Hanging with LangeTwins

Location of Field Day:
Acampo, CA

Field Day Host:
LangeTwins Winery and Vineyard – Aaron Lange and Kendra Altnow

Theme:
Ecological Balance on Vineyards

Our San Joaquin FARMS Leadership cohort embraced a hot and sunny day of habitat restoration with LangeTwins Winery & Vineyard. With a nutritional breakfast in our bellies, we began by circling up with another community reflection question. This month’s Question Master Bitsy asked her peers to reflect on ‘What is the difference between living and existing?’; students spoke rather wisely of the importance of finding passions, connecting deeply with others, exploring the world around them, and always pushing oneself to grow. After our circle reflection, we jumped into the day’s leadership activity; with ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’ 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 then received a warm welcome from our friends at family-owned LangeTwins, Aaron Lange and Kendra Altnow. Along the Mokelumne River, Aaron provided us with some fascinating background on the vineyard and, in particular, their efforts to grow wine grapes in a way that both maintains and helps to reestablish ecological balance with the land. LangeTwins take their role as land stewards very seriously; as a long-time partner of Center for Land-Based Learning, they’ve worked with high school students in our programs for over 20 years to install numerous habitat restoration projects that give back to the land that has given so much to them. Students asked Aaron SUCH informed questions: they were curious about the social impact of the vineyard on the surrounding community, about the ways in which the Lange family values their workers, about the nature of the vineyard’s composting and use of integrated pest management systems, and much, much more. Music to an educator’s ears!

From there, it was time to jump into the hands-on efforts of the day: installing a native plant hedgerow. As we stood over the bunch of native plants patiently waiting to go in the ground, Aaron shared the many benefits that hedgerows provide for land and wildlife, but also for farmers: providing increased pollinators for crop production, fixing nitrogen into the farm’s soil, providing wind buffers to prevent soil erosion, and reducing pest populations. After a planting and irrigation demonstration, students set to work; some digging holes, others planting, and others still installing emitters and spaghetti tubing to ensure each plant is happily (and sustainably!) watered. Along the way, students continued to explore the land and people around them, uncovering spiders, bonding with toads, and asking plenty of questions to Aaron and his staff about what it’s like to work at a sustainable vineyard.

After a break for lunch, during which our Nutrition Educators shared the benefits of eating the artichokes and whole grains found in our sandwiches, Aaron and Kendra took us down to the Mokelumne River There, students took some time to explore the riparian habitat bursting with age old oak trees, tiny macroinvertebrates, blue herons, quail calls, and evidence of beaver live. After a few rounds of river fetch with Kendra’s excessively cute dog, we returned to hedgerow planting. One hour and many dirty hands later, students had planted and installed irrigation for 90 native plants along the vineyard block! With students quite proud of the work they did, we circled up to reflect on our day. Students’ highlights included the competitive, communicative nature of the morning’s leadership activity, wading in the Mokelumne River, learning about LangeTwins’ ability to balance the social, environmental, and economic factors of running a farm, and working hard to put so many plants in the earth. Thanks to our partners and our inquisitive, eager students for another awesome field day!

The Mighty Mentors of SLEWS

SLEWS Program | Central Valley | January 27th, 2022

Location of the Field Day:
The Maples

Partners/Landowners:
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Point Blue Conservation Science
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Mentors/Volunteers:
Jeanne Wirka, Alex Lintner, Beth DelReal, Heather Lyon, Morgan Caudill, Anna Tolle, Ric Murphy, Sara Lipschutz, Brandi Murphy, Nick Gallagher, Joaquin Pastrana, Grace Ferguson, Amy Williams, and Natalia (SLEWS Intern!)

Accomplishments: 12 native grasses and 86 shrubs/sub-shrubs planted with tubex, bamboo stakes, and fully mulched! 800 feet of drip irrigation installed.

Summary of the Day:
A total of 14 SLEWS mentors and volunteers came together to complete the east hedgerow on The Maples property. Despite the absence of students, we were able to kick off this field day “test run” in the typical SLEWS fashion. Volunteers got the opportunity to engage in a project from start to finish, planting a total of 98 plants complete with drip irrigation, mulch, gopher baskets, tubex, and bamboo stakes. Preparing for the day students return to the field in February, mentors had the opportunity to ask clarifying questions, get to know the partners they would be working with, and of course enjoy the famous SLEWS burritos at the end of the day rewarding all the hard work they had completed.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions! A special thanks to Yolo RCD who helped with the implementation plan and took care of our plants before the long awaited planting day. Additional thanks to NRCS and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation whose support makes this project possible.

A five star day

Grant Union at Yanci Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley |February 13, 2020

Participating School
Grant Union High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms

Mentors
Kathy Rightmire, Director of Development, Center for Land-Based Learning
Dani Gelardi, UCD Graduate Student
Carolyn Kolstad, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
MJ Farruggia, UCD Graduate Student

Summary of the Day
“How did today go?”
“FIVE STARS!”
After each Field Day, I ask this question of our mentors and project partners in order to get feedback and look for ways to improve the SLEWS Program. Never have I been met with such an enthusiastic response! Read on to see what happened on this beautiful, five star day.

We started with a game of PVC golf before heading down to the restoration site to finish our part of the project. On their Field Day two weeks prior, Pioneer High did not have time to finish planting all of the native plants on their irrigation line. Our priority was getting these plants in the ground, so Grant Union students took this on, planting 65 native plants. Another priority was installing emitters along the line so that each plant would receive a consistent water source (especially as it’s been a very dry month!). Once emitters were in, we turned the irrigation system on to make sure it was working properly. Usually when we do this check, we find multiple “geysers” along the line – spots were emitters were not installed properly and pop off due to the water pressure, spraying water everywhere. Shockingly, we found no geysers! Grant Union did a perfect job! We also were able to plant 24 plug plants, but since the ground was too hard to use a dibble, this was done with trowels.

On our very first field day, we noticed a tall hill that looked accessible, so after lunch and a last-field-day celebration of SLEWS-themed cupcakes, we began the trek. The walk was not far but it was steep, and we all had to catch our breath at the top – especially those that chose to literally run and race up the hill!

I figured there would be a decent view from the top, but was absolutely blown away by the stunning panorama that awaited us. The excitement atop the hill was palpable – after taking some time to soak in the view, we passed out supplies for students to design and write a thank you card to someone who made their SLEWS experience possible. Many students wrote to their mentors, and others wrote a general thank you to all who helped plan their field trip.

We had our closing circle at the top of the hill where we shared our favorite memories from all three field days we had shared. Popular answers included hiking to the top of the hill, being out in nature, installing emitters, planting trees, seeing wildlife, teambuilding games, and enjoying the beautiful weather. Michael Felipe of Yolo County Resource Conservation District had come upon many tiny bones at the top of the hill, which we realized came from raptor casts or owl pellets – he shared his finds at closing circle.

It was amazing to close out the day with a view of not only our project, but also earlier phases of the restoration efforts at the site – we could clearly see how our piece connected to the rest of the wildlife corridor.

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