FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | October 28, 2019
School(s) Participating: Soledad High School
Location(s) of Field Day:
Cassin Ranch, 151 Silliman Rd. Watsonville, Ca. 95076
Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
- Cristal Verduzco – Sr. Forecasting Manager Berries & FARMS Alumni
- John Siletto – Main Speaker
- Diego Nieto – Staff Scientist in Entomology
- Micheal Moore – Director of Quality Operations
- Fred Cook – Plant Pathology Research and Development
- Gavin Sills – Breeding
- Jenny Broome – Sr. Research Manager Global Plant Health
- Ahna Miller – GIS Planning Analyst
- Miranda Ganci – Plant Pathology Research Associate
- Kelly Ivors – Plant Pathology
- Kyle Rak – Plant Breeding
- Chandler Bennett – Owner and Founder
- Kevin Hill – ParaBug Pilot
Summary of the Day
The day begins with a waffle breakfast with lots of beautiful Driscoll’s berries at Cassin Ranch. Students participate in a quick icebreaker and I introduce our host and FARMS Alumni Cristal Verduzco who is the Senior Raspberry Forecaster for Driscoll’s. We do an activity with students to gauge what their understanding of Integrated Pest Management is. Student’s ideas were surprisingly really close.
“I believe that Integrated Pest Management is when you create an artificial ecosystem to eliminate any unwanted item in the plant without the use of pesticides.” – Aaron Arriago
Dr. Kelly Ivors who is very knowledgeable in IPM helped us learn more. Aaron was surprised to discover that integrated pest management still uses pesticides but does so as a last resort. Dr. Ivors also introduced the term P.C.A. or pest control advisor which plays a huge role in pest management because they offer growers advice on the pests they find and recommend the best ways to eliminate the pests. The discussion led to a talk about student’s plans after high school. Both Cristal and Dr. Ivors share their stories and offered some sound advice to students. It was a very casual and informative discussion.
John Silleto came by and talked to students about Driscoll’s as a company and touch on the values and the history of Driscoll’s. John was very open about some of the challenges they face as an international organization and encouraged students to go to college so they can help with some of those challenges. FARMS Advanced students asked questions and were very professional during the presentation.
From there we went into the labs with Diego Nieto to see pests and dissect bugs to see if they had parasites in them. It was very shocking to see a bug ripped apart on a magnified screen. It was a first for all of us. After mutilating bugs we stepped outside with Kyle Rak to learn about his work in the raspberry test fields. In the background, Kevin Hill and Chandler Bennet prepped their ParaBug Drone for a demonstration.
In integrated pest management, one step to fighting pests is biological control and Chandler created a business that focusses on biological control by spreading predatory insects to fight crop-damaging pests. Students helped load the chamber with bugs and Kevin marked out a flight path and sent the drone to work. Meanwhile, students learned about how ParaBug started and asked many questions about what he does as a business owner and operator. It is hard to believe but we still had time to squeeze in one more activity before lunch.
We headed back to the lab, this time the plant pathology lab with Dr. Ivors and Miranda Ganci. Students put on their lab coats and helped investigate and diagnose a sick raspberry plant. The smashed pieces of the plant to a pulp so they could test for a specific phytophthora enzyme. The hands-on experience and support from professionals in the lab made students consider plant pathology as a potential career path.
Back at the conference room, Cristal Verduzco had lunch and a panel of Driscoll’s employees waiting to share their career pathways and open up about life challenges and successes. Students shared their plans for the future and panelist were very impressed by their public speaking skills, confidence, and professionalism to slow things down we took a trip to the lawn to take some group photos with employees and students. Then it was back inside for a discussion on GIS or geographic information systems with Ahna Miller. Ahna’s career pathway was interesting to hear and her sense of humor and fun energy captured students attention.
“ My favorite activity was the labs. I am really interested in Dr. Ivor’s career. I [also] learned more about how drones are used in Ag.” – Diana Mendoza