Horse Barn, Healthy Buffet, and Hearty Bouquets

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | January 23, 2020

Location(s) of the Field Day:

UC Davis Animal Science Horse Barn
448 La Rue Road, Davis CA 95616

Tercero Dining Commons

237 Tercero Hall Circle, Davis CA 95616

Bowley Plant Science Teaching Facility
1200 Ext Center Drive, Davis CA 95616

UC Davis Student Farm
1050 Ext Center Drive, Davis CA 95616

UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Headquarters
448 La Rue Road, Davis CA 95616

The Sacramento Valley field day at U.C. Davis began in the Cole Facility, a four-building compound dedicated to metabolism and physiology research. Our class was welcomed and given an overview of the facilities by Ben Rupchis (Goat Facility Manager) and Caleb Sehnert (Meat Lab Manager). Once we reviewed our itinerary, we conducted a warm-up activity that divided our class into small groups. Once in small groups, our class was led through separate, short tours to provide our collective a more especial and personalized look at the compound’s numerous operations and facilities, including: the horse barn, a literal barn where horses give birth as well as the stables and bullpens.

Following our tour of the Cole Facility, students, teachers, and FARMS staff walked the U.C. campus to convene at the the Tercero Dining Commons, a sprawling 30,000 square-foot, multi-level food court that features a plethora of domestic and international cuisines ranging from black-bean veggie burgers and pizza by the slice to made-to-order Mongolian-style bbq, schwarma, and various seafood dishes.

After our 1-hour lunch break, our collective trekked back to the Cole Facility to caravan across campus and reconvene at U.C. Davis’ organic garden.

Once regrouped, our class was dispersed into pairs. The single requirement for these student partnerships was that students must not be from the same school. Following introductions and the forming of new allegiances, pairs were tasked with an intra-garden scavenger hunt!

Students (and accompanying teachers too!) were provided checklists to aid in the hunt for various fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Most notable were the spicy mustard leaves that taste like wasabi and Meyers lemons, a cross between lemon and a mandarin orange, that can be eaten like an orange because of its higher sugar content.

After completing the organic garden scavenger hunt, we toured the Bowley Plant Science Teaching Facility, a wing of classrooms and labs that serve as instruction and research space for the Plant Sciences and Plant Biology Departments.

Following the Bowley Plant Science Teaching Facility tour, we headed outside to survey and explore the U.C. Davis Student Farm and Nursery. This 23-acre space is the foundation for U.C. Davis’ Agricultural Sustainability Institute; The land is maintained and operated exclusively by students, as has been tradition since its original founding in 1977. Today, it continues to serve as the Research and Development grounds for creating sustainable food systems and hosts many agriculture-based programs, studies, and ventures.

The final leg of this marathon field day ended near the Cole Facility, the start-line for this journey. The U.C. Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Headquarters is a gorgeous, verdant, and seemingly infinite outdoor space that hugs 100-acres of the 85-mile-long Putah Creek, within the 640-acre U.C. Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve. Once we became completely surrounded by trees, bushes, and flowers, we were met by Waterway Steward-extraordinaire and CLBL Alum Nina Suzuki. Suzuki, guided us through the history and purposes of the arboretum and riparian reserve and her work in ecological preservation and advocacy. We concluded this field day with a “debriefing circle”, reflecting on all we had learned.

A day of irrigation along two creeks

Winters High School at Putah Creek Dry Creek Confluence
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | November 1, 2019

Participating School
Winters High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Valerie Whitworth and Michael Barbour

Mentors
Corey Shake, Partner Biologist, Point Blue Conservation Science, NRCS
Josh McCabe, Restoration Coordinator at ACRT Pacific
Lea Pollack, UCD Graduate Student
Marisa Alcorta, Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning

Summary of the Day
Our second Sac Valley SLEWS day of the year brought us to the confluence of Putah Creek and Dry Creek in Winters, CA. Landowners Michael Barbour and Valerie Whitworth have been working with Yolo County Resource Conservation District to plan a habitat restoration project in an area that was damaged by fire in October 2018. This will increase biodiversity in the area as well as provide habitat for pollinators and the wildlife of the creek. We were happy to involve Winters High School students with this project, walking distance from their school!

After students arrived on foot and enjoyed breakfast, we gathered in our opening circle to introduce ourselves and the project goals, and learn names with a round of group juggle. From there Amy Williams of Yolo County Resource Conservation District led us towards the creek to teach us about a very important plant – blue elderberry. There are special rules and protective measures surrounding this plant. Why? It is the only host plant for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, a federally protected species of insect. Its habitat has been greatly reduced due to agriculture and urban development. To protect the beetle, the blue elderberry plant is protected from disturbance, trimming, and removal. Our project site has a sizeable elderberry shrub in the middle of it, so we took extra precautions to make sure it was not damaged during our work.

To start our project, we had to move a bunch of brush that was in the way of our project site. Though there was a sizeable amount of cut branches, students and mentors made extremely short work of it. Next the entire class gathered together to lay out the longest irrigation line. This is a group effort – students space themselves about 20 feet apart and carry the line all the way to the end as the spool of irrigation tubing unspools. One this line was “stapled” down, students got in their mentor groups to divide and conquer.

One group worked on installing emitters on existing oak trees, another created a “grid” of irrigation for the pollinator meadow, and the other two groups laid out 3 more lines of irrigation in the main planting area, taking care around the elderberry of course. By lunch time, students had installed 2500 feet total of irrigation and installed 280 emitters!

Once we were done eating, we ventured down to Putah Creek where Amy and mentor (and biologist!) Corey Shake talked about the significance of the creek and the wildlife that calls it home – especially spawning salmon! We even saw some wildlife of our own on the field day including western fence lizards, a fuzzy caterpillar, beetles, and birds. After exploring the creek, students found a quiet spot to sit and reflect on their first field day in a field journal. This low energy activity was probably a welcome end to the day – a mentor’s fitbit tracked that we walked 4 miles while working throughout the field day, not even counting the students’ walk to and from school!