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!

Back in time: The lessons of the Dust Bowl

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.

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