch seeing the facilities where the cattle are raised on and how they are fed properly. We ran through the process of tagging, weighing and treating the cattle as they come through the chute and how to correctly do so. Redhouse also has grass fed chickens where they sell their eggs and they also have separate chickens that are meat hens and will be sold as grass fed. They like to keep stress free environment for the herd and the flock to help them maintain the best. If you have not tried any products from Redhouse you must! We are so thankful for their time and hope to go back in person next year!