Adopt-a-trestle in the Yolo Bypass

Davis Senior High School at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 10, 2019

Participating School
Davis Senior High School

Partners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Yolo Basin Foundation

Mentors
Allie Igwe, UCD Graduate Student
Brian Keegan, Sacramento State Graduate Student
Randy Wittorp
Xerónimo Castañeda, Conservation Project Associate, Audubon CA

Summary of the Day
“What’s it near?”

When people ask this question about the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area SLEWS project, I just don’t know what to tell them! Located about 30 minutes south of the highway 80 Yolo causeway on gravel and dirt roads, this site is about as remote as it gets for SLEWS projects. First on the list of “to do’s” for this project was figuring out a way to get 35+ students, teachers, mentors, and project partners to the correct site. For all you bypass hunters out there, we needed to meet at parking lot M – the furthest from 80 – so we met mentors and parent drivers at the Yolo Basin Foundation Headquarters to start the caravan. There was lots of birds to see on the bumpy ride – I spotted Sandhill Cranes, Northern Harriers, White-tailed Kites, coots and lots of waterfowl like Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintails. We were lucky this time that the road was only somewhat wet and muddy – we may not be so lucky after a few winter storms!

The Yolo Bypass is a manmade system of weirs that diverts floodwater away from the Sacramento River and thus prevents the city of Sacramento from flooding during the rainy season. As you can imagine, this means that some years the bypass is under water.

What happens to bypass wildlife in these years? Well, the water usually comes in from the east and moves west, so they may be able to move west before their home is underwater. And if they don’t? Well, there used to be a railroad spanning the bypass, and the “trestles” that once elevated the tracks are still present. During flood events, these become the only islands of dry land – drones have captured photographs of animals like coyotes, deer, and rabbits stuck on these small land masses. The problem is these trestles aren’t high quality habitat – and that’s where we come in!

Yolo County Resource Conservation District has planned a project to vegetate these trestles, creating wildlife corridors in the bypass. They’ve chosen plants that not only provide food and cover for sheltering wildlife but of course are flood-tolerant as well.

After arriving and enjoying breakfast, students heard all this and more from Martha Ozonoff, the Executive Director of the Yolo Basin Foundation and Alex Tremblay, Project Manager from Yolo County Resource Conservation District. Then it was time to divide into mentor groups and get started!

This project is unique in that each mentor group is tackling a single railway trestle over the course of three field days. On this day, the project task was to install a drip irrigation system to support the plants we’ll plant on the second and third field days. Each mentor group was shown an example – three parallel lines of irrigation along the entire mound, connected to a perpendicular line – before setting off to complete their own system. Groups had to problem solve to make the system work for their particular trestle. One group had to navigate around a large mound in the middle of their trestle, while others had to avoid rocky trestle sides. Once the line had been spooled out, students installed 100 emitters on the lines. Next time we’ll be planting native shrubs alongside these emitters, which will ensure they have water when the bypass is dry. One group was so dedicated to caring for their trestle that they picked up trash to clean it up before their next visit!

After lunch, students interviewed the mentors to learn about their education and career paths, as well as getting to know them better for the field days to follow. To close out the day, we shared our favorite moments of the day. This group was really interested in wildlife and mentioned finding deer antlers and even a dead opossum and coot!

Looking forward to our next Field Day on January 7th!

Labor of the Future

FARMS Advanced Leadership Program | Central Valley | Thursday, December 5, 2019

Location of Field Day:
Westside Produce – 785 12th Street, Firebaugh CA 93622

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Garrett Patricio – Vice President of Operations & General Counsel
Salvador Alaniz, Director of Harvest
Brandy Nunez, Facility Manager
Rosa Meza, Food Safety Manager

Theme:
Labor in Agriculture is the statewide year long theme

Summary of the Day:
Upon arrival to Westside Produce the ladies of the FARMS Advanced Leadership Program were welcomed by Garrett Patricio and his small off-season staff. Mr. Patricio talked about how the new changes in labor laws will affect his business and the people who work for him.  He specifically mentioned that Agriculture jobs generally fall under two wage orders (8 & 14). In his line of work and business he and his managers have to be particularly careful to always abide by the laws as Order #8 addresses Post Harvest Handling and Order #14 addresses Agricultural Occupations.  These Orders have different work hours, overtime pay and doubletime pay. He also addressed the concerns over the Changes and Challenges as there is a shrinking workforce versus an increase of Mechanization as well as a reduced work week versus an increased minimum wage. Following the visit about Labor at Westside Produce we were treated to lunch and Westside Produce – Tri hats.  Following lunch we took a short walk to see the packing shed and solar panels. The ladies were also interviewed one on one with Mr. Patricio as a part of the FARMS Advanced Program Job Training Program. They did a great job! Finally, we took some group pictures and were sent home with Fresh Pomegranates! Thank you again, Garrett for your generosity in hosting us for the day.

Farmer Training in the Salinas Valley

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | December 5th, 2019

Location(s) of Field Day:
ALBA Campus 1700 Old Stage Road, Salinas Ca

Participating Schools:
Soquel High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Nathan Harkleroad – Education Program Director
Nancy Porto – Community Relations and Environmental Education Officer

Summary of the Day: 
At today’s field day students had to make their way through roadblocks and detours to get to the ALBA Campus. Last night’s storm caused a levy to break and flooded several South Monterey County Cities including Gonzales. By morning Gonzales HS had to close for the day and Gonzales HS students in the FARMS program could not make it to the field day.

Luckily, Soquel High School students made it safely to the field day site ready to learn about Organic Farmer Training. ALBA stands for Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association. Students spent the morning learning about the farmer education course that provides hands-on training and college-accredited coursework to the next generation of organic farmers. The course allows aspiring farmers to learn about organic farming production, pest management, marketing, record keeping, labor laws and much more. 

Nathan Harkleroad the education program director taught students about organic pest management and careers in pest management like crop planning and research. He shared research from the USDA on an experiment using alyssum as a conservation bio-control. Alyssum can be very beneficial for organic farmers because it attracts hoverflies that help control aphids. Students had the opportunity to plant a hundred alyssum plants in the fields. 

Finally, the day ended with a farm tour and included meaningful discussions about: 

  • Sustainability practices like straw bale buildings, solar panels to power buildings and well pumps.
  • Water wells and the limited water resources in the area as well as some water regulations affecting farmers today. 
  • Hedgerows, cover crops, windbreaks, and how beneficial these are for the soil and land conservation.
  • The visible differences from how ALBA manages their land and how the neighboring conventional farmers manage their land.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

Cal Waste Recovery Systems and the California Department of Food and Agriculture

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: November 19, 2019

Location of Field Day: Galt, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Dave Vaccarezza – Owner of Cal Waste
MaryBeth Ospital – Community Outreach Coordinator at Cal Waste
Chris Vicense – Equipment Manager at Cal Waste
Dr. Kevin Williams – Senior Insect Biosystematist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture
Dr. Peter Kerr – Senior Insect Biosystematist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture

Theme: Environmental Science

Summary of the Day:

We began our field day with an introduction to Cal Waste from MaryBeth Ospital. She told the group about the history of the company. Cal Waste is a family owned business who just welcomed the 5th generation into the world a couple weeks ago. Cal Waste is also the largest, locally-owned waste collection and material recovery operation in the region, providing residential, commercial and industrial services to areas throughout Sacramento, Calaveras, Alpine and San Joaquin Counties.

We began our day in the Outreach and Education room at Cal Waste and on the far side of the room was a large window that over looked the MRF, which is the Materials Recovery Facility. This is where all of the recycling and garbage is brought in, processed, and sorted by material type. After our introduction we took a tour of the facilities. The San Joaquin FARMS Leadership students were able to get up close in personal with the trucks, the shop and even get a closer peak into the MRF which is currently be renovated and upgraded to a more technology based system. This new system will allow for the waste being processed to be more thoroughly sorted and cleaned of any contaminated materials.

After our tour we met back in the Outreach and Education room. The group was then met by Dr. Kevin Williams and Dr. Peter Kerr from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Both Kevin and Peter work in the Plant Pest Diagnostic Center at the CDFA in Sacramento, CA. They presented on Plant Health and Pest Prevention. They also shared with the students some insect displays as well as some pest traps that they use for insect collections.

“They say a picture is like a thousand words. Well looking at a specimen is like looking at 1,000 pictures” – Dr. Kevin Williams, CDFA

After the conclusion of our CDFA presentation we took a lunch break before introducing our next guest speaker, Chris Vicense. Chris is the Equipment Manager at Cal Waste and started with the company when he was 16 years old. He has been with the company for over 25 years and was an inspiring testament to what it is like working or a family owned business. He also spoke to the students about the importance of trade schools and apprenticeships and the different opportunities in which they can get involved at Cal Waste.

Our final speaker for the day was Dave Vaccarezza the Owner of Cal Waste. He shared with the students more insight on the family history of the business and told the students how true the saying is “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”. With the MRF currently down for 6 weeks while it is being upgraded, there are 54 employees who are out of jobs. Rather then letting them go and trying to refill positions in 6 weeks Dave found positions as well as made new positions for all of his employees! Thank you Cal Waste for the hospitality and hosting the San Joaquin FARMS Leadership Program for a field day!

What kind of belly is the best belly? – A Full Belly!

Full Belly Farm Field Day

FARMS Leadership Program: Sacramento Valley: November 14th, 2019

Location of Field Day: Guinda, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Haley Friel – Director of Outreach and Education at Full Belly Farm
  • Sierra Reading – Director of Outreach and Education at Full Belly Farm

Theme: Organic Farming Practices

Summary of the Day:

Today’s field day was at Fully Belly Farm’s in Guinda, CA. The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership Program was welcomed by Haley Friel and Sierra Reading, the directors of Outreach and Education at Fully Belly Farm. We took a tour of the 400-acre farm and learned about the different crops grown and the practices in which they use to keep the farm organic and sustainable. Full Belly Farm is planting, growing and harvesting over 80 crops year around keeping them very busy. Full Belly sells there produce to 4 main markets; wholesalers who buy pallets of produce at a time, to CSA (community Supported Ag) members, at local farmer’s markets, and to bay area restaurants. Full Belly Farm picks their produce to order so it is always fresh and they currently have 1,200 CSA members.

On our tour we were able to see their mobile chicken coops where the farm is raising organic chicken eggs that sell for $9.00 a dozen.  The students were also able to see the pigs, sheep and cattle raised at at Full Belly Farm and see where the produce is washed and prepped for sale. We also visited the flower shop where not only are fresh flower’s made into bouquets, but flowers are also dried and made into wreaths.

After lunch we went out into a field where peppers were currently being grown. We harvested and cleaned bouquets of peppers that will be dried and sold. The students also learned about soil and compost. At Full Belly Farm they us 10,000 pounds per acre of compost every year.

Dam Good Water

FARMS Leadership | Central Valley Central | Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Location of Field Day:
Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District – 2975 Farmersville Rd, Farmersville, CA 93223

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Shane Smith – Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, Project-Administrative Manager

Theme:
California’s Water & Natural Resources

Summary of the Day:
On Wednesday, September 13, 2019, the Central Valley Central FARMS Leadership students from Patino High School, Sunnyside High School, Kerman High School and Reedley High School met at the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District. Students participated in a few Leadership activities in interviewing and introducing each other in practice and preparation of introducing our field day hosts. Shane Smith, Project-Administrative Manager with the KDWCD met with the students at the home office and shared a short powerpoint presentation with the students on why the dam was built. Mr. Smith also presented the Kaweah Delta Water Operations, What the district does, Groundwater Recharge, Stormwater Layoff and storage facilities. The group caravaned to the US Army Corps of Engineer office at the Dam. While here Mr. Smith also explained the importance of irrigation and Fuse Gates known as Tipping Buckets and Flood Control Activities. Students were able to walk down and see the 6 – 1 million pound tipping buckets up close. After lunch students spent time asking final questions about the day. We all enjoyed our visit to the Dam!

What can the Soil Tell us About the Land?

FARMS Leadership | Monterey & Santa Cruz | November 7th, 2019

Location(s) of Field Day:
D’Arrigo Ranch – 18742 Gould Rd. Salinas, Ca
Hartnell College Alisal Campus – 1752 E Alisal St. Salinas, Ca

Participating Schools:
Gonzales High School
Soquel High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Resource Conservation District for Monterey County(RCDMC)
Paul Robins – Executive Director 
Megan Baker – Project Administrator 
Laura Murphy – Soil Scientist
Chelsea Rutt – Student Trainee (Soil Conservation)
Shaun Richards – Ag Water Management Specialist

National Resource Conservation District(NRCS)
Drew Mather – Conservation Planner 
Allison Tokunaga – Rangeland Conservationist

D’Arrigo Brothers
Ed Mora – PCA
Saul Lopez Jr. – D’Arrigo Superintendent / PCA 

Summary of the Day:

When it comes to soil conservation the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County (RCDMC) are the experts. Students had the opportunity to spend the day with these local experts and learn more about soil science, land judging and possible careers in Ag and Conservation.

Students arrived at the D’Arrigo Ranch promptly to a warm breakfast. After breakfast, we headed out to a freshly harvested field to meet our field day mentors. Paul Robins started with an overview and history of the NRCS and the RCD, and how they support local farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners wanting to make conservation improvements to their land. One of the local ag companies that work with the RCDMC is D’Arrigo Brothers and we were lucky enough to have Saul Lopez Jr. and Ed Mora from D’Arrigo on-site to greet students.

It was time to learn how to judge the land for the land judging competition. There was a lot to cover and Laura Murphy, Shaun Richards, and Drew Mather gave students a crash course on soil properties and proper ways of observing and analyzing soil and topography. With that, students were ready to try it on their own.

“It’s kinda cool, right? From where we started with color and texture we’re sort of predicting out. Just from texture you can tell so much about what you can do with your soil, from available water to instability for building or for growing plant life.” – Drew Mather, NRCS

In order to make the land judging contest more competitive, the RCD has agreed to provide the first place winner with a scholarship to California Range and Natural Resources Camp at Elkus Ranch in Half-Moon Bay. Students will spend 10 minutes in the pit and 10 minutes outside the pit at 2 different locations. Each student and team will get an opportunity to make observations and record their findings on a scorecard that would later be graded. Judges will combine the two scores to determine the winner. Students do their best and turn in their scorecards.

We head to Hartnell College for lunch and some team building activities while the scorecards are graded. Before the winners are announced students split up into groups of two to meet the experts and practice their networking skills. Professionals share information about their careers and what they do and why they like it while asking students to share more about their own interests and future plans for themselves.

Finally, it is announced that the top two scorers for the land judging competition go to Kayli Plazola and Sophia Lopez from Gonzales High School.

A big thank you to Megan Barker from the RCDMC for working with FARMS to plan this field day.

Chico State – “The Harvard of the West!”

FARMS Leadership Program: North State: November 5, 2019

Location of Field Day: Chico, CA


Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Sarah DeForest – Director of External Relations
Hayden Clement – CSU, Chico Meats Lab Manager
Gracie Pachie – CSU, Chico Tour Coordinator and Guide

Theme: College Exploration and Career Opportunities

Summary of the Day:

We began our visit to Chico State with an introduction to the campus, student housing, different courses available at Chico State, as well as studying abroad.  After we concluded our presentation Gracie Pachie, the Tours Coordinator and Guide showed us around campus. We toured the campus and saw classrooms, visited the Bell Union Memorial (BMU) saw student housing and the dining halls and concluded our tour at the campus gym which just celebrated its 10th year. Once our tour ended we headed in to the BMU dining hall where the students all got to enjoy a college style dining experience. We also checked out the campus store and students and their teachers were able to buy some shirts, hats and other cool Chico State gear.

Following lunch, we all went back to our vehicles and drove out to the University Farm. We were greeted by Sarah DeForest, who took us on a tour of the farm and told us about it’s history and how it got to where it is today. We visited the beef unit, dairy facility, swine unit, sheep unit, and meats lab. We were also able to check out the orchards where they grow pecans, almonds, walnuts and peaches. As well as 400 acres of row crops that the student employees are able to work in as well. The CSU, Chico Farm employees 45 students in part time positions as well as numerous interns each semester. The FARMS Leadership students all had different interests so they were all able to explore the different units. After our farm tour we headed into the meats lab where Hayden Clement, the Manager, gave us a tour.  The meats lab processes cattle, hogs, and sheep from the farm as well as animals from local fairs and ranches. It is a USDA inspected facility and sells meat to customers Thursdays and Fridays every week.

A day of irrigation along two creeks

Winters High School at Putah Creek Dry Creek Confluence
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | November 1, 2019

Participating School
Winters High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Valerie Whitworth and Michael Barbour

Mentors
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Josh McCabe, Restoration Coordinator at ACRT Pacific
Lea Pollack, UCD Graduate Student
Marisa Alcorta, Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning

Summary of the Day
Our second Sac Valley SLEWS day of the year brought us to the confluence of Putah Creek and Dry Creek in Winters, CA. Landowners Michael Barbour and Valerie Whitworth have been working with Yolo County Resource Conservation District to plan a habitat restoration project in an area that was damaged by fire in October 2018. This will increase biodiversity in the area as well as provide habitat for pollinators and the wildlife of the creek. We were happy to involve Winters High School students with this project, walking distance from their school!

After students arrived on foot and enjoyed breakfast, we gathered in our opening circle to introduce ourselves and the project goals, and learn names with a round of group juggle. From there Amy Williams of Yolo County Resource Conservation District led us towards the creek to teach us about a very important plant – blue elderberry. There are special rules and protective measures surrounding this plant. Why? It is the only host plant for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, a federally protected species of insect. Its habitat has been greatly reduced due to agriculture and urban development. To protect the beetle, the blue elderberry plant is protected from disturbance, trimming, and removal. Our project site has a sizeable elderberry shrub in the middle of it, so we took extra precautions to make sure it was not damaged during our work.

To start our project, we had to move a bunch of brush that was in the way of our project site. Though there was a sizeable amount of cut branches, students and mentors made extremely short work of it. Next the entire class gathered together to lay out the longest irrigation line. This is a group effort – students space themselves about 20 feet apart and carry the line all the way to the end as the spool of irrigation tubing unspools. One this line was “stapled” down, students got in their mentor groups to divide and conquer.

One group worked on installing emitters on existing oak trees, another created a “grid” of irrigation for the pollinator meadow, and the other two groups laid out 3 more lines of irrigation in the main planting area, taking care around the elderberry of course. By lunch time, students had installed 2500 feet total of irrigation and installed 280 emitters!

Once we were done eating, we ventured down to Putah Creek where Amy and mentor (and biologist!) Corey Shake talked about the significance of the creek and the wildlife that calls it home – especially spawning salmon! We even saw some wildlife of our own on the field day including western fence lizards, a fuzzy caterpillar, beetles, and birds. After exploring the creek, students found a quiet spot to sit and reflect on their first field day in a field journal. This low energy activity was probably a welcome end to the day – a mentor’s fitbit tracked that we walked 4 miles while working throughout the field day, not even counting the students’ walk to and from school!

A Little Dirt Never Hurt!

Boggs Tract Community FARM

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: October 29, 2019

Location of Field Day: Stockton, CA


Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Kenda Templeton – Puentes Executive Director
Clifton Maxwell – Puentes Farm Manager and Nursery Specialist
Jessica Bryant – Puentes Urban Forestry Coordinator, Owner and Farmer of Corn Poppy Produce

Theme: Urban Agriculture


Summary of the Day:

For our first field day of the 2019-2020 school year, the San Joaquin FARMS Leadership Program visited Boggs Tract Community Farm in Stockton, CA. Boggs Tract Community Farm is managed by the Puentes organization and their goal at Boggs Tract is to connect the community with the land and help provide them with a space to grow farm fresh produce. We began our day with a tour of the farm by Clifton Maxwell, the Farm Manager. Clifton showed the students the different garden plots that can be rented by the community, the outdoor education area, the chicken coop, compost site, bee hives, and tree nursery. Following our tour Clifton lead the students in different farming activities where the students were able to get their hands dirty and plant seeds, spread mulch and create a new garden bed. The students worked for about an hour and then we took a break for lunch.


Following lunch, the students were introduced to Jessica Bryant. Jessica not only works at Boggs Tract but is also an incubator farmer and leases the land across the street which is where she has her farm Corn Poppy Produce. Jessica provides farm fresh produce to the Stockton community and sells at farmer’s markets, her farm stand, and has also done work with the local culinary program. The FARMS Leadership students helped weed her garden beds, prep beds for new crops, and plant winter crop seeds. This is where we concluded our day in Stockton learning about urban agriculture and getting a lot of hands on experience at Boggs Tract Community Farm.