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
FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | October 11, 2018
Participating Schools: Everett Alverez High School Gonzales High School Soledad High School Watsonville High School
Location(s) of Field Day: ALBA Campus 1700 Old Stage Road, Salinas Ca
Field Day Hosts and Mentors: Nathan Harkleroad, ALBA Education Program Director Patty Howe, ALBA Administrative Director Samantha Tuttle, ALBA Student Intern Juana Hernandez, ALBA Administrative Assistant Leo Sanchez and Rebecca Hernandez, Lazy Millennial Farms, Owners Rudy Jimenez, Green Thumb Organics, Owner Victor Cortez, La Granjita Farms, Owner
Summary of the Day:
Our Monterey and Santa Cruz FARMS Leadership Program kicked off their first field day with a visit to the ALBA, Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association, Campus. After breakfast, we had an icebreaker activity – a name game allowing students to get to know each other and to help us all remember names. The students collected program goodies and supplies. Then, we had an open discussion about the organic industry. We talked about what we knew about organic produce and production. We also explored the areas we had questions about and made a note to ask them along the way.
Here are some of the questions students had:
“How much is [farm] land and why is it so expensive?” – Randy Huynh, NSH
“What are the downsides [with organics]?” – Hailey Higgins, SHS
“Why is organic food more expensive?” – Sonia Vargas, GHS
“What’s the process to becoming an organic farmer?” – WHS
In our discussion, we also talked about how ALBA was a non-profit organization with a mission.
ALBA’s mission is to create economic opportunity for limited-resource and aspiring organic farmers through land-based education in the heart of the Salinas Valley.