I lived and worked at a ranch in Santa Barbara the following semester, doing school online. During that time, I wrote my undergraduate thesis based on feedback from some regenerative ranchers and farmers in California who said that there's not enough information about how regenerative techniques are applicable on a given farmer's land with its particular conditions. To engage with this, I proposed an experiment to study the effect of the Indigenous Three Sisters intercropping system and no-till techniques on soil health and soil organic carbon across climate types. I graduated in the fall of 2021 with a degree in biology and a minor in studio art. Since then, I lived at and helped renovate a collective in Germany, hitchhiked through Greece and Albania, and worked restoring a piece of land in Bodega, CA. I firmly believe that a community facing a challenge is best positioned to find appropriate solutions for it, and that science should be done by and for the people it affects. Values which I'm excited that the extension system shares.
While here, I will be building HREC's capacity to conduct work around climate resiliency: supporting regenerative grazing and sustainable forest management; educating and facilitating citizen science using the land as our primary teacher; supporting new technologies on working and research landscapes; and building and deepening partnerships in the community.
If you're curious about the GrizzlyCorps program you can find more information here: https://www.grizzlycorps.org/
University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Hopland REC have partnered with Mendocino County Farm Bureau, Visit Mendocino County, , experienced local agritourism operators and other local partners to offer a five-session agritourism planning course for farmers and ranchers and others involved in agritourism in Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma Counties. Farmers and ranchers who are considering, starting or expanding agritourism or nature tourism enterprises on their farms or ranches are invited to register for this low-cost participatory course.
Agritourism is a commercial enterprise at a working farm or ranch conducted for the enjoyment and education of visitors, and that generates supplemental income for the owner or operator. Agritourism can include farm stands or shops, U-pick, farm stays, tours, on-farm classes, workshops, tasting rooms, fairs, festivals, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, Christmas tree farms, winery weddings, orchard dinners, youth camps, barn dances, hunting or fishing, guest ranches, and more.
“Agricultural operations in the North Coast region can offer visitors a diversity of natural beauty and unique experiences with local farmers and ranchers. It can be difficult for small-scale farmers and ranchers to make a living when dealing with production challenges, uncertainty and lack of economies of scale. Our workshops will give agricultural producers contacts and tools to understand regulatory requirements and to develop and market their agritourism enterprises, adding to their income and helping spread the risk of tough production years,” said Penny Leff, UC SAREP Agritourism Coordinator.
Participants will evaluate their own farms or ranches for agritourism potential and consider the costs and potential benefits of various activities. Each will receive the UC ANR published handbook, “Agritourism and Nature Tourism in California,” which will be used as the text for the class. Attendees will hear from experienced agritourism operators and experts in business planning, risk management, regulatory compliance and marketing. Class instructors will provide individual guidance and help participants form a supportive network as they plan their own agritourism or nature tourism businesses.
Registration is now open.
Important: The Mendocino region Agritourism Intensive class is open only to farmers, ranchers and others involved in or planning agritourism in Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma Counties.
Format: 4 participatory 2-hour Zoom meetings, every Wednesday morning from March 3, 2021 through March 24, 2021, and one in-person field day on the site of a Mendocino County agritourism operation (location TBD) on March 31.
Workshop fee: $40 (for all class sessions, class manual mailed to each participant, lunch on March 31)
Information & scholarship options: Penny Leff, firstname.lastname@example.org, 530-902-9763 (cell)
This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28587.
A great update from our Summer Camp intern Taylor Woodruff:
Planning the whole camp was one thing, but actually running the Sustainable You summer camp was awesome! I was a little nervous to meet all of the campers, but everyone was extremely kind and caring. The kids are what made the camp so great! Of course the activities were fun, but seeing them engaging and actually caring about our planet is what makes it all worth it. They were all such a joy to be around. Although I am the intern, I didn't feel like I was working. I wanted to be there and I was having just as much fun as all the other campers. The whole property of HREC is gorgeous, and exploring the area with fun activities was my favorite part. The hardest part of camp was to not just be their friend, but to keep reminding them that I am an adult and they needed to be listening when I was talking. If Hannah and I split into groups to do an activity, my group seemed to be a lot more off-task and thought they were allowed to do whatever they pleased. It was difficult for me to keep their attention when they just wanted to hangout and play, not listen to what I was trying to teach them. But for the most part, everyone tried to listen as best they could. Of course it can be difficult at their age, but they really tried and that's what matters. For me, the activities which involved a little more science were my favorites. For example, I got to do some chemistry with the campers. They performed water quality tests, and determined whether the water was healthy or polluted. It made me happy to bring out the microscopes, and have the campers observe spiders and snake skin extremely close. Putting the solar cars together was also great. Then I got to help tweak their cars to race faster. We got to see and appreciate the animals: five lambs, a giant wolf spider, multiple species of snakes, lizards, rats, mice, scorpions, and the sheep dogs with their sheep. Although we didn't see them in-person, the campers found so much more wildlife on their trail cameras. They got some awesome pictures of raccoons, foxes, and more! When I was planning for Tuesday morning, I was worried about our water treatment tour. We haven't been there before, so we weren't sure what to expect. It actually was a lot of the kids favorite tour, so that was great. Hannah and I might've been too prepared with planning, and ended up with a lot of backup activities. It was way better to overplan, than to have empty spaces where the kids would be bored. Overall, the whole camp was a blast, and I would love to come and help out if they ever need me again.
-- Taylor Woodruff
Hi! I'm Taylor Woodruff, the new summer camp intern for the Sustainable You! - Adventure Science Camp! I am 21 years old, graduated from Clear Lake High School in 2015, and am currently a student at Mendocino College. At the college, I am a tutor for Statistics and Trigonometry. I am also Secretary of Gaming Club and an active member of Anime Club! I will be transferring soon with a degree in both Allied Health and Biology. I intend to pursue Marine Biology so I can study and help conserve sharks! I love all animals and plants. If there's any outdoor activity, count me in! I grew up playing soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, snowboarding, waterskiing and barefoot skiing. Fun fact: I have been classically trained to play the flute since 5th grade. I am kind, very easy to get along with, and determined to get any task done.
The UC Hopland Research and Extension Center is such a wonderful place. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming. I had little knowledge of the area before being recommended for this internship position, but I am so glad that I was selected. There is so much beautiful property out here -- 5,300 acres! Such a wonderful place for researchers to come out. Speaking of researcher, I've gotten to meet quite a few!
I stopped in and got to ask Dr. Vardo-Zalik and her team all about what they are doing with their lizard malaria research. Being a science major myself, I was super interested and wanted to bug them as much as I could. She explained a lot to me, let me hold and identify the genders of the Western Fence Lizards, observe a vector of the malaria parasite (the Sand Fly), watch them take blood samples, and I even got to look at those samples under the microscope through oil immersion. All of it was so fascinating. She also shared with me her passion for sharks and rays, and I think that was my favorite part. :)
I also got to meet some of the Brashares lab researchers. Talking to them was interesting as well, hearing about how they plan to catch a mountain lion and put a tracking collar on it. They are going to help out during our summer camp to have the kids set trail cameras, set small mammal traps, and check the traps in the morning. Hannah Bird even showed me a lot of the pictures that have been captured on different wildlife cameras scattered around the property. There are beautiful pictures of mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, raccoons and deer.
Thanks to Alison Smith letting me know when, I was able to see the two cutest baby lambs! While preparing for an insect activity down in the creek, I got distracted by all the tadpoles! There were so many and some had already developed teeny-tiny legs. Super cute. It's also pretty fun to take a moment and watch the woodpeckers. Brook Gamble was nice enough to give me California Naturalist journal as a present on my first day. Brook, Hannah and I got to use them and try out some of the journal activities we plan to do with the campers. I also got to share with Brook an awesome video I took of a spider making a web. It might get posted on the California Naturalist instagram, so be on the lookout! :)
In order to view more of the property and get away from the computer for a bit, I was able to help out our volunteer phenologists. We went around to multiple species of trees and other plants to record a lot of data including how many leaves, how many flowers, recording post-fire data, and more. They were very kind and funny. I'm glad I got to help them out.
Planning camp has been a lot of work! Staying organized and keeping on top of my tasks has prevented me from unwanted stress. This has been a lot of fun, but I am much more excited to meet the campers and run activities with them! Thank you Hannah, for everything!
UC Hopland REC Reduce Sheep Flock
For over 65 years, the Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) has been well known as one of the last large scale sheep ranches and research facilities in the northwest. Their woolly forms are a familiar sight against the backdrop of the 5,358 acre site, well loved by the community for school field trips during the lambing season and for the sheepdog trials during the fall. In addition, they have a long history of being on the forefront of emerging research and management strategies related to sheep for topics such as: sheep biology and management, rangeland management, livestock/predator/wildlife interactions, as well as grazing as a tool for vineyard owners, fire prevention, and noxious weed control.
This summer the HREC flock will be reduced from 500 breeding ewes to approximately 125 and their full time shepherd position will be cut. The sheep will be sold at auction on the site (4070 University Road, Hopland, CA) on June 3. The sale will allow sealed bids from 8am-11am, with a minimum lot size of 20 animals. This reduction echoes a change that can been seen across the state in flock size and management styles.
Agriculture moves in cycles, following both the seasons and market demands. The sheep population in Mendocino County has fallen from 140,000 in 1954 (UCANR) to 10,400 in 2018 (USDA), and statewide sheep numbers have fallen from 2,034,000 in 1954 (UCANR) to 550,000 at the end of 2018 (USDA). As California flock numbers have declined, so has sheep research interest and funding.
Magnifying the impact of these changes, HREC is facing a significant reduction in funding from the University of California system. HREC is one of nine Research and Extension Centers (RECs) under the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) division which has seen significant budget challenges in the last few years due to flat state funding. Overall, budget reductions of $3.1 million from central (ANR) funding across the REC system are planned, and HREC's share of these cuts will amount to over 30% of its budget. The scale of this budget reduction is driving a statewide reevaluation of priorities and strategic decisions about where ANR should allocate limited funds to best meet its mission of strengthening the health of California's people, communities, food systems, and environment.
“While we must strategically adjust to financial realities and changes in research and extension priorities, we are sad to see the flock reduced and to face the coming loss of our dedicated and talented shepherd Jim Lewers. The smaller HREC flock will continue to fulfill an important role at the site, allowing us to continue to offer sheep focused educational programs and events, and to share our experience and research with sheep owners. The flock is a key tool in reducing the risk of wildfire through grazing for fire fuel reduction. Targeted grazing also helps to reduce invasive species and provides food and fiber. We plan to continue to welcome our community youth to “meet the lambs” and celebrate the services and products provided from the HREC flock at our events, for example our Wool Growers Field Day which takes place on June 1” said John Bailey, Interim Director at HREC. “We are also working to pivot our livestock programs to meet a broad array of identified research and extension needs. This will include working with private producers and potential diversifying into other species such as cattle.”
Although sheep have been considered a core feature of HREC, many other aspects of natural resource management and education are offered at the site. The diverse landscape offers oak woodland, chaparral, and riparian areas, as well as the ability to compare areas affected and unaffected by the 2018 River Fire. This landscape provides an important site for researchers from across the University of California system and beyond to study diverse aspects of the ecosystem services and working landscapes that makes California the wonderfully productive and diverse state that it is. Currently 19 research projects are studying topics including: climate change effects on soils and oaks: to tick-borne diseases: to wildlife ecology and management: rangeland ecology: fire science and sustainable land management practices.
In addition to diverse research opportunities, HRECs Community Education Specialist, Hannah Bird, has built and continues to develop a rich portfolio of extension and education events including workshops, field trips, and field classes. With the goal of educating and inspiring connection to and knowledge of diverse aspects of agriculture and natural resources, program offerings include not only sheep and wool focused events but also naturalist trainings, fire science education, birding trips, a youth summer camp, and extensive field trips which have brought over 2000 community members to the site in the past year.
“We are excited to share this wonderful site and extend the deep and broad knowledge which researchers and passionate individuals have developed about California ecosystems and agricultural systems. In this era of increasing focus on digital devices, we offer an alternative of hands-on, science-based educational opportunities for youth and people of all ages to engage with and deepen their love for our rich environmental and agricultural heritage.”
Despite the system-wide budget challenges, HREC continues to build its research and educational programs. Donor support and grants have become an integral part of their future. “Over the last year, we have been successful in obtaining grant awards from the Environmental Protection Agency with our partner REC in the Sierra Foothills for $100,000 to support fire education for middle school youth and adults, local grants to support youth education from the Mendocino Community Foundation, and individual donors have supported us with over $18,000 in 2018. Never has there been a time when such support is more needed at HREC to help us to continue to fulfill our important role in northern California.” commented Bailey in closing.
For further information regarding the sheep sale on June 3rd please visit http://bit.ly/HRECSheep . For information regarding the Wool Growers Field Day on June 1st please visit http://bit.ly/WoolGrowers . To find out more about HREC or donate to their work visit: http://hrec.ucanr.edu/ or call Hannah at (707) 744 1424 ext 105.