Take the Weiß Pill

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | February 20, 2020

Location of Field Day: Bayer, 37437 CA-16 Woodland, CA 95695

Hosts: Lisa McDaniel, Head of Global Outreach & Engagement

The Sacramento Valley Field Day at Bayer Woodland began in the front lobby of the sprawling, iron-gated compound. We were promptly met by Lisa McDaniel, Head of Global Outreach & Engagement.

Once our entire class arrived, Lisa escorted us to a boardroom on the second floor of an even larger building on the opposite side of the Bayer Woodland campus. Upon arrival at our second meeting place, we conducted an “open circle”, students introduced themselves, we reviewed the day’s itinerary, and we were provided id badges to wear for the duration of our tour. Following a ‘hotel breakfast’ of multigrain bars, muffins, yogurt, juice, and coffee, we headed out for a tour the various research and development facilities.

Our first stops were a series of greenhouses where we learned about the safety measures taken to protect crop yields. We learned about specialty breeding and the genome-tracking processes that ensure the strongest, most drought-resistant produce. We then toured their maintenance facility where we learned that the use of GPS systems can help better track crop development.

After our tour of the grounds, we regrouped in the boardroom and were treated to pizza for lunch! During our lunch, we were joined by a diverse panel of Bayer professionals who introduced themselves told us all a little bit about their background and their work at Bayer. After lunch and thanking the panel for their time, we headed downstairs to participate in a hands-on activity that mimicked the science of tracking disease by inspecting samples and referring to a checklist for tell-tale signs of illness in plants. We then headed back upstairs to take part in a market research survey to compare and contrast the tastes of tomatoes. And we learned that taste-preferences can vary widely in the global market.

We concluded this trip with a “closing circle” that asked students to recall something they learned during their tour at Bayer. We thanked our hosts and departed.

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.

Family Farming in the Salinas Valley

FARMS Leadership | Monterey and Santa Cruz | October 10, 2019

Participating Schools:

  • Gonzales High School
  • Soquel High School

Location(s):
Pura Ranch, 28531 Corda Rd. Gonzales, Ca 93926
Pisoni Family’s Estate Vineyard 34361 Paraiso Spring Rd. Soledad, Ca 93960

Field Day Host(s) and Mentor(s): Pisoni Family Vineyards

  • Mark Pisoni – Owner, Farmer and Vineyard Manager
  • Jazmin Lopez – Compliance Manager of Special Projects
  • Elias Gandara – Vineyard Manager
  • Jesus Camacho – Ranch Manager

Summary of the Day:
It is the start of a new FARMS Leadership program and for our first field day, we will be with Pisoni Family Vineyards. FARMS Leadership is the first-year program for students and our focus is on career exploration in ag and resource management. Once the students arrived at Pura Ranch, ate a quick breakfast we immediately did some introductions. This is the first time students are all in the same space together. An icebreaker name game gets us out of our seats and warmed up. Students were ready for the day.

Jazmin Lopez would be our guide throughout our day and introduce students to a multitude of careers, beginning with her own. Students learned about Jazmin’s personal pathway and how and why she started at a liberal arts college, worked for the CA Strawberry Commission, became a Master Gardener and now works for Pisoni Vineyards as the Compliance Manager of Special Projects. We would see some of those special projects later in the day.

The Pisoni Family has a beautiful vegetable farm of 500 acres in Gonzales, California. Students had some hands-on experience taking soil samples and harvesting cauliflower from the fields. That cauliflower would later be our lunch.

With about a dozen heads of cauliflower, we got into our vehicles and made our way further South to Pisoni Family Vineyards the Family’s Estate Vineyard in Soledad, California. The views from the vineyard overlooked the Salinas Valley and they were spectacular. This is where we met Mark Pisoni, the owner, farmer, and vineyard manager. Mark spoke about his personal pathway into his career and gave students some very good advice throughout the day. Mark gave us a tour of the vineyard and shared his knowledge about the land and the business of growing grapes. Students were very engaged while they tasted chardonnay grapes and listened to Mark talk about how the grapevines grow and are maintained. The tour ended with a walk through the insectary (one of Jazmin’s special projects) and of course some lunch.

It was over lunch when Mark introduced Elias Gandara as one of his best employees and trusted friend. Mark stressed the importance of learning Spanish and really being serious about it and immerse yourself in the culture if you can. Communication is such an important part of being a great leader. The final piece of advice Mark Pisoni left students with was a lesson on networking. Everyone received a card from Mark after lunch with his contact information and he encouraged them all to send him an email introducing themselves and following up on the professional connection. Mark shared a trade secret with students that can be just as valuable as going to college and that is, sometimes it’s who you know in agriculture and the relationships you maintain.

Following lunch, students had a chance to learn about bees and apiary management, just another special project by Jazmin Lopez. This was a first time experience for the students and for the coordinator. The sound of the bees flying around your head is loud and filled with energy as wings buzz to and fro. The best part was learning about Jazmin’s experience keeping bees and of course we enjoyed tasting honey fresh from the hive!

Thank you Pisoni Vineyards for such a wonderful FARMS Leadership Field Day!