We are Back In-Person with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County

FARMS Advanced |Central Coast Region | Sept 23, 2021

Location(s) of Field Day:
Farm Bureau of Monterey County and ALBA

Participating Schools from Monterey & Santa Cruz Region:
Alisal High School (virtual)
Gonzalez High School (in-person)

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Jacob Dixon – FARMS Alumni and Senior at Cal Poly
Juan Perez – FARMS Alumni and Senior at Cal Poly
Laura Murphy – Soil Scientist with the RCD of Monterey County
Paul Robins – Executive Director of the RCD of Monterey County
Megan Barker – RCD of Monterey County
Mary Kimball – CEO of the Center for Land-Based Learning
Andrea Tinajero – ALBA
Norm Groot – Monterey County Farm Bureau


Theme: What can Resource Conservation Districts do to create a more inclusive dialogue about conservation work?

Summary of the Day:  It feels so good to be back in-person with students. The Advanced Cohort had the pleasure of kicking off the year! Since the Advanced students are our second year students their field days are a bit more involved and require professionalizm, critical thinking and a willingness to step out of their comfort zones just a bit.

Advanced begins early in the morning as I pick up students. This is the first time we are meeting face to face. Their leadership year was entirly online. After pick up we head to the Monterey County Farm Bureau and we have some brealfast. We are luck to have Mary Kimball joining us from Woodland. We begin with an icebreaker and students stand and introduce themselves with confidence and assertiveness. We invite Norm Groot to join us for our morning icebreaker, Two Truths and a Lie. We all learn so much about each other from this excersice it is a lot of fun! Norm Groot took the floor and shared his career pathway, the history of Farm Bureaus’ and what they do to support farmers and the Ag industry.

From there Megan signed us on to zoom and we met with Alisal HS students and FARMS Alumni, Juan Perez and Jacob Dixon. Both Jacob and Juan participate in the RCD Speak-off Contest when they were in the FARMS program. They shared their experience with students and gave them pointers on public speaking and speech writing. Jacob encouraged students that the speak-off judges only want to help and be supportive and students should not be nervous or afraid of them. Juan let students know that when it comes to writing a speech the key is starting early so you can have time to revise, practice and then revise & practice again. Next we discussed the speak-off contest and the speech prompt for this year.

Speak -Off Topic

“What can Resource Conservation Districts do to help create a more inclusive dialogue about conservation work?”

the Californina Association of RCD’s

The topic is not an easy one by any means and it required quite a bit of dicussion. I took notes as we broke down the topic and defined key words like “enclusive dialogue” .

It was time to head out to ALBA to meet some farmers and eat some lunch. After lunch we gave students the opportunity to discover how the RCD of Monterey County engages farmers in dialogue. Students where tasked with asking Farmers questions themselves. Some students took it apon themselves to ask their questions in Spanish which was a great way of demonstrating inclusive dialogue. Andrea Tinajero organized an amazing line-up of farmers to meet with students and share honestly and candidly thier experiences as Farmers and business owners.

Here are some of the questions students asked:

  1. What led you to farming?
  2. What resource conservation concerns do you have?
  3. How can you best be reached to have discussions about resource conservation (for example, email, cell phone, in-person visits, etc.)?
  4. Where do you want to have those discussions (for example, over the phone, online, in public meetings, in groups, during 1-on-1 personal visits to your farm, etc.)?

The day ended with a hands on soil sampling and test activity that students did with Farmers in their fields. It was a beautiful day to be in the fields and a perfect day for our first FARMS Advanced Field Day.

What can the Soil Tell us About the Land?

FARMS Leadership | Monterey & Santa Cruz | November 7th, 2019

Location(s) of Field Day:
D’Arrigo Ranch – 18742 Gould Rd. Salinas, Ca
Hartnell College Alisal Campus – 1752 E Alisal St. Salinas, Ca

Participating Schools:
Gonzales High School
Soquel High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors:
Resource Conservation District for Monterey County(RCDMC)
Paul Robins – Executive Director 
Megan Baker – Project Administrator 
Laura Murphy – Soil Scientist
Chelsea Rutt – Student Trainee (Soil Conservation)
Shaun Richards – Ag Water Management Specialist

National Resource Conservation District(NRCS)
Drew Mather – Conservation Planner 
Allison Tokunaga – Rangeland Conservationist

D’Arrigo Brothers
Ed Mora – PCA
Saul Lopez Jr. – D’Arrigo Superintendent / PCA 

Summary of the Day:

When it comes to soil conservation the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County (RCDMC) are the experts. Students had the opportunity to spend the day with these local experts and learn more about soil science, land judging and possible careers in Ag and Conservation.

Students arrived at the D’Arrigo Ranch promptly to a warm breakfast. After breakfast, we headed out to a freshly harvested field to meet our field day mentors. Paul Robins started with an overview and history of the NRCS and the RCD, and how they support local farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners wanting to make conservation improvements to their land. One of the local ag companies that work with the RCDMC is D’Arrigo Brothers and we were lucky enough to have Saul Lopez Jr. and Ed Mora from D’Arrigo on-site to greet students.

It was time to learn how to judge the land for the land judging competition. There was a lot to cover and Laura Murphy, Shaun Richards, and Drew Mather gave students a crash course on soil properties and proper ways of observing and analyzing soil and topography. With that, students were ready to try it on their own.

“It’s kinda cool, right? From where we started with color and texture we’re sort of predicting out. Just from texture you can tell so much about what you can do with your soil, from available water to instability for building or for growing plant life.” – Drew Mather, NRCS

In order to make the land judging contest more competitive, the RCD has agreed to provide the first place winner with a scholarship to California Range and Natural Resources Camp at Elkus Ranch in Half-Moon Bay. Students will spend 10 minutes in the pit and 10 minutes outside the pit at 2 different locations. Each student and team will get an opportunity to make observations and record their findings on a scorecard that would later be graded. Judges will combine the two scores to determine the winner. Students do their best and turn in their scorecards.

We head to Hartnell College for lunch and some team building activities while the scorecards are graded. Before the winners are announced students split up into groups of two to meet the experts and practice their networking skills. Professionals share information about their careers and what they do and why they like it while asking students to share more about their own interests and future plans for themselves.

Finally, it is announced that the top two scorers for the land judging competition go to Kayli Plazola and Sophia Lopez from Gonzales High School.

A big thank you to Megan Barker from the RCDMC for working with FARMS to plan this field day.

RCDMC – Resource Conservation District of Monterey County

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | November 15, 2018

Location(s) of Field Day
DiCarli Ranch 25420 Old Stage Rd. Chualar, Ca
Buena Vista Grange

Schools Participating
Gonzales High School
North Salinas High School
Soledad High School
Watsonville High School

Field Day Hosts and Mentors
Paul Robins, Executive Director with RCDMC
Megan Baker, Project Administrator with RCDMC
Laura Murphy, Soil Scientist with RCDMC
Ken Oster, Soil Scientist with NRCS
Wayne Gularte, Grower

Summary of the Day

DiCarli Ranch is chilly in the morning as students grab a breakfast burrito and some warm champorado. Students slowly begin warming up as we listen to Wayne Gularte, a farmer who has been working with the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County for many years and has allowed us to use his fields to have our field day. Wayne kicks off the field day by sharing his profession and what lead him to farm, and he recalls working on the field during the summer as a young boy. Wayne encourages students to spend time working in the fields at least once in their life as a way to build a strong work ethic.

Students receive a demonstration on land judging from Ken Oster a long time National Resource Conservation Service employee. There are a lot of different land characteristics that students will have to look for – characteristics like soil texture, soil thickness and they must determine the slope of the land. Then students use the data and information to identify some potential land uses, management needs and land limitation.

It’s a quick lesson before we split the students into groups by school and they alternate between 2 pit locations. Students record their findings and observations on a scorecard.

After our time in the pits, we drove to the Grange Hall for lunch. Student scorecards were graded while we heard from a Monterey FARMS Alumni, Kyla Monroe. Kyla had won the land judging contest years back and received a scholarship to range camp. She shared her experience at range camp.

Winners of The 2019 Land Judging Contest
and Recipients of The Range Camp Scholarships

  1. Jessica Rodriguez – Watsonville High School
  2. Luis Gomez – Watsonville High School
  3. Hailey Higgins – Soledad High School

We ended the Field Day with group interviews. where students had an opportunity to ask the industry professionals questions about their jobs and professions were able to ask students about their plans after high school.

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