The Mighty Mentors of SLEWS

SLEWS Program | Central Valley | January 27th, 2022

Location of the Field Day:
The Maples

Partners/Landowners:
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Point Blue Conservation Science
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Mentors/Volunteers:
Jeanne Wirka, Alex Lintner, Beth DelReal, Heather Lyon, Morgan Caudill, Anna Tolle, Ric Murphy, Sara Lipschutz, Brandi Murphy, Nick Gallagher, Joaquin Pastrana, Grace Ferguson, Amy Williams, and Natalia (SLEWS Intern!)

Accomplishments: 12 native grasses and 86 shrubs/sub-shrubs planted with tubex, bamboo stakes, and fully mulched! 800 feet of drip irrigation installed.

Summary of the Day:
A total of 14 SLEWS mentors and volunteers came together to complete the east hedgerow on The Maples property. Despite the absence of students, we were able to kick off this field day “test run” in the typical SLEWS fashion. Volunteers got the opportunity to engage in a project from start to finish, planting a total of 98 plants complete with drip irrigation, mulch, gopher baskets, tubex, and bamboo stakes. Preparing for the day students return to the field in February, mentors had the opportunity to ask clarifying questions, get to know the partners they would be working with, and of course enjoy the famous SLEWS burritos at the end of the day rewarding all the hard work they had completed.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions! A special thanks to Yolo RCD who helped with the implementation plan and took care of our plants before the long awaited planting day. Additional thanks to NRCS and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation whose support makes this project possible.

Farm to Fork Olive Oil

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | October 26, 2021

Location of Field Day:
Cobram Estate – Woodland, CA

Field Day Host and Mentors:
Cobram Estate – Ciriaco Chavez and Mikayla Gnoss

Theme:
Olive Oil & Sustainable Ag

The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership crew kicked off our first field day of the season at Cobram Estate, a leading CA producer of olive oil. After students chowed down some healthy breakfast burritos, we hopped back in our vehicles to venture out to two of Cobram’s olive tree orchards. Strolling through the orchards with Cobram’s Ciraco Chavez and Mikayla Gnoss, we learned all about olive varieties, Cobram’s unique style of planting olive trees (quite different from the iconic olive tree orchards you might see across Europe), and Cobram’s efforts at sustainable growing practices (including a state of the art drip irrigation system and equipment that tracks daily moisture levels to determine the exact amount of water needed by trees, no more, no less. Before heading back, students each harvested olives by hand.

From the orchards, we moved into some mill exploration. Ciriaco and Mikayla led us through olive oil processing from beginning to end: 1) trucks dump loads of harvested olives into an underground collector, 2) olives travel upward again on automated belts which transport them through high-tech machinery that separates good from bad olives, 3) olives are crushed and sent through several centrifuges that separate out the oil, 4) oil is stored in massive vats that can hold up to tens of thousands of gallons, and finally 5) oil is bottled and labeled by automated machines. Our last stop on the tour was Modern Olives: an independent olive oil research laboratory housed within Cobram Estate. We discussed ag careers at every stop, from orchard management to engineering and building mill machinery to laboratory research within Modern Olives.

After students sat down for a fantastic olive oil tasting led by Modern Olive’s head researcher, students made their own olive oil-based (using Cobram Estate oil of course!) salad dressings which they enjoyed on salads for lunch. We ended the day with the olives the students harvested that morning: utilizing observation skills, math skills, and scales, students each calculated the average ripeness level of each tree they harvested from. As Cobram approaches their harvest season, our partners were happy to have our students do some of their olive sampling for them!

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.