Unweaving the Thread: Learning About Cotton

FARMS Leadership | Central Valley Advanced | Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Location of Field Day:

USDA Cotton Classing Office – 7100 West Sunnyview Avenue, Visalia, CA 93291

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

Greg Townsend – Area Director

Edward Sandoval – USDA Visalia Classing Office and Fresno State Alumni

Theme: Leadership, Cotton Classing

Summary of the Day: The Central Valley Advanced FARMS Leadership students enjoyed their field day at the USDA Classing Office learning about the cotton industry-cotton grade standards, cotton classification services, Pima and Upland cotton, and more. 

Greg Townsend, the Area Director of the USDA Visalia Classing Office, and Edward Sandoval each spoke about their backgrounds in agriculture, their day to day tasks, and how the classing office supports farmers and the agricultural industry.

In their tour, students received an overview on the Cotton Classification process. They saw, firsthand, how samples were conditioned, transferred to the instrument classification, and then classified by USDA classers. They also learned how the data is stored in the classing facility’s database and National Database.

Students then learned about the two types of grade standards: Universal Upland Grade Standards and American Pima Grade Standards. Edward showed students how cotton is graded based on color and leaf. They also learned about extraneous matter, which is any substance found in the cotton other than fiber or leaf, and how it affects the grading.

Students learning about the differences between American Pima cotton and Upland Cotton.
USDA’s classing methodology is based on both grade and instrument standards used with state-of-the-art methods and equipment.
A USDA classer identified extraneous matter, such as plastic and balloon fragments, present in the cotton.

Students also strengthened their leadership skills by practicing how to introduce and thank a host. Then, students learned the importance of setting goals to increase their chances of success. Students individually created a S.M.A.R.T Goal(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) concerning the FARMS Leadership Program. Their goals ranged from improving and developing leadership skills, such as public speaking on agricultural topics/issues or in general or identifying a future career pathway to learn more about. They shared their goals, raised their chances of success, and gained feedback from their peers. 

Overall, we had a fantastic day! They are excited and prepared for their next field day and gain hands-on experience learning about the agricultural industry, the wide variety of jobs and careers available, and developing their leadership skills. 

Indigenous Lessons with Modern Applications

FARMS Leadership | San Joaquin x Sacramento Valley | Friday January 22, 2021

Location(s) of Field Day:
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
Plant Material Center (PMC) – Lockeford, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Margaret Smither-Kopperl — Site Manager
Matthew Bronson — Farm Manager
Valerie Bullard — Agronomist
Sean Vu — Environmental Technician

Theme:
Conservation through Modern Technologies and Indigenous Practices

Summary of the Day:
This crossover event features the FARMS Leadership classes of both the Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin region. Our hosts, NRCS Site Manager Margaret Smither-Kopperl and Valerie Bullard (Agronomist), join the hour-long, virtual tour of the Plant Material Center’s facilities and operations. In the Q&A portion, we review the history and purposes of the National Resource Conservation Service, the everyday roles of its discoveries in the Agriculture Industry. The Hands-on Learning Kit for this field day include: a map California’s NRCS PMC Service Areas, maps of the Lockeford PMC Service Area, Official NRCS Plant Guides, Official NRCS Conservation Guides, and samples of showy milkweed, NRCS cover crop seed mix, and strawberry tree fruit. 

For more information or to view January’s Field Day. ‘click’ the YouTube link below:

Organic Pest Management

FARMS Advanced | Monterey and Santa Cruz | February 21, 2019

Participating Schools:

Soledad High School

Location(s):

1700 Old Stage Road, Salinas

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Nathan Harkleroad – ALBA 
  • Octavio Garcia – ALBA 

Summary of the Day:

Students arrived at ALBA with coffee in hand. They found a seat at the front and I began with a greeting and check-in. ALBA stands for Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association and they provide educational courses on organic farming. Today students would learn more about IPM in an organic setting.

The Definition of IPM – The use of various methods to reduce pest population below economically damaging levels without adverse secondary effects

Students were presented information on IPM by Nathan Harkleroad. He showed the different levels of pest control management which are:

  1. Cultural Control
  2. Physical Mechanical Control
  3. Biological Control
  4. Chemical Control

Following Nathan’s IPM introduction was Octavio Garcia, a hardworking young man with an inspiring story about his journey to becoming a PCA and Farmer. He then explained what his typical day looks like and what his responsibilities are as a PCA. Students asked great questions about the workload and the difference between conventional IPM and organic IPM. Octavio shared that the IPM model was the same for both Organic and Conventional with exception of the types of controls used in Chemical Control level.

Nathan had a small hand lens for students to use out in the field. We headed outside to the strawberry beds to test out the lenses and drop predatory mites by hand. The beds were still wet from the rain and we all had soggy boots and feet when we were done. We then watched some informative videos by USDA researcher Eric Brannan and his findings on using asylum flowers as an insectary plant and hedgerows to manage pests by providing habitat for pollinators and birds that can help manage rodents and insects. The last activity on the agenda was a skills assessment activity to talk with students about soft and hard skills. It was a fun activity to do with students and I could vouch for their soft skills because I have seen these skills demonstrated.

  • Estrella is enthusiastic, social and reliable.
  • Andrea is organized, a team player and responsible.
  • Diana is patient, positive and a great listener.
  • Precious is honest, hardworking, and patient.
  • Aaron is loyal, task-oriented with an outlandish personality.

All of them are excellent public speakers, intuitive, mature, caring, fast learners and a pleasure to work with.

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