AgVocacy at Cosumnes River College

FARMS Leadership Program | Sac Valley and San Joaquin | December 11, 2018

Field Day Host(s)
Cosumnes River College
Bayer Crop Sciences
California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)

Mentors
Kelly O’Halloran – Bayer Crop Sciences
Jacqueline Airoso – Collections Manager & Environmental Scientist – CDFA
Traci Scott – Outreach Specialist – Cosumnes River College
David Andrews – Professor of Horticulture – Cosumnes River College

Theme
College and Career Opportunities

Summary of the Day
The Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin FARMS Leadership Programs joined together for a field day at Cosumnes River College (CRC). The field day began with a group activity called Human Knot. This activity was designed for students to meet one another and then work together to problem solve and untangle them selves to form a circle.

After the group activity, our first presenter for the day was introduced. Kelly O’Halloran presented to the group. She gave an overview of Bayer Crop Sciences and also discussed the many different jobs that are associated with in their company. She also had a presentation on AgVocacy, which enables those who are passionate about modern agriculture to discuss the importance of agriculture, food production and the innovation needed to nourish our growing world.

Our second guest speaker for the day was Jacqueline Airoso from the CDFA. She gave a presentation on who the CDFA is and what they do. She also discussed plant pest’s and diagnostics.

Following our presentations Traci Scott gave us a tour of the Cosumnes River College Campus. We ended the tour at the Horticulture Department where David Andrews showed the students around and discussed the different courses offered at CRC. The students enjoyed walking around the garden and harvesting some late fall crops to sample and bring home.

 

 

A Handful of Almonds…

(MADERA, CA) On Wednesday, September 26th, Students from the Central Valley North FARMS Leadership Program stepped out of the classroom to learn about the steps to harvesting almonds at Creekside Farming Company Inc. and learning about The Almond Company’s business.  Meeting for the first time were 30 sophomore and juniors students from Clovis East High School, Kerman High School, Liberty High School, and Madera South High Schools.

FARMS stands for Farming, Agriculture and Resource Management for Sustainability, which is a premier Leadership Program run by the Center for Land-Based Learning.  This statewide youth program connects high school students to California’s food system and teaches them leadership skills through a year of field days on farms, ranches and agribusinesses.  They get to explore college and career opportunities in agriculture, food and environmental science while helping them develop critical thinking skills through hands-on experiences. “It is so important for students to learn about the agriculture that surrounds them.”, said Katie Wortman, the FARMS Leadership Coordinator for the Central Valley.

The Madera County Farm Bureau provided the meeting space for the Leadership portion of the Field Day.  The day started out with the designation of leadership teams and students practicing the proper handshake.  Students got to know each other by interviewing each other and introduced each other as a preparation for introducing our individual speakers.  Each predetermined student interviewed each speaker of the day and introduced them to the group as a whole. Next, the group traveled to The Almond Company and were welcomed by Anthony Sagariballa, Director of Plant Operations and Jerry Magdaleno, Grower Relations.

Our students were treated to a company presentation, almond tasting, facility tour, and lunch. Finally, we ended our day with Creekside Farming. Jay Mahil, Owner and Eli Gallegos, Ranch Manager met us for an in-depth tour of harvesting Almonds. Students were able to watch how Almond trees are harvested including the shaking, sweeping and picking up of Almonds.  Almonds were then transferred to the truck and delivered to the processor. Our FARMS students did an excellent job asking questions and being engaged in the day.

Planting and salmon spotting along Putah Creek

Winters High School at Winters Putah Creek Nature Park Extension
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 11, 2018

Participating School
Winters High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Putah Creek Council
City of Winters

Mentors
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Karin Young, Education Program Manager, Putah Creek Council
Marisa Alcorta, Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning
Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA

Summary of the Day
Two weeks after installing a complete irrigation system, Winters High students returned for a day of planting trees and shrubs. After a rainy first Field Day, we were rewarded with picture perfect weather for Field Day #2!

It was chilly in the morning, so students warmed up with hot cocoa before we gathered for our opening circle. A game of “Where the Wind Blows” allowed us to identify commonalities within the group and learn new things about the members of our SLEWS team. Mentor groups learned to identify redbud, toyon, coffeeberry, valley oak, interior live oak, and bay – 6 of the native plants we’d be planting to create native habitat. Then it was time for “Steal the Native Plant”, a lively planting day tradition in which students race to be the first to correctly identify a native plant and earn points for their mentor groups.

Alex Tremblay and Tanya Meyer of Yolo County Resource Conservation District led a planting demonstration where students learned how to properly dig a hole, pack down the soil, and install a plastic tube that will protect the young plants from wind, critters, and weed control. Students set off in mentor groups to begin planting, and found that digging was quite time consuming – luckily, Brandon Baker of Yolo RCD was busy using an auger (a piece of heavy machinery that resembles a giant drill) to dig holes for the larger shrubs and trees. Students followed with native plants and before long students had planted an impressive 177 plants – 135 trees and 42 shrubs! Since these students are Winters locals, they will be able to watch these trees and shrubs grow for years to come.

After lunch, Amy Williams of Putah Creek Council led students on a tour of a nearby mitigation area that is protected due to the presence of elderberry trees. The trees themselves are not protected, but the endangered and endemic Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle depends on the tree for every phase of its life cycle. Students also recognized mature forms of some of the plants they had just planted. They noticed redbud trees with seed pods, the familiar lobed leaves of Valley Oaks, flowering coyote brush, and a dazzling toyon displaying thousands of bright red berries! Though they had just planted these plants, it can be hard to imagine what the space will look like when the plants are tiny and hidden by tree tubes. Seeing the plants fully grown allowed students to realize the impact their work will have on the area in coming years.

We hiked down to the creek where students spread out to reflect on the day by writing and drawing a “Postcard from the Field”. When it was time to head back, several students wanted to keep writing! As we headed back to the bus, mentor Corey Shake pointed out something very exciting – a spawning salmon. We missed them on our first Field Day, but on this day everyone got to see the adult fish that has come to Putah Creek to breed – a thrilling end to a great second Field Day!

 

Inland Empire Students Head to the Mountains for a SLEWS Meadow Restoration Project

SLEWS | San Bernardino County | Oct. 26, 2018

Location of Field Day:
Sky Park Santa’s Village, Skyforest, CA

Participating School:
Citrus Valley High School

Mentors:
Natural Resources Conservation Service
– Tomas Aguilar-Campos
American Bird Conservancy – Rachel Smith
Santa Ana Watershed Association – Mari Archer
Orange County Water District – Cameron Macbeth
IERCD Staff – Susie Kirchner, Brian Robey, Alma Eichman, Shari Tindall

Field Day Overview:
30 students from Citrus Valley High School visited Sky Park Santa’s Village to support their efforts in improving the properties’ meadow habitat, which had in the previous decade served as a dumping ground for bark beetle infested trees. We started the day with our favorite warm up game – a rock, paper, scissors tournament. In this game, students compete against their classmates, teachers, and mentors in the traditional game of rock, paper, scissors . However, when a person loses the game to another, they then become a cheerleader for the winner of that round and must chant their name. Eventually, there are only two remaining winners, each with a group of cheerleaders they have picked up along the way, and the final battle occurs.

After the quick warm up, we provided the students an overview and safety discussion and jumped right into the project work for the day. Students planted (and mulched) over 40 native plants, collected seed to distribute in other parts of the site, and removed invasive weeds. We were lucky to be accompanied by a former U.S Forest Service Botanist, Gina Richmond, who guided the students and provided information on each of the plants.

After lunch, we transitioned into learning about forestry and forest health. Especially after this year’s severe fires, it felt like a relevant topic to be sharing with students on how to assess a forest and make recommendations on how to improve its resiliency. Led by our NRCS District Conservationist, Tomas Aguilar-Campos, we showed students how to perform a fixed-radius plot survey to determine the stocking level of a forest and the health of individual trees. We also asked the students how Sky Park could improve their fire resiliency, some of the answers included, “trimming tree limbs”, and “removing trees, especially smaller trees”.

To wrap up the day, we couldn’t leave Sky Park Santa’s Village without having a little fun in the park! Students were able to try out the archery course before heading down the hill back to school. We are looking forward to welcoming these students back for another SLEWS trip in the Spring.

 

A little mud never hurt anyone…

Sacramento Charter High School at Clark Ranch 1
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 5, 2018

Participating School
Sacramento Charter High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms
Bruce Clark

Mentors
Bob Ream, retired
Dana Stokes
Jess Rudnick, UC Davis graduate student
Lea Pollack, UC Davis graduate student
Sarah Gaffney, UC Davis graduate student

Summary of the Day
We prepared for a bit of mud on our field day at Clark Ranch but we didn’t anticipate just how much mud Tuesday night’s rain would create! It was a muddy, sticky, day – but a ton of fun.

After putting on the now-ubiquitous yellow raingear and mudboots, we crossed a metal footbridge to our location for the day – Clark Ranch. The Rominger Brothers Farms team farms the land owned by Bruce Clark, and our project site was alongside a young almond orchard. After some breakfast and hot chocolate, we opened the day by learning a little more about each other and playing “Group Juggle”, a name game. We also got a introduction to our restoration project – planting native plants on the edges of Clark Ranch to increase biodiversity.

Students learned the name of 5 of the plants we’d be planting – buckwheat, sage, fuschia, wild rose, and manzanita – before competing to see who could be the first to identify the species. Sacramento High students were awesome at this – we didn’t have one misidentification through the whole game!

Alex Tremblay of Yolo RCD gave a planting demonstration before mentor groups set off in opposite directions, spreading out along the previously installed irrigation line. To say conditions were muddy would be an understatement – shovels, trowels, and gloves were quickly covered in sticky goo which made planting quite a challenge, especially as some of the plants were quite large. The farm manager intended to have a crew come in to finish the work that students were not able to complete. Much to everyone’s surprise, Sac High students finished the entire project – 230 plants!

After all that hard work, students enjoyed a lunch of burritos before reflecting on the experiences of the day as a group. Before long, it was time to shed the raingear and head back to school.

I can’t wait to see how much our plants have grown when we return at the end of January!

A productive day at River Garden Farms

Florin High School at River Garden Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 4, 2018

Participating School
Florin High School

Partners/Landowners
Audubon CA
River Garden Farms

Mentors
Aaron Haiman, Environmental Scientist and Tribal Liaison, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy
Esther Tracy, Environmental Scientist, Department of Water Resource
Fanny Ye, Soil Conservationist, NRCS
Jacob Byers, Partners Biologist, Sacramento NWRC

Summary of the Day
We had an ambitious project in line (no pun intended) for our first SLEWS day this year at River Garden Farms – installing a complete drip irrigation system! This includes rolling out irrigation tubing, “stapling” it into place, measuring the line to place a flag every 10 feet (marking the areas where plants will go), cutting 12 inch sections of spaghetti tubing and connecting emitters, and finally poking holes in the drip line to attach the spaghetti tubing and emitters which will provide water to each plant. As one student said, it “looks like a long sprinkler”! River Garden Farms had prepared 4 1000 foot sections – nearly a mile –  of line, but anticipated that SLEWS students would install just 2 of these sections.

Upon their arrival, students changed into rubber boots before walking past two former SLEWS sites on the way to their project site. After our opening circle, mentor groups divided up to tackle various tasks – two groups rolled out drip irrigation tubing, which was a knotty challenge, while two other groups followed them, measuring, flagging, and stapling the line into place. A fifth group assembled spaghetti tubing and emitters in the meantime, and other groups joined as they returned. This task was especially challenging – the cold weather meant the plastic spaghetti tubing was quite stiff. The completed emitters were then installed along the dripline. We still had plenty of time after completing 2000 feet of an irrigation system, so why not continue?

By the end of the morning, students had fully installed an impressive 3000 feet of a drip irrigation system, with another 500 feet of dripline rolled out – 1500 feet more than we thought possible! After lunch, mentor Jacob Byers introduced the group to the site of the two former SLEWS projects at River Garden Farms, and discussed project planning, and impact on the area – he was part of the team that planned these restoration efforts. Students wanted to know if the project will be continued by even more students next year! To finish the day, the group spent quite a bit of time reflecting on the day in their field journals – it was difficult to get them to stop!

Thanks for a great day, Florin High, mentors,  and River Garden Farms and Audubon CA staff!

An impressive day of planting at Sequoia Farms

Davis High School at Sequoia Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | November 30, 2018

Participating School
Davis High School

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District
National Center for Appropriate Technology
Sequoia Farms

Mentors
Amanda Lindell, UC Davis graduate student
Arthur Barros, UC Davis graduate student
Claire Kouba, UC Davis graduate student
Elaine Swiedler, California Farm Academy Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning

Summary of the Day
After a very rainy Thursday, I was concerned about the weather for Davis High’s first Field Day at Sequoia Farms, an organic walnut orchard located in Dixon. Luckily we were treated to a gorgeous day, with a bit of mud for good measure!

Since the orchard perimeter was too muddy to access by vehicle, students donned yellow rain bibs and mud boots for the walk to our field site. On the way, students got an up close view of the orchard, and asked great questions about walnut grafting (“Why does the bottom of the trunk look different than the top?” – we prefer to eat English Walnuts, but native Black Walnuts are more resistant to regional diseases and pests; fusing them together gives farmers the best of both worlds) and walnut growth (“Where are all the walnuts?!” – they had recently been harvested).

At our opening circle, mentors and restoration partners introduced themselves and their education and career paths, and we played a game of “Group Juggle” to learn everyone’s names. Rex Dufour of NCAT gave a great presentation on some of the beneficial insects that our plants will help attract. Then we split into mentor groups to learn the names and characteristics of 6 of the native plants we’d be planting including toyon, coffeeberry, deergrass, rabbitbrush, lilac and coyote brush. We played a game called “steal the native plant” where mentor groups competed to be the first to identify the native plant.

Next it was time to learn how to plant! Rex Dufour gave an informative demonstration on the best way to plant these natives to give them the best chance at survival and groups of students spread out with their mentors to get started. Davis students completed way more of the work than we thought possible and by the end of the morning they’d planted 600 plants!

After lunch, each student chose a walnut tree to lean against as they reflected in their Field Journals, writing a postcard to themselves about the day. After the walk back to change out of raingear, we had a brief closing circle to end the day. Students remarked that they would remember the hard work they did, and that they felt helpful and productive restoring the ecosystem.

NRCS Plant Material Center

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: November 29th, 2018

Location: Lockeford, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Margaret Smither-Kopperl
Matthew Bronson, PMC Farm Manager

Theme: Ecology and Habitat Conservation

 Summary of the Day:

The San Joaquin FARMS Leadership Students had no intentions of letting a little rain stop them from learning about Ecology and Habitat Conservation at the Plant Material Center (PMC) in Lockeford, Ca. Although our plans did change due to the rain and heavy winds that rolled in, we had a fun filled day learning a lot about what happens in the daily operations at the Natural Resource Center. The day started out with a tour of the facilities led by Matthew Bronson the Farm Manager at the PMC. The students were able to see and learn about the different equipment used, tractors, and even were able to walk through the seed library where numerous amounts of native California plant seeds are stored.

 

After Matthew’s tour the students gathered in the PMC’s office meeting room where they were broken up into groups to team project. The Project they all worked on was to draft a landscape at the PMC using a variety of different native plants. The students were given a list of native plants as well as books and information on each plant so that they could design the landscape of an actual area of land that the PMC has that needs to be re-planted. Once the groups finished their designs we took a lunch break.

 

Following our lunch break Margaret Smither-Kopperl took over to discuss the different plants the students chose. She then gave us a tour of the property where the students were able to see examples of the plants they chose and take cuttings from each plant along the way. Once each group had a handful of cuttings from the plants the chose they were able to work with Matthew and Margaret to prep the cuttings and plant them into the green house so that the PMC could utilize them in the landscape that the students designed.

 

Rain or shine, we lay the line!

Winters High School at Winters Putah Creek Nature Park Extension
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | November 27, 2018

Participating School
Winters High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Putah Creek Council
City of Winters

Mentors
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Denise Colombano, UCD graduate student
Karin Young, Education Program Manager, Putah Creek Council
Marisa Alcorta, Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning
Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA

Summary of the Day
This year we have a SLEWS project in our hometown of Winters – with Winters High School! This project is part of the Winters Putah Creek Nature Park, on land donated to the City of Winters by PG&E. Putah Creek Council and Yolo County Resource Conservation District are involving several groups with the restoration projects, and we’re excited to have SLEWS be part of the process.

On the rainy Tuesday after Thanksgiving, we held our first Field Day at this site. The goal for the day was lofty – installing almost a mile of drip irrigation! Having an irrigation system installed before planting will give our plants the best chance of survival, and because drip irrigation provides each plant with an individual water source, will help prevent excess weed growth and reduce evaporative water loss.

After breakfast and opening circle, students worked as a team to roll out the irrigation tubing. This involved each student carrying a 20-40 foot section of the line – sometimes up to 1000 feet total! Once all the sections of line were rolled out, we divided into mentor groups to install emitters and staple down the line. Groups worked in teams to measure every 20 feet to place a flag (the location of the trees and shrubs we’ll plant in two weeks), poke holes in the line, secure the line to the ground, and install an emitter – this will ensure that each plant receives 2 gallons per hour of water when watered.

We weren’t sure students would finish the entire line – again, it was almost a mile in length, and rain was coming down! – but to our surprise they finished the work at noon on the dot. Perhaps the promise of a burrito at the finish line was good motivation?

Despite the rain, students were excited to walk all the way to Putah Creek to look for spawning salmon after lunch. On the way one student commented on how nice the area will look once the oak trees are planted. Mentor Karin Young of Putah Creek Council led a discussion on salmon breeding habits, Putah Creek Restoration, and why we are seeing salmon in this watershed. Unfortunately we didn’t see any salmon today, but  many students remarked that this was their favorite part of the whole Field Day!

Thank you to all mentors, partners, and students for being troopers on a wet Field Day – we walked over 4 miles in our work according to one mentor’s FitBit!

Holy Cow! A Mooovement Toward Sustainability

FARMS Leadership | Kern County | November 13, 2018

Lakeview Farms
17702 Bear Mountain Blvd, Bakersfield, CA 93311

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
B.J. Schoneveld, Owner Lakeview Farms
Roy Dowd, Director – CalBio Energy Facility O&M, & Digester Research
Jamie Jarrett Ph.D., Dairy Nutritionist – Alpha Dairy Consulting

Theme:
Science in Agriculture

Summary of the Day:
Students from Frontier High School, West High School, Independence High School, Ridgeview High School, and Bakersfield Christian High School gathered for breakfast at the Kern County Ag Pavilion, after we loaded the bus to head out to Lakeview Dairy. When we arrived, we hit the ground running with an overview of the 9,500 head dairy farm and a tour of the milk house. Owner, B.J. Schoneveld, shared the technology used using the EID Ear Tag Reader. Students were able to see reports generated from the field with the EID Tag Reader and learn about the importance of tracking health and genetics. Students then walked to the barns where cows were served their morning feed. They were shocked with how many things they recognized in the feed – carrots, cotton, and almond hulls. They smelled the sourness of the feed. We noticed the temperature of the barn. Mr Schoneveld has tried a new approach with the cows in climate control. He has placed share cloth and fans strategically in the barn to not only keep the cows cool, but to keep their food cooler as well. This has made a huge difference in their production and feed intake. Cows like eating cooler feed. Happy cows make happy milk. We then went into the newborn calf pen where students were able to touch and take photos with the newly born calves. These calves are shipped to Hanford where they will be fed and cared for until they are old enough to return to the dairy for milk production. After touring the barns, we met Roy Dowd who introduced us to the manure digester.

Lakeview’s partnership with California Bioenergy is a cutting edge approach to sustainability. Not only does it process the manure, allowing the farm to recycle the solid matter for bedding, but it also allows them to use the liquid to create energy through bacteria and gas production. The water that is cycled through then is used to clean parts of the dairy. This approach will allow them to partner with other diaries creating a cohort of dairies who will be working with PG&E on the energy output, thus getting paid for the energy they create. We discussed the many careers in this up and coming field. Mr. Dowd was born and raised in went to college in Bakersfield. Learning about how he achieved his goals was a learning for the students. What’s more appetizing that discussing manure? We were served a fantastic lunch provided by Lakeview Farms. During lunch we met Nutritionist, Jamie Jarrett.

She shared her career journey with the students and the colleges she attended. She was an alumni of one of our participating high schools which was a connection point for students. She then took us to the feed area. Here there were mountains of ingredients/commodities used in the cow feed. She brought out 4 buckets of different mixed feed and discussed the fat content and nutritional value of each mix. She had students pick up a handful and share what they saw and asked why they thought they might feed that item. Items included carrots that they get from neighboring farms as well as almond hulls. Students have eaten carrots but almond hulls a new idea for them. Students know about almonds, but not in their natural state – coming from a shell and hull. We talked about the sustainability this offers – where nothing is wasted. Students came away with an understanding of the care and efforts made to get milk into our homes. They learned about the science used to make a smaller footprint on the earth. They also learned about the sustainability efforts being made by other farmers, like the almond farmer, to be sure that nothing is wasted.

Students learn about the parts of the milk house and the tests run to keep our food safe.

Cooling the Barn and the Affects on the Cows.