The Founder’s Harvest

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | Thursday November 12, 2020

Location(s) of Field Day:
Sierra Orchards – Winters, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Craig McNamara – Owner & Founder
Ramon Del Toro – Farm Manager
Sean McNamara – Farm Manager
Emily McNamara – Apprentice Farm Supervisor
Attila Kolozsi – Loading Supervisor & Farmhand

Theme:
Organic Walnut Production, Conservation, & Food Security

Summary of the Day:
The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership class commenced the 2020-2021 program a bit differently than previous years; Opting for a digital model that abides by the social-distancing safety standards necessitated by the Coronavirus pandemic. Students and teachers from Grant Union High School, Luther Burbank High School, and River City High School all joined Craig McNamara, owner of Sierra Orchards in a Zoom webinar for a screening of the virtual tour of his organic walnut orchard. In the post-tour Q&A session, one standout Junior of Luther Burbank, held Mr. McNamara to task with a battery of questions about his experience in the organic growing industry. FARMS Leadership students and a couple lucky teachers were provided Hands-On Learning Kits that included: organic walnut pieces, organic in-shell walnuts, crushed walnut shells, Sierra Orchards compost, organic cover crop mix, and a walnut grading sheet exhibiting the various defects that can befall the nutty legume; all complements of Craig McNamara and Sierra Orchards.


For more information or to view November’s Field Day, ‘click’ the YouTube link below:

Organic Farmer Training Programs

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | November 16, 2020

Location(s) of Field Day:
ALBA (Agriculture Land-Based Training Association)
1700 Old Stage Rd, Salinas, CA 93908

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

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Nathan Harkleroad – Education Program Manager with ALBA
Nancy Porto – Community Relations and Environmental Education Officer

Theme: Organic Farming

Summary of the Day: 

We wouldn’t be the FARMS Program if we didn’t talk about farming. This month, students learned about Organic Farming and the different training programs offered by ALBA. One of our students, Anahi Benivedes’ father is actually a farmer in one of the ALBA Programs. Nathan and Nancy shared a very engaging presentation and took us on a fun and informative virtual tour of the ALBA Headquarters. For the hands-on kits, students received an infographic poster about organic farming and conventional farming. They each received organic seedlings for their home gardens.

Farmer Training in the Salinas Valley

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | December 5th, 2019

Location(s) of Field Day:
ALBA Campus 1700 Old Stage Road, Salinas Ca

Participating Schools:
Soquel High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Nathan Harkleroad – Education Program Director
Nancy Porto – Community Relations and Environmental Education Officer

Summary of the Day: 
At today’s field day students had to make their way through roadblocks and detours to get to the ALBA Campus. Last night’s storm caused a levy to break and flooded several South Monterey County Cities including Gonzales. By morning Gonzales HS had to close for the day and Gonzales HS students in the FARMS program could not make it to the field day.

Luckily, Soquel High School students made it safely to the field day site ready to learn about Organic Farmer Training. ALBA stands for Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association. Students spent the morning learning about the farmer education course that provides hands-on training and college-accredited coursework to the next generation of organic farmers. The course allows aspiring farmers to learn about organic farming production, pest management, marketing, record keeping, labor laws and much more. 

Nathan Harkleroad the education program director taught students about organic pest management and careers in pest management like crop planning and research. He shared research from the USDA on an experiment using alyssum as a conservation bio-control. Alyssum can be very beneficial for organic farmers because it attracts hoverflies that help control aphids. Students had the opportunity to plant a hundred alyssum plants in the fields. 

Finally, the day ended with a farm tour and included meaningful discussions about: 

  • Sustainability practices like straw bale buildings, solar panels to power buildings and well pumps.
  • Water wells and the limited water resources in the area as well as some water regulations affecting farmers today. 
  • Hedgerows, cover crops, windbreaks, and how beneficial these are for the soil and land conservation.
  • The visible differences from how ALBA manages their land and how the neighboring conventional farmers manage their land.