- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
While most Americans choose their Thanksgiving turkeys from the meat department at the local grocery store, Brylee Aubin and Yaxeli Saiz-Tapia can tell you the life histories of their holiday birds. The Sonoma County teenagers raise heritage turkeys together as part of a 4-H youth development project and sell them for Thanksgiving. For the last two years, Yaxeli's older brother Uli has joined the project and, between the three of them, they raised 47 turkeys this year.
The Heritage Turkey Project in Sonoma County has about 15 members of the UC Cooperative Extension's 4-H youth development program and the National FFA Organization growing more than 200 heritage turkeys this year, according to Catherine Thode, who has been leading the project for 15 years.
“Our project leaders are active breeders of heritage turkeys and some of our 4-H and FFA youth are now raising breeding pairs and hatching their own birds,” Thode said. “Each project member raises their small flock of birds on their own property and shoulders the responsibility of providing their feed and care.”
The Heritage Turkey Project promotes the preservation of heritage turkey breeds, sustainable farming and responsible animal husbandry. While raising the animals, the youths learn life skills and earn money for their work.
“The money I raise from raising and selling turkeys goes towards my college fund and to more 4-H projects like market goats or sheep,” said 15-year-old Brylee, who sells her turkeys for $9.50 per pound.
Three years ago, Brylee's neighbor, Yaxeli joined her in the heritage turkey project.
“I have learned how to care for animals, the importance of raising organic and the costs involved,” said Yaxeli, 14. “I have gained a firm understanding of how my birds are raised and processed versus corporate methods. Having the opportunity to participate in this project has strengthened my value for the importance of where my food comes from.”
Consumers benefit by getting turkeys that are farmed organically, fed high-quality grains, and never frozen, said Brylee.
“There are so many benefits to raising these beautiful birds,” said Uli Saiz-Tapia, 17. “First, you learn the cost of running a business, how to reinvest for the next year, the different stages of turkey growth and how to manage issues that arise such as the turkeys fighting, how they react to fluctuating temperatures, how to keep them safe and nourished properly. Learning about the process of getting our turkeys ready to be purchased has really benefitted my understanding of anatomy, the amount of work it takes in preparing them and the importance of not wasting food.”
The group sold out of turkeys in early November.
“Back in March, we really wondered if we should even do the project this year, not knowing what was going to happen with COVID restrictions and the impact on the economy,” Thode said. “We ended up with more project members than we've ever had, and over 200 turkeys to be sold for the Thanksgiving market.”
The 4-H members started the season with more turkeys, but lost some birds to predators. Wildfires seemed to drive more predators to the Sonoma County farms this year, she said.
“Things are fast and furious right now,” Thode said a week before Thanksgiving as the group prepared their turkeys for processing and distribution to people who placed orders. “I'm about to enter the busiest seven days of our year. It will take all weekend to have the birds processed, weighed, labeled. Then, we hunker down to sort and assign turkeys to our customer list.”
While selling turkeys, the group encourages customers to meet the farmers and to visit Livestock Conservancy to look up the history and breed characteristics of the turkey they are purchasing. In past years, some customers have taken photos of themselves with the person who raised their bird.
“We not only have a master list of customers and their desired sizes, but we create a spreadsheet for every project member with a list of the turkeys they've grown that year,” Thode said. “Each turkey is identified in the spring or early summer with a small metal wing band that lists the grower and an individual number for that turkey. When the turkey is sold, the buyer knows which project number grew their turkey, and the variety of turkey that they are purchasing. We think it's important that our customers know this. In fact, when they come to pick up their turkey, they write their check to the actual grower of their turkey.”
Visit Heritage Turkey Project to learn more about the project.
- Author: Steven M. Worker
New Extension Peer Reviewed Curriculum
Through an innovative collaboration with the University of Minnesota Center for Sustainable Polymers, Minnesota, California, and New York 4-H Cooperative Extension educators partnered to develop and pilot youth-driven curricula
Focusing on the use and impacts of plastics and sustainability.
The overarching focus is introducing youth to the prevalence and impact of plastics in everyday life. Experiential activities help youth learn that plastics are versatile materials that come in different shapes, sizes, and exhibit different material properties. Youth learn that there are many advantages of using plastic as they can be lightweight alternatives that can save on fuel and energy. Youth also learn that there are many disadvantages to using plastics, including extracting costs and environmental impacts and a long post-life impact. Youth learn that while some plastics may be recycled and reprocessed, not all plastic makes its way to the recycling bin.
The curricula also introduce youth to the new ways scientists and engineers are working to create, use, and recycle plastics so we can use plastics for their many advantages and lessen their effects on our environment. Some plastics are now designed to biodegrade without polluting the environment and others are created using renewable resources to lessen the dependence on traditional, oil-based plastics.
Sustainable polymers must address the needs of consumers
without damaging our environment, health, or economy.
The curricula were designed to build foundational skills of science and engineering: observation, asking questions and defining problems, planning and carrying out investigations, and communicating. The curricula are intended for delivery in out-of-school time facilitated by an educator (trained volunteers or program staff). Three curricula are available:
- Grades K-2: Focusing on introducing youth to science and engineering as they explore properties of materials and discover how objects are designed with material properties.
- Grades 3-5: Focusing on concepts of: materials; plastics; reduce, use, recycle; and the work of scientists and engineers. Get the curriculum here
- Grades 6-8: Focusing on the prevalence and impact of plastics in everyday life. Youth then become change agents as they discover and work on a plastic sustainability issue that affects their community.
For more information, please contact Steven M. Worker, PhD, 4-H Youth Development Advisor serving Marin, Sonoma, and Napa counties, email@example.com
Here is a summary of some of the work our office is doing during shelter in place.
Fire & Resiliency
UCCE Sonoma is building on the foundational work of other county departments such as Sonoma Water and Permit Sonoma, by providing outreach to private landowners to address forest health, vegetation management and fire fuel reduction.
Lake Sonoma Decision Support System: Development of an online geo spatial reporting tool to help landowners assess:
Match.Graze: development of an online database that connects land owners and grazers.
- Filmed educational videos
- Creating website
- Current status: roll out in early June.
Good Fire Alliance: partnership with Audubon Canyon Ranch to assist landowners in managing fire fuels through prescribed burning on private and publicly owned lands. The following prescribed fires are in the active planning stage:
- 100+ acre burn unit at Cooley Ranch near Lake Sonoma; late May.
- Sonoma Ecology Center is planning a burn at Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve; late May - early June.
- Bodega Pastures spanning several weekends in October/November.
Resilient Landscapes: Master Gardener collaborative project to:
- Host Firewise webinars
- Develop materials for Fire Safe Sonoma's Living with Fire brochure and webpage resource.
- Post Fire Survival/Mortality: research project to develop a quick and simple post-fire tree survival reference tool to aid with triage of burned landscapes.
- Working with local fire departments to homogenize fire-resilient landscape standards.
Oak Tree Health: organized, hosted and presented:
- California Oak Workshop with science based oak health information. Over 500 participants.
- Sudden Oak Death Blitz pivoted to online, educating and distributing 93 test kits to the public.
Food Systems & Security
- “Stay Home Grow Food” series has reached over 350 people with videos plus resources via an extensive social media campaign.
- Gardener Sense program delivered by video conference to help homeowners reduce water use.
- Master Gardener's are pivoting their classes to webinars.
The value of a strong, connected local food system to sustain the resiliency of our communities has never been more clear.
Coordinating with Sonoma County Food System Alliance and strategizing for a series of video conferences on longer term emergency food response planning & strengthening the local food supply chain looking to local production & distribution as part of meeting food need.
- Meeting on March 23 with over 50 emergency food responders to strategize on coronavirus response.
- Chairing the Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) Food group. Continue to collaborate with the group to meet the needs of emergency food organizations.
- Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition
UCCE used connections to secure donations of over 12,000 wine boxes to
Redwood Empire Food Bank for boxing and distributing food.
Local Meat Supplies: Mobile Slaughter Unit (MSU)
UCCE is working with local livestock producers in Marin/Sonoma to create a business plan for an MSU which can assist local livestock producers with a local, safe option for processing livestock.
- Applying for USDA grant to assist these producers to determine the functionality of keeping it in production.
- Will develop educational and management strategies to ensure economic security for small-scale livestock producers.
Integrated Pest Management
- Collaborating with UC Davis researchers to continue projects that address soil and fungal pests that shorten the lifespan of vineyards.
Critical research on the newly detected invasive Mediterranean oak borer (pictured) found in valley oak in eastern Sonoma County. Collaborators include Cal Fire, US Forest Service, and CDFA.
4-H youth educational programs have continued to engage youth and adults with online technologies.
- Developed fact sheets to support volunteer educators in delivering online programs available at Youth Development Resources
- Short-term educational programs have been implemented reaching elementary-aged children with science and art content.
- Ongoing programming has been transitioning online focused for teens around college and career readiness (Juntos 4-H) and youth participatory action research.
Annual Sonoma 4-H Open House and ChickenQue transitioned from a full-day chicken BBQ lunch fundraiser to a radiothon.
- Partnered with local radio The Bull 93.7 to do a radiothon.
- The station promoted 4-H with interviews of staff, volunteers, and youth.
- The event also served as a public awareness campaign showcasing the program's legacy helping youth reach their full potential.
Working with local dairy and livestock producers to apply for grants from CDFA to reduce greenhouse gases:
- Alternative Manure Management Program
- Healthy Solis Program
If funded, these grants would bring over $5 million to reduce GHG by 4,154 MTeCO2
Support Local Producers
- Working with local creameries and FEED Sonoma, to develop a dairy CSA box option.
- Revisit the County Lands for Food Production program initiated by UCCE to increase the availability of county owned land to communities, farmers and ranchers.
- Find Local Food & Aid the Community
Providing information and updates.
Coronavirus Resources webpages provides information for agricultural enterprises focusing on financial resources, Ag worker safety and food safety and includes resources for where to find food from local farms and for opportunities to volunteer.
4-H families have been working hard sewing cotton masks for nurses, essential workers, and friends and family!
Now that home sewn fabric masks are required in Sonoma County, and N95 masks are reserved for first responders, we are busy sewing up a storm. It has been a challenge with fabric stores closed for regular shopping so it is a good thing that sewists (sewing artists) tend to have extra supplies on hand!
The count thus far is 277 masks sewn by 7 families and that is just the start! They were donated to hospitals, nurses, mental health workers, medical offices, Senior Center, to essential workers that must stay on the job and some to friends and other families in need.
Way to go 4-Hers, learning and helping is a beautiful thing!
A big thank you to Xobon Magazine for posting instructions:
Questions? Contact Diana Hampton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golden Hills 4-H club volunteer project leader, Jemetha Cosgrove, and her two children, aged 12 and 7, repurposed their 3D printing equipment – part of a 4-H AgTech project – to make face shields to help in the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 13, they've made around 120 and are donating them to medical and other essential workers in the North Bay.
They are using a Prusa MK3 printer. Prusa popularized the home face shield 3D printing movement from its headquarters in Europe and it has continued to spread around the world. Their shield design and others are being widely used by health care workers during the pandemic. The Cosgroves have been printing a design approved for use in hospitals by the U.S. National Institute of Health.
Each print takes about 2.5 hours and can take longer or shorter depending on the shield design. They are also printing bias tape makers, used to make mask ties, to support the cloth mask sewing efforts. They invite others who own 3D printers to join the effort.
Those interested in making masks can connect on the Facebook page:
Making a Difference Sonoma County.