When a Project Comes Full Circle

SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 14th, 2022

Location of the Field Day:
The Maples

Participating School:
Pioneer High School

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

Mentors:
Beth DelReal, Caring for our Watersheds Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning
Jeanne Wirka, Ecologist, Center for Land-Based Learning
Alex Lintner, Grizzly Corps Fellow, Center for Land-Based Learning

Accomplishments: Planted 180 grass plugs, mulched approximately 200 plants, and installed 15 blue bird boxes

Summary of the Day:
We had our third and final field day with Pioneer High School students and it was nothing short of incredible. Students had the unique opportunity to work in three different groups to complete tasks such as installing blue bird boxes, planting native grass plugs, mulching existing habitat, and even installing a “SLEWS was here” sign! Learning about the importance of each as they rotated through the activities students planted a whooping 180 plugs, mulched approximately 200 plants, and installed 15 blue bird boxes.

Following a filled day of restoration we were given the opportunity to listen to speakers from Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Natural Resource Conservation Service/Point Blue Conservation, and the CLBL Incubation Farming Program. Laverne Bill and Sarah Morgan from Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation spoke about the cultural and environmental significance of projects like ours, their positions within the tribe, and the processes they follow when it comes establishing hedgerow projects on tribal lands. To further connect students to the implementation process of The Maples specific project, Corey Shake from NRCS/Point Blue Conservation introduced students to the nature of blooming seasons and the importance of diversifying the plants to encourage pollination all year round. To bring us home, Paul Boulware, owner of Picnic Table Farm spoke to us about how he got his start in agriculture and why he chose to grow organic produce. He even gave us a taste of his produce handing out kale, swiss chard, and radishes!

With the Center for Land-Based Learning headquarters located along the edge of The Maples site it was truly rewarding to see this site come full circle. Showing students the hedgerows of years past we hope they can take what they learned and apply it to their homes and future careers in natural resources.

We would like to thank all of our partners for their amazing work to support this project. Thanks to NRCS & Point Blue Conservation students were able to see what goes into the planting decisions. Additional appreciation to the Yolo Resource Conservation District staff for allocating time to teaching students proper planting techniques and providing the materials necessary to complete the project. Finally thanks to Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation for providing the funding to make this site possible through the Yolo Creek Community Partnership.

Proud, Accomplished, and Inspired

SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 5th, 2022

Location of the Field Day:
Good Humus Farms

Participating School:
Davis High School

Partners/Landowners:
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
Point Blue Conservation Science
Natural Resource Conservation Science
Annie and Jeff Main, Owners of Good Humus Farms

Mentors:
Anna Tolle, Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Center for Land-Based Learning
Erna Piper, Retired Science Teacher
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Josh McCabe, Restoration Coordinator, ACRT Pacific
Joaquin Pastrana, GrizzlyCorps Fellow, Yolo RCD

Accomplishments: Planted ~110 native pollinator plants, emitters, tubex, bamboo stakes, and straw mulch

Summary of the Day:
After 3 packed field days students from Davis High School saw an end to their amazing work at Good Humus Farms. Overcoming massive piles of vegetation, bone dry planting sections, and the famous northern winds they planted the final piece of the ~220 native plant hedgerow. The knowledge students bring to the table never fails to surprise me. Acknowledging the difficult aspects of the work and pushing through it despite the difficulties, students taught me the art of perserverance. Seeing their accomplishments recognized with a “SLEWS Was Here” sign installation students walked away proud and inspired.

They showed the knowledge they had learned through the creation of a Path Map (shown above). Working to embrace the arts and writing in the outdoors students created an incredible and representative piece of art for their time in the SLEWS program. Working to connect their experience back to their homes and classrooms, students also discussed what they could do to support their community when it came to its environmental impact. With climate change at the forefront of our minds students had great ideas to assist in the carbon sequestration process. One student was even inspired to develop her own garden in her back yard starting with strawberries!

We’d like to thank everyone for their contributions to this project! A special thanks to Yolo RCD and Annie and Jeff Main (owners of Good Humus Farms) for providing us with a great site to work at and direction for the restoration project. We also like to give an additional thanks to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and NRCS whose contributions make this project possible.

Exploring the Plant Materials Center

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | November 9, 2021

Location of Field Day:
NRCS Plant Materials Center – Lockeford, CA

Field Day Host and Mentors:
National Resource Conservation Service
Plant Materials Center – Matthew Bronson, Margaret Smither-Kopperl, Shawn Vue

Theme:
Interaction of Conservation and Agriculture

Our San Joaquin FARMS Leadership crew spent their second field day at the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Lockeford, where staff work to test plant species related to California conservation concerns. Students explored how the PMC conducts research on cover crops and pollinator species and then works directly with agricultural workers to help implement practices that maximize soil health and native wildlife on farm land.

During a breakfast of yogurt, granola, Asian pears and bananas, students were formally introduced to FARMS Student Leadership Roles. These are 4 different roles (Question Master, Nutrition Educators, Waste Management Warriors, and Partner Experts–see attached photo for a full description of each leadership role!) that are assigned to a new set of students each field day in order to help them practice the hard but oh so necessary leadership skills of decision-making, public speaking, direct communication, self-reflection, and research. Afterwards, our very first Question Master of the year kicked off our opening circle by choosing and posing the reflection question to the group “What is your top priority over the next 6 months?” Students had some incredible answers, like learning more about nutritious foods and how they impact bodies and becoming fluent in Russian!

Next we were joined by Margaret the PMC’s Manager, Matthew the Farm Manager, and Shawn the coordinator of all things PMC. Each shared about the mission of the PMC, their individual backgrounds and career journeys, and their individual roles at the PMC. Matthew then led us on a tour of the PMC facilities starting with the PMC’s shop, seed cleaning and storing facilities, laboratory, machinery storage shed, and lath house. Then we all hopped into a vehicle for a driving tour of the PMC’s farm land. Margaret led us across one field containing an experimental plot of cover crops, in which students feasted on sunflower seeds plucked directly from sunflower heads. Many of them twisted off the heads packed with seeds to plant their own sunflower patches at home.

During lunch, our Nutrition Educators went above and beyond to gather some background research on three fresh foods we were chowing on in our lunch dishes: squash, spinach and basil. After they gathered their information and eloquently presented the nutritional benefits of each food item to their peers, we prepared for our afternoon venture: planting an educational native pollinator garden for future generations of students to enjoy. Matthew briefed students on the process beginning to end including measuring and staking out the plots, cutting and securing down weed paper, and planting seedlings into the holes within the paper.

The sun escaped cloud cover just in time for us to head down to our plot and students set right to work. After some problem-solving and utilization of geometry class skills to ensure plot angles were correct, students measured and laid weed paper and planted away. Along the way, students discovered plenty of new worm, beetle and spider friends and by the end of the afternoon, they had established a garden with over 150 new plants!

Closing the day with our reflection circle, students had plenty to appreciate about the day. Many loved getting their hands dirty while planting fresh green life, others remembered climbing up into tractors and seed-distributing machines, and others most enjoyed traipsing through the PMC fields and learning about their cover crops. One student who has long wanted to go into the medical field shared that the last two field days have her re-thinking her career plan; now she’d like to find a professional path that combines medicine with agriculture and conservation efforts. Music to any FARMS Leadership Coordinator’s ears!

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