When a Project Comes Full Circle

SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 14th, 2022

Location of the Field Day:
The Maples

Participating School:
Pioneer High School

Partners/Landowners:
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Point Blue Conservation Science
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Mentors:
Beth DelReal, Caring for our Watersheds Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning
Jeanne Wirka, Ecologist, Center for Land-Based Learning
Alex Lintner, Grizzly Corps Fellow, Center for Land-Based Learning

Accomplishments: Planted 180 grass plugs, mulched approximately 200 plants, and installed 15 blue bird boxes

Summary of the Day:
We had our third and final field day with Pioneer High School students and it was nothing short of incredible. Students had the unique opportunity to work in three different groups to complete tasks such as installing blue bird boxes, planting native grass plugs, mulching existing habitat, and even installing a “SLEWS was here” sign! Learning about the importance of each as they rotated through the activities students planted a whooping 180 plugs, mulched approximately 200 plants, and installed 15 blue bird boxes.

Following a filled day of restoration we were given the opportunity to listen to speakers from Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Natural Resource Conservation Service/Point Blue Conservation, and the CLBL Incubation Farming Program. Laverne Bill and Sarah Morgan from Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation spoke about the cultural and environmental significance of projects like ours, their positions within the tribe, and the processes they follow when it comes establishing hedgerow projects on tribal lands. To further connect students to the implementation process of The Maples specific project, Corey Shake from NRCS/Point Blue Conservation introduced students to the nature of blooming seasons and the importance of diversifying the plants to encourage pollination all year round. To bring us home, Paul Boulware, owner of Picnic Table Farm spoke to us about how he got his start in agriculture and why he chose to grow organic produce. He even gave us a taste of his produce handing out kale, swiss chard, and radishes!

With the Center for Land-Based Learning headquarters located along the edge of The Maples site it was truly rewarding to see this site come full circle. Showing students the hedgerows of years past we hope they can take what they learned and apply it to their homes and future careers in natural resources.

We would like to thank all of our partners for their amazing work to support this project. Thanks to NRCS & Point Blue Conservation students were able to see what goes into the planting decisions. Additional appreciation to the Yolo Resource Conservation District staff for allocating time to teaching students proper planting techniques and providing the materials necessary to complete the project. Finally thanks to Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation for providing the funding to make this site possible through the Yolo Creek Community Partnership.

Hanging with LangeTwins

Location of Field Day:
Acampo, CA

Field Day Host:
LangeTwins Winery and Vineyard – Aaron Lange and Kendra Altnow

Theme:
Ecological Balance on Vineyards

Our San Joaquin FARMS Leadership cohort embraced a hot and sunny day of habitat restoration with LangeTwins Winery & Vineyard. With a nutritional breakfast in our bellies, we began by circling up with another community reflection question. This month’s Question Master Bitsy asked her peers to reflect on ‘What is the difference between living and existing?’; students spoke rather wisely of the importance of finding passions, connecting deeply with others, exploring the world around them, and always pushing oneself to grow. After our circle reflection, we jumped into the day’s leadership activity; with ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’ two teams of students needed to rely on strategizing, communication, teamwork, and listening skills to race to retrieve an object before the other team.

We then received a warm welcome from our friends at family-owned LangeTwins, Aaron Lange and Kendra Altnow. Along the Mokelumne River, Aaron provided us with some fascinating background on the vineyard and, in particular, their efforts to grow wine grapes in a way that both maintains and helps to reestablish ecological balance with the land. LangeTwins take their role as land stewards very seriously; as a long-time partner of Center for Land-Based Learning, they’ve worked with high school students in our programs for over 20 years to install numerous habitat restoration projects that give back to the land that has given so much to them. Students asked Aaron SUCH informed questions: they were curious about the social impact of the vineyard on the surrounding community, about the ways in which the Lange family values their workers, about the nature of the vineyard’s composting and use of integrated pest management systems, and much, much more. Music to an educator’s ears!

From there, it was time to jump into the hands-on efforts of the day: installing a native plant hedgerow. As we stood over the bunch of native plants patiently waiting to go in the ground, Aaron shared the many benefits that hedgerows provide for land and wildlife, but also for farmers: providing increased pollinators for crop production, fixing nitrogen into the farm’s soil, providing wind buffers to prevent soil erosion, and reducing pest populations. After a planting and irrigation demonstration, students set to work; some digging holes, others planting, and others still installing emitters and spaghetti tubing to ensure each plant is happily (and sustainably!) watered. Along the way, students continued to explore the land and people around them, uncovering spiders, bonding with toads, and asking plenty of questions to Aaron and his staff about what it’s like to work at a sustainable vineyard.

After a break for lunch, during which our Nutrition Educators shared the benefits of eating the artichokes and whole grains found in our sandwiches, Aaron and Kendra took us down to the Mokelumne River There, students took some time to explore the riparian habitat bursting with age old oak trees, tiny macroinvertebrates, blue herons, quail calls, and evidence of beaver live. After a few rounds of river fetch with Kendra’s excessively cute dog, we returned to hedgerow planting. One hour and many dirty hands later, students had planted and installed irrigation for 90 native plants along the vineyard block! With students quite proud of the work they did, we circled up to reflect on our day. Students’ highlights included the competitive, communicative nature of the morning’s leadership activity, wading in the Mokelumne River, learning about LangeTwins’ ability to balance the social, environmental, and economic factors of running a farm, and working hard to put so many plants in the earth. Thanks to our partners and our inquisitive, eager students for another awesome field day!

Proud, Accomplished, and Inspired

SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 5th, 2022

Location of the Field Day:
Good Humus Farms

Participating School:
Davis High School

Partners/Landowners:
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
Point Blue Conservation Science
Natural Resource Conservation Science
Annie and Jeff Main, Owners of Good Humus Farms

Mentors:
Anna Tolle, Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning
Erna Piper, Retired Science Teacher
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Josh McCabe, Restoration Coordinator, ACRT Pacific
Joaquin Pastrana, GrizzlyCorps Fellow, Yolo RCD

Accomplishments: Planted ~110 native pollinator plants, emitters, tubex, bamboo stakes, and straw mulch

Summary of the Day:
After 3 packed field days students from Davis High School saw an end to their amazing work at Good Humus Farms. Overcoming massive piles of vegetation, bone dry planting sections, and the famous northern winds they planted the final piece of the ~220 native plant hedgerow. The knowledge students bring to the table never fails to surprise me. Acknowledging the difficult aspects of the work and pushing through it despite the difficulties, students taught me the art of perserverance. Seeing their accomplishments recognized with a “SLEWS Was Here” sign installation students walked away proud and inspired.

They showed the knowledge they had learned through the creation of a Path Map (shown above). Working to embrace the arts and writing in the outdoors students created an incredible and representative piece of art for their time in the SLEWS program. Working to connect their experience back to their homes and classrooms, students also discussed what they could do to support their community when it came to its environmental impact. With climate change at the forefront of our minds students had great ideas to assist in the carbon sequestration process. One student was even inspired to develop her own garden in her back yard starting with strawberries!

We’d like to thank everyone for their contributions to this project! A special thanks to Yolo RCD and Annie and Jeff Main (owners of Good Humus Farms) for providing us with a great site to work at and direction for the restoration project. We also like to give an additional thanks to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and NRCS whose contributions make this project possible.