What happens to the soil during a fire?

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | December 7, 2020

Location(s) of Field Day:
Resource Conservation District of Monterey County
744 La Guardia St., Suite A
Salinas, Ca

Participating Schools:
Soquel High School
Gonzalez High School
Alisal High School
Greenfield High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Drew Mathers – Soil Conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Services
Megan Barker – Project Administrator/ Environmental Scientist with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County
Laura Murphy – Soil Scientist with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County

Theme: Post-Fire Soils

Summary of the Day: 

2020 has been a challenging year on so many levels and this summer we had one of the worst wildfire seasons in California history. All of our students and teachers were affected by the wildfires. In Santa Cruz County, there was the CZU Lightning Complex Fire that burned 86,509 acres, and in Monterey County, there was the River Fire that burned 48,088 acres. With the trauma of the summer fires fresh in their minds, students had a chance to learn about soil and how it is affected by wildfires. Drew Mathers from the NRCS and Laura Murphy with the RCDMC sourced 6 different types of soils for student’s to experiment with. The field day was packed with information on the challenges and the benifits of wildfires. Students learned about the different severity levels of wildfires and how to observe the landscape to determine how severe a fire was in an area of land. There were polls and experiments and we all had a lot of fun learning about soil conservation and wildfires.

Video Recording coming soon!

Use Your Voice

FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | October 5, 2020

Location(s) of Field Day:
Bio + Food + Tech Forum – Virtual Forum

Resource Conservation District of Monterey County
744 La Guardia St., Suite A
Salinas, Ca

Participating Schools:
Soquel High School
Gonzalez High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Corinne Takara – Artist and STEAM Coordinator with Xinamp Bio
Megan Barker – Environmental Scientist with the RCDMC
Paul Robins – Executive Director with the RCDMC

Speak – Off Judges:
Ignacio Mendoza – California Strawberry Commission
Emily Gardner – Salinas Valley Basin Ground Water Sustainability Agency
James Booth – USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
Hannah Wallace – Monterey County Ag Commissioners Office

Theme: Student Voices

Summary of the Day: 
It’s a new school year and I am so happy to have students returning for another year. This year students are in the FARMS Advanced cohort and we plan to take a closer look at different kinds of professional skills that can help them with their future careers in Agriculture, Environmental Sciences, or whatever career they choose. Many of these skills students already possess and it will be a matter of practicing them with industry professionals.

For October students will be tasked to use their voices. Young people have a very valuable and unique opinion that should be heard. Thanks to our partners this month we were able to create two opportunities for students to use their voice and share their own ideas and insights on a local and statewide level.

This month’s Hands-On Kit was provided by the Tech Interactive and Xinampa Bio, and it allowed students to participate in a Bio+ Food+ Tech experiment and forum. The goal of the experimental forum was to elevate cultural and community values while collecting youth voices to discover areas of interest in biotech, ag tech, and food systems. The feedback from youth would inform educational contexts that can better broaden trust and participation in science. The results of the forum can be found at the Bio + Food + Tech Forum. You can find samples of our student input in the picture gallery below.

Students had a second opportunity this month to use their voices in a Speak-Off Contest that was judged by our partners at the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County. Rocco Rouse, Kevin Zarate, and Jesus Gonzales all competed in the speak off which you can find below. The prompt for their speech was “How should Resource Conservation Districts serve and engage the entire community in conservation work?”. All students did a great job presenting their ideas but there could only be one winner. Jesus Gonzales won and went on to the statewide competition where he took 3rd place.

This month I talked a lot about community and how students are a representative of their families, peers, neighborhoods, and cities whether they like it or not. Their voices can be used to elevate their communities and share their stories, challenges, and ideas. Their perspective is valuable and valid and I appreciate their courage when using their voice this month.

Wetlands, Waterways & Watersheds

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | April 11, 2019

Participating Schools:

  • Gonzales High School
  • North Salinas High School
  • Soledad High School
  • Watsonville High School

Location(s):
Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 1700 Elkhorn Rd, Castroville, Ca 95012

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Dave Feliz – California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Virginia Guhin – California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Ariel Hunter – California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Summary of the Day:
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarian Research Reserve or Elkhorn Slough Reserve for short is located halfway between the cities of Santa Cruz and Monterey. The middle ground between 2 counties and our FARMS Leadership Program which spans both Santa Cruz County and Monterey County. The Reserve itself is owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The day started with a quick breakfast, housekeeping, and an ice breaker. Virginia Guhin, the education programs coordinator started the discussion off by asking students about their career interests to warm them up and start the conversation. From there she shared more about the Elkhorn Slough Estuary Reserve and her role as the education coordinator. She then introduced Dave Feliz who delivered a speech connecting everything Virginia shared about the Reserve to the land and ultimately agriculture. He spoke about different ways of using agriculture fields for both profit and conservation like how rice farmers can support water foul populations. In the end, we all need to work together to preserve land, water, species, and food systems.

The inspiring talk was a perfect lead in to the two activities. Students were split into two groups. One took a hike to the boardwalk to see the slough and the other group did a fun hands-on activity with Ariel Hunter called Watershed Masters. The word watershed is not a word that is taught in schools so it was not a surprise when students had no idea what a watershed was. I must admit that I personally hadn’t heard that word until my 20’s so I was happy that students would have the opportunity to learn about watersheds way before I did. The groups did a quick switch and once everyone had a chance to hike and participate in a hands-on activity we ate lunch and departed for Moon Glow Dairy.

Moon Glow Dairy was once a dairy and is now known as the Hester Marsh Restoration Site. This site is a new experimental idea to restore the marshlands and plant native plants that create habitats for different wildlife and organisms. It is an exciting and innovative restoration project to witness in the beginning stages. Elkhorn Slough has restored the site by strategically placing dirt in the area that was engineered to mimic a natural occurring marshland that once was there before the dairy. Students helped with the conservation efforts by weeding out some of the invasive species that are not welcome. Students asked questions about the different plants they saw and before you know it was time to clean up and head back to the vehicles.