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Corn as high as an elephant’s eye? Unusual land use crops up in urban West Sac neighborhood

SARA BERNAL has plans for an unused city lot that used to have bad soil. She’s part of a project involving the City of West Sacramento and a Yolo County nonprofit that promotes agricultural education.   (News-Ledger photo)

SARA BERNAL has plans for an unused city lot that used to have bad soil. She’s part of a project involving the City of West Sacramento and a Yolo County nonprofit that promotes agricultural education.
(News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MAY 7, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

There is sudden new activity on that old, city-owned vacant lot at the corner of 5th and C streets in West Sacramento’s old “Washington” neighborhood. New soil has been dropped off, and a tractor is leveling it out. People are bustling about onsite.

The lot is surrounded by elements of urban West Sacramento old and new:

Just west lies the popular new Broderick Roadhouse pub. A couple blocks east is the venerable old I Street Bridge. Across the street is a liquor store. Passersby include commuters, students, the residents of nearby homes, and various denizens of the city’s streets.

So what are they building on this two-thirds-acre piece of urban infill? Will it be new townhouses or apartments, like those going up elsewhere on the West Sac riverfront? A mixed-use building? A restaurant?

The answer is probably not your first guess. What they’re building is a farm.

Sara Bernal was on site yesterday, supervising the spreading of a new layer of topsoil. She will be the first farmer at the temporary “urban farm” at 427 C Street.

“My goal is to have the irrigation system built by next week,” said Bernal. “I hope to start planting in two weeks.”

What crops are going in?

“Lots of heirloom tomatoes, baby green mixes, cucumbers, melons, summer squash, onions, carrots and radishes, eggplants and peppers,” she started to list.

Bernal has small-farm experience, including producing for “subscribers” and for farmers markets. She hopes to sell her veggies at farmers markets – including West Sacramento’s – and at restaurants – including nearby “Broderick.”

“In 30 days, we will have baby lettuce and small radishes,” said Bernal.

This “urban farm” project is the first partnership between the city and the Center for Land-Based Learning, headquartered in Winters. The city hopes to make available various vacant sites for use as temporary, rotating small farms. The Center for Land-Based Learning, which supports training for farmers, has leased this city lot for $1 per year for five years.

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon says the neighborhood and the city get several different things out of the relationship.

“First, it’s the rejuvenation of a public-owned parcel that’s been almost thrown away for a full generation,” he told the News-Ledger. “(Vacant lots) continue to be safety issues. We want to have activity there.”

Then, there’s the opportunity to help train new farmers and get them a start in their profession. West Sacramento officials are seeking to make the city a “food hub,” central to food production and processing.

“For most of recorded history, you became a farmer because you grew up on a farm,” he said. “Today, there’s a whole new crop of young people who want to be a farmer, but their parents don’t own a farm. They don’t have the land to begin farming. So reason number two for this is to incubate farmers.”

“Third is that we want to create new options for local neighbors and kids, so they’re connected to farms and can buy more healthy food. (The fourth reason is) we really want to create a pipeline for local restaurants to locally-source specialty produce. You saw that with Dan Gannon’s farm in Southport, and the Eatery.”

The Eatery was a well-regarded Southport restaurant that often served local produce such as Gannon’s. The restaurant recently closed for financial reasons.

“One key feature is that this will be a temporary use,” said Cabaldon of the C Street farm. “Five years from now, it could be a mixed-use building with people living upstairs and a restaurant or book store down below. When that happens, we and others have plenty of other vacant properties in the city.”

Mary Kimball is executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning, which is leasing the vacant lot and has hired Bernal as the farm manager. She said this project is made possible primarily by Wells Fargo, with help from Community Business Bank and other sponsors. Soil on the lot was so poor that they trucked in 600 cubic yards of (slightly aromatic) composted topsoil.

“It’s kind of surprising how much even a half acre can produce,” said Kimball. “Two of our graduates are going to help (Bernal.) It’s all going to be vegetable produce – it will be for really different markets, like restaurants. ‘Broderick’ restaurant has put in an order for what to grow.”

The produce will also be sold at farmers’ markets and farmstands, and possibly through a “CSA” program (“community supported agriculture,” in which consumers sign up to receive a portion of the produce).

The urban farm fits with her organization’s mission.

“We have a beginning farmer training program called the California Farm Academy,” said Kimball. “Each year, we graduate about 20 farmers into the community.”

Sara Bernal hopes sales from the C Street farm help cover her own salary as farm manager for the plot.

Is she worried about people vandalizing the little farm, or walking off with the “fruits” of her labor?

“Oh yeah, definitely,” answered Bernal. “Unfortunately, we can’t afford to fence it off. We’re hoping people will see how much work we put in, and leave it alone. I’m sure it will happen, though.”

City officials are holding a groundbreaking for the urban farm at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 9,  at 427 C Street.

And in case you’re wondering, the West Sacramento Farmers Market is scheduled to open for the season on May 29; look for information on the Thursday-afternoon market on Facebook here.

 

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Trotting off the written page

Students from Southport and Westmore Oaks elementary schools get a close look at a pair of Belgian draft horses, “Tip” and “Champ” who weigh in at close to a ton apiece. Originally from  an Amish farm, they are carriage horses in Old Sacramento. Click to enlarge.  (News-Ledger photo)

Students from Southport and Westmore Oaks elementary schools get a close look at a pair of Belgian draft horses, “Tip” and “Champ” who weigh in at close to a ton apiece. Originally from an Amish farm, they are carriage horses in Old Sacramento. Click to enlarge. (News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 30, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

They called it “Horsin’ Around for Literacy.”

The regional district of Rotary International asked its local chapters, like the Centennial Rotary Club in West Sacramento, to do something to improve literacy among children. So the local chapter several months ago launched a two-pronged, equestrian attack.

Explained Don Schatzel of Rotary:

“Thanks to support from the Southport PTO (parent-teacher organization) and the West Sacramento Trail Riders Association, we bought a book for every second grader at Southport and Westmore Oaks – books with horses in them. Now, in the spring, they get horses. We’re trying to teach it, see it, read it.”

The Southport students came to Westmore Oaks (the “old” River City High campus on Clarendon Street) for a special assembly Thursday morning. On the school’s football track were a bunch of horse trailers, horses and riders.

Charyl Silva and Don Schatzel, riders and Rotarians. Click to enlarge.  News-Ledger photo

Charyl Silva and Don Schatzel, riders and Rotarians. Click to enlarge.
News-Ledger photo

Wrestling with a struggling microphone system on a windy day, emcee Roberta Firoved introduced each horse and rider to the attentive students. She also explained some things about horses, including why their eyes are on the sides of their heads (as a prey animal, horses need to keep watch for predators) and how to measure a horse’s height (by using “hands”). Among the horse teams were:

— Ron Morazzini (trail riders’ president) with his quarterhorse “Jiggers.”
Jiggers “loves to follow Ron around the pasture like a puppy,” said Firoved.

— Rod Beckwith with a mule names “Socks.” A mule is a cross produced from a male donkey and female horse, explained Firoved.

— A pair of impressive Belgian draft horses, weighing in at 1,600 and 1,800 pounds, respectively.

— And a pony.

Jason Williams, an employee of the Bureau of Land Management, showed a little bit about how he helped round up wild horses with help from his dog “Hannah.” He rode “Stinger,” a horse born wild and bearing a BLM brand on its neck. He told the kids how he used his dog to help round up a wild horse.

Jason Williams with his horse “Stinger’ and his working dog ‘Hannah.  ‘ Williams works for the Bureau of Land Management and sometimes helps round up wild horses -- animals like Stinger.  (News-Ledger photo)

Jason Williams with his horse “Stinger’ and his working dog ‘Hannah. ‘ Williams works for the Bureau of Land Management and sometimes helps round up wild horses — animals like Stinger.
(News-Ledger photo)

“If I say ‘come by,’ she will go around the horse to the left,” said Williams. Another command sends Hannah to the right of the targeted animal. Hannah is prone to giving a horse a little nip on the heels as he scoots past, helping to herd the animal.

“A lot of times, that’s what I’ll do to gather horses,” said Williams.

After the talk, kids were invited to line up on one side of a fence while the horses came by in touching distance along the other:

“Read it, see it, touch it.”

 

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Bulky waste drop-off starts tomorrow

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 30, 2014 —

The City of West Sacramento’s annual ‘bulky waste drop-off’ event returns from May 7-10 at 540 Harbor Boulevard. The event will be from 4-7 p.m. on weekdays and 9-3 on Saturday.

Here’s your chance to unload old furniture, mattresses & box springs, cardboard and tires (up to nine). Open to local residents: bring proof of city residency such as a city utility bill or driver’s license with your address. Those 65 and up, or with a disability may request pickup service by calling 617-4589.

Wood and green waste is not accepted at the event, but you can look for a landfill voucher in your August city utility bill.

More info: www.WestSacRecycles.org or 617-4589.

Copyright News-Ledger 2014

‘Not bad for a boy from Broderick’

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 30, 2014 —

  Note: This past week longtime West Sacramento resident Marino Pierucci passed away at the age of 91. Over Marino’s long and eventful life he played an important role in how our city grew and prospered and was also the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services for the Washington Unified School District until his retirement in 1981. He was an incredibly bright, interesting and fun person to spend time with and the following article about him and his beloved wife of 72 years, Mary, is reprinted below in his memory. Marino’s warmth and easy smile never failed to light up a room and he will be greatly missed by all those who knew and loved him.

Marino Pierucci’s Italian parents, Joseph and Ida, moved to Broderick in the late 1920s.

“My father actually came to the United States shortly after World War One,” remembered Marino, “and he met my mother a few years later, while he was working on a farm in Courtland that was owned by my mother’s sister and cousin.  My mother had originally left Italy with the help of an old world matchmaker, who had arranged for her to marry a man who wasn’t my father.  But when my parents met, my mother decided to marry my father instead, and he ended up having to pay the $350 owed the matchmaker.”

By 1931, the Pierucci’s had established themselves in Broderick and Joseph built a new two-story home for his growing family on 6th Street.

“We lived upstairs,” recalled Marino, “and my father and mother ran a little Italian restaurant downstairs.  It was really a pretty idyllic life.  Other Italian families, most of whom were all from the same part of northern Italy, lived all around us and my brothers and I had lots of friends.  We would all go fishing at Fat Jack’s Pond, or shoot marbles on this little corner lot that we had made as smooth as a pool table, or we would go swimming at our favorite swimming hole, which was between two wing dams on the nearby Sacramento River.  Our parents didn’t want us swimming in the river so we always had to leave our bathing suits at home, but that didn’t stop us — we just took off all our clothes and jumped in.  We also played a lot of softball in the streets and regularly walked across the old I Street Bridge to go to the movies in downtown Sacramento, which cost all of five cents back then.”

In 1941 Marino spotted a pretty young girl walking in front of his house.  They struck up a conversation and Marino quickly learned that her name was Mary and that she was staying at her brother’s house, which was only a few blocks away.

“Mary lived on a farm about 50 miles away, near Lincoln,” recalled Marino, “but she stayed with her brother in Broderick during canning season.  When there was no more work, she would have to go home, but I did my best to keep seeing her, including sending her a round trip bus ticket back to her brother’s house as often as I could.  We would go to dances and the movies and always have a good time, and come this August, we will have been married 57 years.”

“What wasn’t there to like about him?” said Mary with a warm smile.  “From the very beginning, he was extremely kind and wonderfully Italian!”

Like with most young people of Marino and Mary’s generation, World War Two soon interrupted their lives.

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

“In 1943 I was drafted into the Army Air Corp and I trained to be a gunner radio operator,” said Marino.  “Along with thousands of other guys from around the country, I was sent to radio school in Chicago, where we all stayed in the Stevens Hotel, which was right across the street from Soldier’s Field.  I ended up being a gunnery school instructor and I will never forget how wonderful the people of Chicago were to soldiers.  They gave us free tickets to baseball and football games, let us ride all the public transportation for free, and basically wouldn’t let us spend a dime of our own money.  Unfortunately, not everyone in my family was as lucky as me.  My brother Ernie, who was a wonderful person and athlete, was killed in 1945 during a B26 strike over Cologne, Germany.”

After the war, Marino went back to his job working for the Southern Pacific Railroad, but it wasn’t long before he decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and go to college.

“The GI Bill was such a blessing for so many returning veterans,” said Marino.  “College would have been impossible for most of us without it, and I really studied hard once I was admitted.  I also got to play on the Sacramento City and Sacramento State baseball teams, which was a lot of fun, and shortly after I graduated, Jake Misfeldt offered me my first teaching job in the Washington Unified School District.  To earn a little extra money, I even drove the buses to and from school.  I would pick up the kids in the morning, teach most of them during the day, and then drive them home.”

Marino quickly went from being a classroom teacher at old West Acres School to being its vice principal.  Then he was made the principal at the new Westfield Village Elementary School and by 1956, he was the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services for the whole district, a position he held until his retirement in 1981.

“Those were really great years,” recalled Marino.  “Not only was I privileged to work with some very dedicated educators, but in the 1950s, we were able to use a government matching funds program to build a number of new schools.  Unfortunately, in the 1960s, our student enrollment dropped off dramatically and we had to consolidate some of those facilities, but I really enjoyed all the years I spent working to improve the public schools in the this area.  It was a very rewarding career.”

Since his retirement, Marino has stayed active in the community by being a member of the Planning Commission, which he has served on since West Sacramento became a city.  He also likes to golf and help Mary transport their grandchildren from activity to activity.

“Mary and I have both been blessed with good health,” said Marino, “and our grandchildren are very active and doing their best to keep us young.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The title of this column comes from something Marino Pierucci often said as he looked back upon his life.

 

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

 

Two Southport Elementary students win honors for messages of peace

Sidney Logsdon & Rylee Carter.  Click to enlarge.  (courtesy of Angie Logsdon)

Sidney Logsdon & Rylee Carter.
Click to enlarge.
(courtesy of Angie Logsdon)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 30, 2014 —

Two students from Southport Elementary School are among the winners in this year’s “Inspirational Message of Peace” contest sponsored by the National Park Service and International World Peace Rose Gardens.

The contest was in conjunction with the annual celebration of the “I Have a Dream” garden at the Martin Luther King, Jr., national historic site in Atlanta.

More than 1,900 students participated internationally, and 26 winners were selected. Two were from Southport Elementary.

They were first-grader Rylee Carter and seventh-grader Sydney Logsdon. The pair were judged to have excelled in meeting the criteria of the poem contest, including addressing a message involving peace or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Coretta Scott King, in 35 words or less.

The winners are invited to attend a ceremony on May 8 in Atlanta, and their winning poems will be engraved on a plaque for display at the historic garden for one year.

Rylee’s poem:
“I Love My World”
Martin Luther King was a great person.
He gave us peace and freedom.
We planted a rose for his wife.
Every time I walk by the rose garden, I smile.

Sidney’s message:
“He Had a Dream”
He had a dream that others tried to crush.
A plethora of battles yet to come.
But, still, he never gave up hope.
Little did he know,
What he did would change us forever.

 

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

 

Not quite ‘Carmageddon’: motorists apparently adjust commutes for ‘Fix 50’

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 30, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento officials have relaxed a bit since last week, when the beginning of the “Fix 50” freeway project threatened to jam up local streets.

“The traffic is running smoothly and its going great,” reported Lieutenant Tod Sockman of the West Sacramento Police Department. He credited motorists for “varying their routes and changing their commute times,” and asked them to “continue doing what you’re doing.”

When CalTrans launched the project – initially closing all but one lane of eastbound U.S. 50 near downtown Sacramento – the city was ready for manual control of backed-up local intersections.

“We had 12 traffic people assigned to key locations where we thought it might back up,” said Sockman. “When it got to the point where traffic would back up, we put flashing red lights at the intersection and took over manual control.”

That happened, for example, at a congested Park Boulevard/Jefferson Boulevard intersection, where much of West Sacramento gets on the freeway to go to work in the morning.

The first day saw five intersections under traffic control during morning hours, when motorists tend to head east into Sacramento to their jobs. CalTrans quickly reopened one more lane on 50. On the second day, only three local intersections were being directed by hand, and on the third day, none.

The city also brought in a “command post” – a mobile operations center still parked next to city hall.

“It’s got computers, monitors and a radio for dispatch,” said Sockman. “We have a representative from police, fire, public works and AMR (the local ambulance company). We also have a direct line to Sacramento dispatch.”

The command post could watch traffic on city streets and help direct emergency vehicles to the best paths through them.

“For example, on the first day, there was a guy who needed to get the hospital from near West Capitol Avenue and Harbor Boulevard,” said Sockman. “The cameras were able to help get (the ambulance) the best route.”

Motorists still need to think twice about going eastbound on 50 from Sacramento. It’s still a problem, especially during the commute hours. But worries that West Sac streets would be deluged with motorists on freeway detours have not fully been born out.

The command post is now idle, pending any new traffic emergencies.

Starting May 27, CalTrans is scheduled to switch its roadwork to the westbound side of U.S. 50, and that’s expected to have less effect on West Sacramento, since this city will be on the “outfeed” side of any bottleneck. But Sockman said the command post will be re-staffed and ready for action again, just in case.

CalTrans has agreed to reimburse the city up to $750,000 for extra staffing and other impacts of the project.

The entire freeway project is scheduled to finish on June 25. For more information on the highway repair project, visit www.fix50.com. The City has traffic cameras on its website, www.cityofwestsacramento.org.

 

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Fire inspector named West Sac’s employee of the year

LEFT TO RIGHT: City Manager Martin Tuttle, Council Member Bill Kristoff, Fire Inspector Bryan Jonson, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, Council Member Beverly Sandeen, and Mayor Pro Tem Mark Johannessen. (Courtesy of City of West Sacramento/Art Schroeder)

LEFT TO RIGHT: City Manager Martin Tuttle, Council Member Bill Kristoff, Fire Inspector Bryan Jonson, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, Council Member Beverly Sandeen, and Mayor Pro Tem Mark Johannessen. (Courtesy of City of West Sacramento/Art Schroeder)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 23, 2014 —

At the annual Employee Recognition Ceremony, April 16, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon announced the selection of Senior Fire Inspector Bryan Jonson as the 2014 “Employee of the Year.”

Jonson’s honor reflects his work with the Community Emergency Response Team, inspections, hazardous materials response, fireworks event permits, and weed abatement. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fire administration.

During the same program, the City Council also recognized the Port Business Plan Team as the year’s “Team of the Year” and the Redevelopment Dissolution Team as the year’s “Exceptional Team.”

 

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014