A change of scenery for Davis High

Davis High School at Dry Arroyo Creek
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 11, 2019

Participating School
Davis High School

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District

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

Summary of the Day
Our second Field Day with Davis High School brought us to a new location – Dry Arroyo Creek between Dixon and Winters. There have been several SLEWS projects in this area over the years, and Solano Resource Conservation District invited Davis High students to put some of the final touches on a restoration project many years in the making.

After breakfast, we learned more about one another through a game called “Wind in the Willows”. This game allows us to identify commonalities within the group, and strengthen our bond as a SLEWS team. Then, Solano Resource Conservation District staff led us in a demonstration of our restoration task for the day – plug planting native grasses! Students learned to use a “dibble” to poke holes in the ground, insert a grass “plug” (a small clump of native grasses) and pinch the soil over the top to prevent moisture loss. The hope is that these native grasses will outcompete invasive grass species, to improve soil stability and water retention and increase biodiversity.

Once students got a hang of the process, mentor groups spread out along the bank of dry arroyo creek and began planting grass plugs every 2 feet in a grid-like pattern. These grasses will eventually grow to fill in the entire area. I had one student ask me to further explain the impact these grasses will have in the area, and I appreciated her wanting to put the project into context! There were some very impressive feats of teamwork with some students measuring, some students “dibbling”, and students following to plant the grass plugs. By lunchtime, students had planted around 2000 native grass plugs!

Students had been eager to explore Dry Arroyo Creek all morning. Lucky for them, after lunch, Sarah McKibbin of Solano Resource Conservation District led the students across the creek on a native plant walk to see some of the plants that have become established through the restoration effort. Then students were given time to explore the creek and adjacent areas in mentor groups, identifying native plants and birds. One group even found a frog in the creek! As groups were exploring, Davis High teacher Sherri Sandberg rotated mentor groups through a water monitoring activity to assess the water quality of Dry Arroyo Creek.

Coleman Fish Hatchery

FARMS Advanced| Tehama County | January 10, 2019

Location of Field Day:
Anderson, CA

Field Day Host:
Coleman Fish Hatchery

Participating Partners:
Ron Stone, Laura Mahoney

Theme:
Integrated Pest Management and Aquaculture

Summary of the Day: “Spawning day”……say what?!

The importance of caring for our waterways in ways that will encourage our salmon and steelhead to be able to make the journey to the ocean and then return back to their birthplace would have truly appreciated Tehama County’s FARMS Advanced trip to Coleman Fish Hatchery.

Coleman Fish Hatchery is located right on Battle Creek which feeds directly into the Sacramento River. We had the pleasure of taking part in one of the most important processes that takes place to continue the cycle of life for our local salmon and steel-head, spawning day. What does that mean? It is when the employees at Coleman Fish Hatchery “spawn” or collect the eggs out of the female fish, fertilize them with sperm from the male fish and then send these eggs to their incubation tanks so they can grow and develop into little fish in the safety of the hatchery.

Laura Mahoney greeted us and immediately put us to work. FARMS Advanced student, Mary-Pat from Mercy High School went to the incubation building where she helped a hatchery employee receive the eggs, transfer them into incubation trays, disinfect them of any pathogens that may have been in the water or carried by the fish by using and iodine bath, and then put them into the flow of water where they will continue to develop.

Students, Gabe Harris from Los Molinos High and Jack Lazzaretto from Orland High went to the spawning building where they met staff from Coleman Fish Hatchery as well as staff that was collecting scales and livers for research for both the Federal Government and California State. They learned how to sex the steelhead and know if they are truly ready for spawning. It quickly became apparent why waterproof shoes and a change of clothes was recommended! Gabe and Jack became part of the team and played important roles in this spawning process.

Once the spawning was finished, we followed the researchers into their certified lab where we watched them process the livers and ovarian fluid that was collected.

Lastly, we were treated to a tour of their ozone plant. What is an ozone plant? Water entering the hatchery comes from Battle Creek and contains bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be harmful to fish. Before the water is used for fish culture it is filtered and treated with ozone to kill all the disease organisms. All water used in the process of raising these fish is treated by this process.

A sunny first day in the Capay Valley

Woodland High School at Pharm Schaer
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 10, 2019

Participating School
Woodland High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Candice Schaer

Mentors
Fanny Ye, Soil Conservationist, NRCS
Gina Radieve, Environmental Scientist, California Department of Water Resources
Miles Daprato, Environmental Steward for UCD Campus Planning and Environmental Stewardship Department
Susie Bresney, Staff Scientist, Stockholm Environment Institute

Summary of the Day
After our first Field Day was postponed due to poor air quality from the Camp Fire, we were eager to get started on our project at Pharm Schaer, Candice Schaer’s property in Guinda.

Since it was our first Field Day with Woodland students, our opening circle served as an introduction to the restoration project as well as the partners, landowners, and mentors. Alex Tremblay of Yolo County Resource Conservation District explained the project planning process and project goals, including planting native trees and shrubs to increase species diversity, promote beneficial insects and provide nectar sources for insects and cover for wildlife. Students also met the film crew from local public television show “Rob on the Road” – they were filming this field day for an upcoming segment on SLEWS!

After opening circle, students met with their mentor groups and were presented with a bucket of various irrigation supplies and tools – tubing, emitters, pokers, cutters, and connectors. Students were given time to practice with these items in order to become familiar with the components of a drip irrigation system. Students were quickly able to figure out how drip irrigation works, and Brandon Baker of Yolo County Resource Conservation District followed up with an instructional demonstration.

The first task was to roll out the irrigation line which is a major group effort! Each student helped carry a section of the 1400 foot tube, even rounding a corner. Once the line was laid down, one mentor group measured and flagged the line every ten feet so the other two mentor groups could follow, poking holes and installing emitters. After the line was complete, we did a quality check, turning the water on so students could replace emitters that were improperly installed. Woodland students worked so hard and efficiently that there wasn’t much to fix – we were even able to measure and install emitters on an additional 200 foot section of irrigation, far exceeding the landowner and RCD’s expectations for the day.

After lunch, I was so impressed to see Woodland students picking up shovels and pushing wheelbarrows to gather mulch – landowner Candice Schaer had asked for help filling in a muddy patch and they responded with trademark enthusiasm. They made short work of that small project, and then mentor groups ventured out to identify some native plants on the property. They even recognized a few plants we had planted that day!

To conclude the day, students found an area to sit by themselves and reflect on their experience in their Field Journal. At our closing circle, many students remarked that this moment of quiet reflection was their favorite part of the whole day.

A successful day of planting at Clark Ranch

Grant Union High at Clark Ranch 2
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 13, 2018

Participating School
Grant Union High School

Location
Clark Ranch 2 in Davis, CA – the southern of two projects at this site

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

Mentors
Amelia Munson, UC Davis graduate student
Jen Metes, Research Associate, Consero Solutions
Julea Shaw, UC Davis graduate student
Mandi Finger, Associate Director, Genomic Variation Lab
Sean McNamara, Farm Manager, Sierra Orchards

Summary of the Day
Students from Grant Union’s GEO Academy returned for their second Field Day at Clark Ranch to clear, calm skies – a welcome change after a VERY windy first Field Day! After breakfast and hot cocoa under the oak grove, we circled up to begin the day. We discussed the impact our project will have on the area, and the ways in which the plants will help improve the surrounding habitat. We also introduced new project mentors and partners before playing a game of group juggle to help us remember each other’s names.

Following opening circle we played “Steal the Native Plant” – a SLEWS planting day classic. Students learned the characteristics of manzanita, buckbrush, sage, elderberry, and coyote brush – five of the plants we’d be planting that day – before competing to be the first to identify species and earn points for their mentor groups.

Alex Tremblay of Yolo County Resource Conservation District let students in a planting demonstration to ensure our plants have the best possible chance of survival. One student was so inspired by this demonstration that he created an illustrated step-by-step guide during our end-of-day reflection (see below). Students jumped right into planting with enthusiasm and by lunchtime had planted 280 native trees and shrubs!

After lunch, students participated in a Nature Scavenger Hunt in their mentor groups, with most groups finding all 17 items in just 15 minutes! One group was excited to share that they found an owl pellet with bones inside, while another was thrilled to see a lizard as they explored the area. To finish the day, students reflected on their day by creating a “Postcard from the Field”, writing and drawing to sum up their experiences.

One exciting addition to this day was a film crew from local public television show “Rob on the Road” – they are doing a feature on the Center for Land-Based Learning and the SLEWS program, and were capturing footage of the group throughout the day. You may soon see Grant Union students on TV if you’re a fan of PBS!

It is always a pleasure to work with this fantastic group of students. I was once again impressed by their kindness to their peers and ceaseless positive attitudes. Can’t wait for Field Day #3!

Sunsweet – The World’s Largest Dried Fruit Plant

FARMS Leadership Program: North State: December 13th 2018

Location: Yuba City, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Sunsweet

Jamie Dickerson – Talent Acquisition Specialist
Amber Fuentes – HR Administrator
Tracy Atondo – Membership & Dryer Services Coordinator
Nathan Martson – Field Representative & Marysville Dryer Manager
Alma Parham – Administrative Assistant & Receptionist

Theme: Food Production and Consumer Science

Summary of the Day:
Our field day at Sunsweet began with an introduction by Jamie Dickerson. She talked about the background and history of Sunsweet. Sunsweet operates the largest dried fruit plant in the world. Jamie also discussed with the students the different types of jobs and careers Sunsweet has to offer. Next Jamie introduced Tracy Atondo to the students. Tracy continued Jamie’s presentation and discussed Sunsweet in more depth and talked about how Sunsweet has become the success it is today and how they work with the farmers who grow the products they sell. After their presentation; Jamie, Tracy, and Amber passed out some Sunsweet merchandise to all the students. We then headed over to the Sunsweet Dryer in Marysville where we me Nathan Martson. He chatted with the students about the dryer side of the Sunsweet operation. Nathan then gave us a tour of the facility which he manages.

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.

 

 

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!

 

Ag Mechanics at Los Molinos High School

FARMS Leadership| Tehama County | December 7, 2018

Location of Field Day:
Los Molinos, CA

Participating High Schools: 
Los Molinos High, Mercy High, Red Bluff High, Corning High

Field Day Host:
Los Molinos High School

Participating Partners:
Shasta Junior College Welding Department
Principal Miguel Barriga, Los Molinos High School
Becky Roe, Sierra Pacific Industries, A&R Custom Butchering

Theme:
Ag. Mechanics, Interview Preparation

Summary of the Day:
Calling all mechanics, welders, fabricators, and computer geeks!! This day was one for the books. While holding field days at our high schools is not the norm, we were excited for Tehama County’s FARMS Leadership students to get the true hands-on experience with local industry in the various ag mechanics fields that we highlighted: welding, heavy equipment operating, computer programming, laser engraving, and job interview preparedness.

Shasta College sent two of their top students to teach our FARMS Leadership group the art and skills required to become a welder.
Many of our students had never had this opportunity before, so using Los Molinos’ individual welding bays was a safe and fun way to experience this! Safety was key to this day, and as a group, we received a detailed safety presentation from Michael Kling, the Los Molinos Ag Instructor before any activities started.

“I learned that lifting the arc makes the puddle wider and also makes it hotter.” – Forrest Powell, Los Molinos High School

For those students whose interest is peaked by heavy equipment operation, they were able to get hands-on by driving a front end loader through a course of barrels and even test their backing skills. Gabe Harris, a FARMS Advanced student, gave each student a lesson in the safe, proper operation of the equipment. It was such fun to see the expressions from those who had never driven a tractor before. Memories were surely made!

“I had a lot of fun driving the tractor!” – Hannah Endres, Corning High School

Those students who are interested in computer programming and art or design loved the rotation where they were introduced to a laser engraver and how it can be used in conjunction with computer design to create some awesome pieces. Each school was able to create a design on the computer, their school name with the FARMS Leadership logo that was then engraved on a wooden sign. It was amazing how precise the engraver was. Every detail was transferred from the computer design to the finished product.

“I learned how to use a laser table and found out it produces very intricate and detailed art work. They can be used on glass, wood, metal and leather!”

Itzel Favela, Red Bluff High School

While it is always fun exploring careers in agriculture, the next step to explore and learn the necessary skills for is… How do I get a job? What does an interview look like? Mrs. Becky Roe from Sierra Pacific Industries joined us to help teach these skills. She led an open discussion with the students encouraging questions about how to fill out an application, the important part of your resume and cover letter, and they participated in a role-play activity showing students how to act and the importance of your first impression when you are called in for an interview. Each student gained the knowledge of how to properly dress, shake hands, speak, and that it is ok to ask questions.

“I learned that your social media can effect your job.” – Kylee McCormick, Corning High School

Special Thank You to A&R Custom Butchering for donating all the tri-tip for our lunch!

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!