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!

Use Your Voice

FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | October 5, 2020

Location(s) of Field Day:
Bio + Food + Tech Forum – Virtual Forum

Resource Conservation District of Monterey County
744 La Guardia St., Suite A
Salinas, Ca

Participating Schools:
Soquel High School
Gonzalez High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Corinne Takara – Artist and STEAM Coordinator with Xinamp Bio
Megan Barker – Environmental Scientist with the RCDMC
Paul Robins – Executive Director with the RCDMC

Speak – Off Judges:
Ignacio Mendoza – California Strawberry Commission
Emily Gardner – Salinas Valley Basin Ground Water Sustainability Agency
James Booth – USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
Hannah Wallace – Monterey County Ag Commissioners Office

Theme: Student Voices

Summary of the Day: 
It’s a new school year and I am so happy to have students returning for another year. This year students are in the FARMS Advanced cohort and we plan to take a closer look at different kinds of professional skills that can help them with their future careers in Agriculture, Environmental Sciences, or whatever career they choose. Many of these skills students already possess and it will be a matter of practicing them with industry professionals.

For October students will be tasked to use their voices. Young people have a very valuable and unique opinion that should be heard. Thanks to our partners this month we were able to create two opportunities for students to use their voice and share their own ideas and insights on a local and statewide level.

This month’s Hands-On Kit was provided by the Tech Interactive and Xinampa Bio, and it allowed students to participate in a Bio+ Food+ Tech experiment and forum. The goal of the experimental forum was to elevate cultural and community values while collecting youth voices to discover areas of interest in biotech, ag tech, and food systems. The feedback from youth would inform educational contexts that can better broaden trust and participation in science. The results of the forum can be found at the Bio + Food + Tech Forum. You can find samples of our student input in the picture gallery below.

Students had a second opportunity this month to use their voices in a Speak-Off Contest that was judged by our partners at the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County. Rocco Rouse, Kevin Zarate, and Jesus Gonzales all competed in the speak off which you can find below. The prompt for their speech was “How should Resource Conservation Districts serve and engage the entire community in conservation work?”. All students did a great job presenting their ideas but there could only be one winner. Jesus Gonzales won and went on to the statewide competition where he took 3rd place.

This month I talked a lot about community and how students are a representative of their families, peers, neighborhoods, and cities whether they like it or not. Their voices can be used to elevate their communities and share their stories, challenges, and ideas. Their perspective is valuable and valid and I appreciate their courage when using their voice this month.