July 2019
In this month's edition:
  • Summer's bounty is here!
  • Staff Highlight: Agricultural Specialist
  • Carbon Farming on Gabriel Farm
  • Wildfire Home Hardening Workshop
  • TEAM youth field trip program teaches conservation
  • Know your water rights
  • Potter Valley Project Update
Great Growers
Summer's bounty is here!
Mouth-watering berries, crisp lettuce, sun-ripe tomatoes, and baskets of potatoes.... The summer bounty is here! From farmers markets, to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, to U-Pick days, many producers in the district offer direct-to-consumer sales.

Duckworth Family Farm
One such operation is Duckworth Family Farm in Sebastopol. Lorri Duckworth believes in the powerful connection between people and the land. She became convinced early in her career as a farmer that it's important for everyone, but especially children, to get off their screens, be outside, and to touch and eat food right off the plant. That's why she made a major change in Duckworth Family Farm's operations this year and opened the farm to the public for U-Pick. Open weekends in July and early August, 7am-2pm. Learn more on their Facebook Page .
Lorri's strong belief that kids should be out on the land is also why she is partnering with Gold Ridge RCD and the Sonoma County Ag + Open Space District to host grammar school students through the TEAM Field Trip Program next spring. Duckworth Farm is a diverse, organic farm that grows hay and blueberries and raises sheep for wool and milk. The farm is protected from development with a conservation easement held by the Sonoma County Ag + Open Space District. Located on Blucher Creek in the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed, wildlife habitat conservation and enhancement is also a priority for the family. We can't wait to bring students to this incredible farm to learn more about how food is grown and who our dedicated Sonoma County farmers are!
Staff Highlight
Craig Macmillan
Agricultural Specialist
Craig Macmillan recently joined our RCD team as the Agricultural Specialist. In his new position, he will be assisting agricultural producers in developing and implementing conservation plans, improving their productivity, enhancing agroecosystem resilience, and mitigating global climate change through the regional LandSmart program.
Craig holds an M.S. in Plant Protection Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Washington State University. Craig has over twenty years of experience making wine and managing vineyards on the Central Coast. Since 2003, his work has focused on teaching and research in the areas of grape pest management, enology, viticulture, and the intersection of agriculture and human values.

About joining the Gold Ridge RCD, Craig says, "I am thrilled to be joining such a dedicated and talented team. Working with growers to conserve, preserve, and improve their lands will be a joy.” Welcome, Craig!

Craig Macmillan can be reached at Craig@GoldRidgeRCD.org
Carbon Farming
Gabriel Farm studies on-farm carbon sequestration: Farm performs trial comparing applications of compost tea and wood chip mulch in orchard rows
Torrey and Lucy Olson have always been innovators. Twenty-five years ago, Lucy attended UC Santa Cruz to study organic farming at the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. As she learned about how important nutritious food is to communities and about the positive ecological impacts that organic, diversified farms can have on the landscape, Lucy became convinced that farms could be an impressive force for good. When she and Torrey Olson made the move to purchase and operate Gabriel Farm in 2000, it was a declaration of their commitment to “farming the good” in Sebastopol. 

Today, Gabriel Farm, a 14-acre family farm located near Graton, grows nine acres of Asian Pears, two acres of Certified Organic Apples, and various other organic crops including: Persimmons, Raspberries, Pluots, Tomatoes, Pineapple Guavas, Blackberries, Lavender, Pumpkins and Winters Squash.  Each fall, the Olsons open their farm to people who want to share the farming experience with their family and friends. Members of the U-Pick membership program bring baskets and blankets to pick the fall’s bounty and sit enjoy a locally grown lunch. (To learn more about the program, visit: https://www.gabrielfarm.com )

But still, Torrey and Lucy felt there was room to do more on Gabriel Farm. When Torrey, a Board member for the Gold Ridge RCD, learned about a program of the CA Dept of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) that supports farmers in demonstrating practices that enhance their farm’s soil health to combat climate change, he was interested. Working together, the RCD and Torrey applied for and received funding from the CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program to demonstrate an innovative approach to managing the orchard floor. In organic farming systems, tillage is often utilized in the rows for weed suppression.  However, this practice has negative consequences that can include the loss of soil structure, accelerated decomposition of organic matter, reduction in infiltration rates, and increased susceptibility to water and wind erosion. And when the soil’s health is in decline, it is unable to be the incredible carbon-holding sponge that it can be, holding down literally tons of carbon that once resided in the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. 

On a mission to bring that soil carbon-sponge to life, Lucy, Torrey and the project partners will be working to test two practices: first mulching with woodchips as a weed control, then inoculating the soil with actively aerated compost tea to improve soil health. Those project partners, including Gold Ridge RCD, Carbon Cycle Institute, San Francisco State University and Intuit Ag, have three years to test the effects of actively aerated compost tea and woodchip-based mulch application on greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon sequestration and weed suppression at Gabriel Farm. Read the full article at link below.
Wildfire Home Hardening Workshop
Partner News: An upcoming workshop will demonstrate hands-on what making defensible space around a typical west county home looks like. This workshop will be held August 17, 10am-4pm; hosted by the Audubon Canyon Ranch. Workshop includes expert advice from the Gold Ridge Fire Department, Fire Safe Sonoma, ACR’s Fire Forward program and UCCE Sonoma County. Workshop attendees will be learning and working together to create defensible space around a private Sebastopol residence. 

Please email Jared Childress, prescribed fire specialist for Audubon Canyon Ranch at jared.childress@egret.org , to contact the organizer. 
TEAM Field Trip Program teaches youth conservation by visiting local ranches
When students participate in the TEAM Program , they get more than an afternoon away from school. This May, students tracked a raccoon's paw prints along the bank of Salmon Creek and watched in wonder as three inch-long young salmon darted through the sunlit water.

On their field trip to Gilardi Ranch, they learned in-depth what young salmon eat (water bugs!), where they live (in coastal creeks), and how ranchers like Dennis Gilardi of Bodega, CA can help salmon populations recover.

Life isn't easy for our coastal salmon, as students of the program learn. Kids play out the life of a salmon -- from an egg, to a little inch-long "parr," to an ocean-going "smolt," to a strong, full-bodied adult returning to the creek to spawn.
Throughout their lives, these fish need a healthy aquatic environment, as they are extremely sensitive to changes in water quality, habitat and climate. While in the creek, they need shelter from predators and the hot sun, clean cold water, and plentiful food. Students play a game of tag, in which dangers like pollution spills, fishermen, and long-legged herons obstruct their path to the Pacific Ocean. Those fish that survive their journey to the ocean have more challenges ahead. At the end of their life, salmon use their incredible sense of smell to navigate ocean waters to find their way back to the coastal stream where they were born. Students learn how to use their sense of smell like a salmon: stations along a watershed of "creeks" have boxes of scents that students must sniff through.
Students observed the various habitat features that Dennis Gilardi has provided on his ranch for salmon: fences along Salmon Creek to exclude cattle, planted trees and shrubs along the riparian corridor for shade, and tree logs and boulders placed in the creek channel for shelter and to help the creek a meander. At the top of the property is the barn where Dennis's Holstein heifers sleep at night. The roof of this barn catches rainwater in the winter and conveys it to a 270,000-gallon underground tank. This water is used in the summer for watering cattle and washing down the barn. Previously, Dennis pulled water in the summer from the creek for these jobs. His neighbors did the same. In recent years, however, ranchers on Salmon Creek have partnered with the RCD to change their summer water sources from the creek to alternative water sources like rainwater. Now, we see much more water flowing in Salmon Creek for fish and other wildlife in the summers. When Dennis drives by in his ATV, students shout, "Thank you, Mr. Gilardi!" at the top of their lungs, and make us educators very proud.

These field trips aren't just tons of fun. They are also a memory that kids will keep forever about how our local ranchers and farmers protect Sonoma County's beautiful open spaces and abundant natural resources. The TEAM Program has been funded by Sonoma County Ag + Open Space since 2010.
Know your water rights with this new guidebook
This brochure is intended as an introductory guide to California water right law for smaller water users that meet their own water needs without relying on a larger entity to deliver water to them. Typically, these will be rural residents or farmers who divert water from wells, springs, or streams located on or near their property.

While these types of small-scale water use are common in California, the legal rights and obligations surrounding them can be rather complex, largely because California recognizes a number of different types of water rights.

The guidebook is designed to help small water users answer a basic practical question: Do I have a water right covering my existing or proposed water use, and if not, do I need to obtain one from the Water Board?
This brochure was made in partnership by Trout Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy, State of California Wildlife Conservation Board and with Prop 1 funds.
Potter Valley Project Update
Partner News: Mendocino County Farm Bureau is hosting an important community meeting to provide updates on the licensing process of the Potter Valley Project on
Wednesday, July 24, 2019 from 6pm-8pm at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center, 200 S. School St., Ukiah, CA 95482. Due to limited space registration is required but there is no cost to attend.

Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District
(707) 823-5244