Going Nuts Over Sustainability

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | March 22, 2022

Location of Field Day:
Sierra Orchards – Winters, CA
Mariani Nut Company – Winters, CA

Field Day Host and Mentors:
Sierra Orchards – Craig McNamara
Mariani Nut Company – Gus Mariani 

Theme:
Sustainability in Nut Growing and Processing

River City and Esparto High Schools joined forces for March’s Sacramento Valley FARMS field day centered around walnuts and sustainability. Our partners graciously brought us through the process beginning to end: from walnut tree grafting and growing in the orchards, to harvesting and processing, all the way to packaging and distributing.

Our day began within gorgeous Sierra Orchards, a small scale walnut orchard in Winters. Craig McNamara greeted us with his wonderful warmth and zeal–while he’s long been deeply tied to FARMS Leadership field days (he and his wife Julie started the FARMS Leadership Program in 1993!), Covid has kept us from visiting Sierra Orchards for 2 long years. How wonderful to be back in person! After checking in and learning a bit more about each other during our Opening Circle, we moved onto the day’s leadership activity during which 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 have some competitive students, to say the least.

From there, it was time to dive into the world of walnut growing. Craig led us on a tour of the orchard during which we learned all about walnut varietals, grafting walnut trees, harvesting walnuts, and the efforts that go into growing organic walnuts. Sustainable practices were everywhere we looked: beautiful blooming cover crop, long piles of compost steeped with walnut hulls, massive solar panels, integrated pest management efforts, wood cut from no longer producing walnut trees waiting to be sent to a wood sculpturist, and flocks of sheep on their way to serve as nature’s lawn mowers.

Alas, we visited the chickens! Sierra Orchards has 3 different coops of about 800 chickens that, of course, produce eggs for sale, but also help to naturally fertilize the orchard through their own waste.  Students cozied up with one coop, together collecting and washing almost 100 eggs. After we left our chicken friends, students better acquainted themselves with the surrounding trees. Through two separate outdoor education activities, students utilized their sensory awareness and communication skills to better understand the important roles that trees play as individual ecosystems for the surrounding biodiversity.

After lunch and a farewell to Craig, we ventured to Mariani nut company, a family-run and much larger scale grower and processor of walnuts and almonds. Greeted by Gus Mariani and his cousin Kyle, they led us onto the walnut processing floor. Suited up in PPE, students traversed the many complicated and fascinating levels of Mariani’s walnut processing technology: sorters, conveyor belts, drum feeders, rotating crushers, infrared technology (the list goes on!), and plenty of quality control personnel along the way to ensure nut processing accuracy and staff safety. After we observed the technology used to bag, package and label to be distributed walnuts, Kyle and Gus sent us on our way with a box of Mariani walnuts to sample ourselves. Thanks to our partners for such an engaging and interesting day!

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An Ode to the End of Winter

SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 17th, 2022

Location of the Field Day:
La Tourangelle

Participating School:
Woodland High School

Partners/Landowners:
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
Christine Polycarpe, La Tourangelle Foundation
Nathan Leathers, Yolo Farm to Fork
Stephanie Douglas, University of California Master Gardeners

Mentors:
Heather Lyon, West Sacramento Urban Farm Program Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning
Alex Lintner, GrizzlyCorps Fellow, Center for Land-Based Learning
Miles DaPrato, Environmental Steward, University of California Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
Carol Maxwell, Restoration Ecologist, GEI Consultants
Gina Radieve, Senior Environmental Scientist, California Department of Water Resources

Accomplishments: Planted ~130 native pollinator plants and installed 900 feet of irrigation with 130 emitters for the upcoming hedgerow.

Summary of the Day:
On our final SLEWS day of the winter season, we had a very special opportunity to work with University of California Master Gardeners assisting in the planting of a pollinator habitat at La Tourangelle. With the support of the Yolo RCD, Woodland High School students installed the entire irrigation line with emitters for the upcoming hedgerow project followed by planting and mulching of the pollinator garden.

Learning about the property of La Tourangelle and the great products they produce students got to engage with a local farm that impacts their personal ecosystems. One student even mentioned they could see the farm from their back yard, if that isn’t farm to table, I don’t know what is! Learning about pollinator habitats through play-based activities students were able to model a basic ecosystem of a bee and relate that to the habitat they had just planted.

We are looking forward to our second and final field day at the end of April when we will have the opportunity to plant the hedgerows and engage in reciprocity by weeding the previously planted pollinator garden!

Thanks to everyone for their contributions! A special thanks to Yolo RCD, the La Tourangelle Foundation, and the UC Master Gardeners who made this site feasible for the SLEWS Program. Additional thanks to Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation whose support makes this project possible.

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The Big Orange

FARMS Leadership | Central Valley | February  15, 2022

Location of Field Day:
Citri Care – 43294 Road 120, Orosi CA 93647

Participating Schools:
Sunnyside High School, McLane High School, Kerman High School , Firebaugh High School, and Patino High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Katy Miller – Office Manager

Theme: Leadership-Hard and Soft Skills, Food Production and Consumer Science

Summary of the Day:  On Tuesday, February 15th, students from the Central Valley Central FARMS Leadership Program received a tour of family-owned and operated agricultural business, Citri-Care.

FARMS leadership students began the day developing their community and leadership skills through a team-building activity and a soft skills vs. hard skills activity. This gave students experience on effectively managing a project and learning how people can bring different skills to a group.

Katy Miller, the Office Manager, spoke to the students about her background in agriculture, the varieties grown and sold at Citri-Care, and offered advice to the students. She highlighted how temperature, light, water, air, and nutrients affect citrus plants’ growth.

Katy then gave students a farm tour of the citrus and exotic citrus varieties grown at Citri-Care. Students were able to analyze and taste different citrus varieties such as Mandarinquats, Limequats, Calamondins, Blood Oranges, Pink Lemons, Minneola Tangelos, Lemonade Lemons, and more! They also got to see Buddha’s Hand citron and Australian Finger Limes grown on trees.

Buddha’s Hand Citron
They smell so delicious and can be used as a garnish!
Australian Finger Limes
Cut open a finger lime and little lime beadlets flow out and look like caviar, but with a citrus POP!

At the end of their farm tour, Katy allowed the students to pick and take home their favorite varieties to share with their friends and families. The day closed with a delicious lunch provided by Citri-Care staff and more citrus tasting! FARMS Leadership wants to thank Katie again for the educational and hands-on tour. Be sure to visit The Big Orange https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Big-Orange/118342878239222.

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