- Author: Sam Urie
4-H members, FARM SMART and DREC staff, and CalFresh staff met again today to further discuss next summer's "Sustainable You!" camp to be held at DREC. 4-H members elected officers to take on responsibilities of the camp and further their leadership skills. Participants today delved deeper into the curriculum and tried out an activity called "The Importance of Water". Participants discovered just how little precious freshwater is available for use. The next meeting will be held September 10th.
- Author: Stephanie Collins
The kids are out of school, and most likely the summer heat has not zapped the energy and excitement that is naturally present in the summer. It might persuade them not to go outside much though. This means that parents may have no choice but to come up with something fun and entertaining to do indoors. Need some ideas? In fact, wouldn't it be nice if the kids could actually do something a little educational while they are being entertained indoors. Even more, what if the kids could learn about agriculture and where their food comes from… while being educational… while being fun…while being indoors. Whew, that's a lot to accomplish right? Well…listed below is just that: fun, indoor, agricultural, learning activities to do with children indoors.
- Eggshell Gardening
Next time you make eggs for breakfast, take a needle and poke a hole through the big end of the shell. This serves as a drainage hole. Then break the shells so the bottom 2/3 of the shell is intact. Save the egg carton but remove the lid. Have the child soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. It helps the seeds germinate faster. Place the egg shells back in the carton. Fill with wet but not soggy new potting soil. Have the child plant the seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in the soil. Cover the egg carton and planted shells with plastic wrap. Place in a sunny window. When the seeds sprout remove the plastic wrap. You can transplant into a larger container egg shell and all.
Try planting herbs or sprouting alfalfa. These are plants that grow quickly, can be harvested easily indoors and used right away in delicious summer recipes. Check out “Alfalfa Sushi Rolls”, a FARM SMART favorite on our Facebook page.
- Root Garden
Cut the top inch off of root vegetables such as carrots, beets, turnips, and sweet potatoes. Place in flat bottom glass dishes on top of a layer of marbles. The marbles keep the cutting off the bottom and give the roots a chance to grow. More than one root cutting may be placed in the same dish. Fill the dish with water up to the crown of the cutting. The water should not submerge the cutting. Place in a sunny window and in a few days the tops will start to sprout new leaves.
It doesn't take a gardening expert to ‘get growing indoors.' Indoor gardening can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience for your children, and there are so many activities from which to choose. So whether you decide to start some plants from seed, start an herb garden, or decorate some containers, just remember to ‘Let it Grow, Let it Grow!
- Grow seeds of knowledge
Children who read throughout the summer gain skills,can start the new school year with a better understanding of language and theworld around them, and discover the joy of reading. Almost everything we dopresents an opportunity to read. When you're eating breakfast, read the cerealbox; if you're in a restaurant, read the menu. Have you ever wondered how plants grow or what it´s like to drive a tractor? There are a number of excellent books with accurate information about agriculture to satisfy your curiosity and also entertain. A few FARM SMART favorites:
- How Did That Get in My Lunch Box?
- And the Good Brown Earth
- Planting a Rainbow
- The Wheat Doll
- Watermelon Day
- A Hog Ate My Homework
- Virtual Ag
Today's kids are whizzes with computers and all things virtual/digital, so with parental monitoring, the Internet is a great source of “funucational” learning games on hundreds of subjects including agriculture and food processing.These games correspond to various aspects of agriculture: mathematical, scientific, and social. Children can play these games and learn about the concepts addressed in them while having fun. Some recommended websites are: myamericanfarm.com or kidsfarm.com or farmsfoodfun.com
Summer is one of a child's most fun and memorable seasons. But when it's just too hot to be outside, bring the outside inside with these suggestions for discovering our foods incredible journey from planting of the seed to the time we eat it.
- Author: Sam Urie
Staff at DREC and Imperial County Cooperative Extension are teaming up to deliver "Sustainable You!", a five-day summer camp designed by Dr. Roslynn Brain of Utah State University. Each day of the camp has a theme: Land, Air, Energy, Water, and Food. DREC staff attended a train-the-trainer workshop put on by Dr. Brain earlier this year at Hansen REC in Ventura County, CA. (For more information about Hansen REC's recent camp, click here)
On July 1st, 4-H members, their parents, and DREC and UCCE staff met to brainstorm ideas, discuss fundraising, and pass on the vision for the camp to the 4-H senior (high school) members who will become the camp counselors and directors through guidance from DREC and UCCE staff.
With contributions from all participants, the camp has a tentative launch date of June 15-19 of 2015 with DREC as the host site. Ideas such as trips to local recycling centers, the Salton Sea, geothermal plants, and many others were discussed as a way of incorporating local Valley resources into the camp. The 4-H youth are excited; one high school senior just finished a course on sustainability and is motivated to pass on his knowledge to the camp's target audience of 4th-6th graders. 4-H, CalFresh, and FARM SMART/DREC staff will reconvene August 5th to continue the process and begin training the 4-H members and dividing responsibilities.
Find out more about sustainability efforts HERE.
- Author: Sam Urie
Have you filled up your vehicle's fuel tank recently? Have you eaten a carrot, a pickle, sweet corn, onion, broccoli or melon recently? Had a nice crisp salad with fresh romaine lettuce and some pasta, then dipped some bread in olive oil? How about a stir-fry with tender beef and cooked cabbage or a nice steak?
What does all of this have to do with the UC Desert Research and Extension Center (DREC), known by many in our Valley as the “Meloland Station” between Holtville and El Centro? All of these are crops and issues being worked on by researchers and support staff at the here at DREC. The 255-acre Center is part of a larger network of nine similar locations throughout California called the Research and Extension Center under UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. This Center is an amazing resource for our Valley; it's here to support our most important industry and one that affects us all – agriculture!
Just outside my office door, my colleagues are weighing and categorizing wheat grown here at DREC that will be essential to meet European regulations in the future. 90% of wheat grown in our Valley has levels of cadmium (a non-essential metal) too high for the EU. This jeopardizes the export of our wheat to Europe. Wheat breeders are hard at work creating new varieties with lower cadmium levels. Work is also being done to increase disease resistance and salt tolerance. Approximately 150 new hybrid wheat varieties will be created at DREC this year!
All of us worry about fuel prices and how they affect our families and local businesses. Researchers at DREC are working with a variety of plants to find viable sources for biofuels. Imagine an Imperial Valley that not only produces geothermal and solar energy, but biofuels as well! We have a suitable growing environment for crops such as sorghum, sugarcane, so-called “energy canes” (Saccharum grasses), and oilseed crops like canola, camelin, and lesquerella. We just lost National Beef; what if we could replace it with facilities that process our local crops into biofuel that powers our vehicles, and do it in an environmentally friendly way? All of these questions are being worked on at DREC!
Did you know carrots don't just come in orange? You may soon start seeing shades of purple, red, and other colors at the grocery store. These varieties also carry more antioxidants that our bodies need. Every year in February the carrot plots at DREC are harvested and a rainbow of carrots is analyzed together with researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the USDA.
FARM SMART is the outreach arm of DREC. Over 104,000 people have toured the Center since the program began in 2001. We are passionate about educating youth and their parents through our K-12 programs. Every year thousands of Valley youth come to the Center to learn about agriculture, natural resources, and scientific research. We send them home with produce they pick themselves; we hope we send them home with seeds of knowledge and understanding for the future. FARM SMART also partners with CalFresh to deliver nutrition education to our youth.
FARM SMART also hosts thousands of “snowbirds” in January and February through our Winter Visitor Program. We educate visitors about Valley agriculture and water issues, and send them home with a sandbag full of fresh produce from the Center. Make sure to sign up for one of our tours next winter if you'd like to experience a day on the farm and learn more about our Valley's amazing agricultural bounty.
The Center is here to serve the Valley – not just farmers, but the whole community. DREC is vital to the Valley's future. We'd love to share our research with you. Take a tour next winter. Check out our new website at drec.ucanr.edu and find our research on the research tab to the left. Follow us on Twitter @UCfarmsmart and on Facebook at facebook.com/UCfarmsmart. A strong Valley agriculture doesn't just help growers, it helps us all and it helps our nation. So next time you pick up a fork to eat that delicious meal, thank all those who did so much to get it there on your plate. And think, next year, your carrots might just be purple.
Sam Urie is the manager of FARM SMART at the UC Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville, CA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-356-3067.
- Author: Sam Urie
On April 17, 2014, UC DREC hosted an Agronomic Crops Field Day. The field day was well-attended by local growers, industry representatives, and researchers. Participants toured the Center on hay wagons. A stop at an alfalfa field included discussion on deficit irrigation research, and highlighted work being done with subsurface drip irrigation.
Dr. Khaled Bali declared that "every drop of Colorado River water has been used three times before it arrives in the Imperial Valley" and reiterated the importance of salinity management. Each acre-foot of water (326,000 gallons) brings with it over one ton of salt. So an acre of alfalfa receiving 7 acre feet of water in a year could receive 7-8 tons of salt.
Next to an irrigation canal, Dr. Bali and engineers from the US Bureau of Land Management also demonstrated automated irrigation gates being developed to improve efficiency and lower labor needs.
At another stop, Dr. Sam Wang demonstrated his lesquerella plots. Lesquerella is a promising oilseed crop native to the desert Southwest. Other crops shown include sorghum for biofuel purposes and the Center's growing olive groves. Olives are a recent addition to the Imperial Valley's diverse range of crops.
The tour concluded with lunch at the Center where participants had the opportunity to network and ask further questions.