NRCS Plant Material Center FARMS Leadership | San Joaquin | December 10th, 2019
Location: Lockeford, CA
Field Day Host(s) and Mentors: Margaret Smither-Kopperl, Lockeford Plant Materials Center Manager, Plant Materials Program Matthew Bronson, Plant Materials Center, Farm Manager
Theme: Ecology and Habitat Conservation
NRCS Plant Materials Center (PMC) is a CLBL long-time partner and a favorite field day for FARMS Leadership students. PMC is a network of 25 Plant Materials Centers and Plant Materials Specialists strategically located throughout the U.S. They select plants and develop plant technology for the successful conservation of the nation’s natural resources. In addition, PMC provides information to field office staff, private landowners, tribes and partners who need assistance in addressing critical land management problems.
Plant experts Margaret Smither-Kopperl and Matthew Bronson led students through the historical evolution of NRCS dating back to the 1930’s dust bowl where soil erosion, air and water pollution became and continue to be issues farmers face today. Margaret conveys, “we help farmers help the land”. The designated property is near Lockeford along the Mokelumne River. Students experienced an extensive walking tour through cover crop seed plots, and took cuttings from native plants and shrubs, elderberry and grapes along in the riparian habitat as well as from the flannel tree in established hedge rows. The osage orange and milk weed seed pod discovery was certainly a highlight on the tour.
After lunch, students transplanted the cuttings and placed in the greenhouse. The day concluded with facilities tour of the seed cleaning, the impressive collection of tractors and equipment.
FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | October 10, 2019
Gonzales High School
Soquel High School
Location(s): Pura Ranch, 28531 Corda Rd. Gonzales, Ca 93926 Pisoni Family’s Estate Vineyard 34361 Paraiso Spring Rd. Soledad, Ca 93960
Field Day Host(s) and Mentor(s): Pisoni Family Vineyards
Mark Pisoni – Owner, Farmer and Vineyard Manager
Jazmin Lopez – Compliance Manager of Special Projects
Elias Gandara – Vineyard Manager
Jesus Camacho – Ranch Manager
Summary of the Day: It is the start of a new FARMS Leadership program and for our first field day, we will be with Pisoni Family Vineyards. FARMS Leadership is the first-year program for students and our focus is on career exploration in ag and resource management. Once the students arrived at Pura Ranch, ate a quick breakfast we immediately did some introductions. This is the first time students are all in the same space together. An icebreaker name game gets us out of our seats and warmed up. Students were ready for the day.
Jazmin Lopez would be our guide throughout our day and introduce students to a multitude of careers, beginning with her own. Students learned about Jazmin’s personal pathway and how and why she started at a liberal arts college, worked for the CA Strawberry Commission, became a Master Gardener and now works for Pisoni Vineyards as the Compliance Manager of Special Projects. We would see some of those special projects later in the day.
The Pisoni Family has a beautiful vegetable farm of 500 acres in Gonzales, California. Students had some hands-on experience taking soil samples and harvesting cauliflower from the fields. That cauliflower would later be our lunch.
With about a dozen heads of cauliflower, we got into our vehicles and made our way further South to Pisoni Family Vineyards the Family’s Estate Vineyard in Soledad, California. The views from the vineyard overlooked the Salinas Valley and they were spectacular. This is where we met Mark Pisoni, the owner, farmer, and vineyard manager. Mark spoke about his personal pathway into his career and gave students some very good advice throughout the day. Mark gave us a tour of the vineyard and shared his knowledge about the land and the business of growing grapes. Students were very engaged while they tasted chardonnay grapes and listened to Mark talk about how the grapevines grow and are maintained. The tour ended with a walk through the insectary (one of Jazmin’s special projects) and of course some lunch.
It was over lunch when Mark introduced Elias Gandara as one of his best employees and trusted friend. Mark stressed the importance of learning Spanish and really being serious about it and immerse yourself in the culture if you can. Communication is such an important part of being a great leader. The final piece of advice Mark Pisoni left students with was a lesson on networking. Everyone received a card from Mark after lunch with his contact information and he encouraged them all to send him an email introducing themselves and following up on the professional connection. Mark shared a trade secret with students that can be just as valuable as going to college and that is, sometimes it’s who you know in agriculture and the relationships you maintain.
Following lunch, students had a chance to learn about bees and apiary management, just another special project by Jazmin Lopez. This was a first time experience for the students and for the coordinator. The sound of the bees flying around your head is loud and filled with energy as wings buzz to and fro. The best part was learning about Jazmin’s experience keeping bees and of course we enjoyed tasting honey fresh from the hive!
Thank you Pisoni Vineyards for such a wonderful FARMS Leadership Field Day!
Location of Field Day:
Kimberlina Facility | Bakersfield, CA 93308
Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Fernando Garcia – Director of Northern Operations
Josh Legorreta – Shipping Manager
Cecilia Rivera – In-House Packing Director
David Fenn – Executive Vice President of Farming
Michael Strambi – Wasco Farming Director
Terry Bacon – Vice President of Variety Development
Monica Escoto – Director of Quality Assurance and Food Safety
Danielle Loustalot – Marketing Manager
Tammy Collum – Sales Executive
Theme: Food Production |Consumer Science
Summary of the Day:
A grape story behind our favorite snack! Students from 5 different high schools: Bakersfield Christian, Independence High, Frontier High, Ridgeview High, and West High Schools kicked off our 2018-19 Kern County FARMS Leadership year by coming together and learning about grapes along side of a few of Sun-World’s finest employees!
Students learned about the demands of the grape industry. They saw how consumerism has changed the way in which Sun World packs its grapes – bringing it indoors. One student commented, “they are so careful to be sure that the weight of each bag is just right that they even will take out one grape!” Students noted the care and time it takes to pack one bag of grapes. Students inquired about the career opportunities and the different levels of expertise at each packing station. Students then were driven to the fields where the contrast in outdoor packing was shown. Sun-World has customers that require different packing practices. Students experienced the change in work environment for the employee and the humidity from inside the rows. They strolled in awe and were able to taste from each side of the vine sharing what they tasted, smelled, and heard. David Fenn, Executive Vice President of Farming, shared the science behind reasons a grape may taste one way on one side of the vine from the other as students noticed that one batch was less sweet. It was time now for students to learn about the different varieties of grapes.
We then moved on to the Research and Development Lab. Students participated in an activity to get to know each other and separate into groups. These three groups were on a 20 minute rotation – Research & Development, Sales & Marketing, and Quality Control.
Research and Development described the step by step breeding process and allowed students to tour and see it in action. The lab with over a thousand test tubes of possible new flavors was overwhelming. Students identified the embryo in the berry prior to the breeding process. Time to rotate! Next Up, Sales and Marketing.
Students were able to network with Sales and Marketing professionals and learn about their favorite aspects of the job. Travel is a big plus for some! Students asked about career paths and opportunities. Oh, time to rotate on to Quality Control. Students taught how to read the import requirements from different companies and measure sugar levels based upon cold storage availability. Students worked as a team to gather data and report back to staff about their findings.
We wrapped up with an inspiring message given by Sun World’s CEO/President Merrill Dibble while eating lunch together with the Sun World staff before heading home. Students were able to take some grapes home to their families as well.