In the open field behind LangeTwins Winery, there was not a clean hand to be found on Tuesday afternoon. Instead, 25 high school students in rubber chore boots dug small holes at precise intervals to make room for blackberry shrubs, California rose plantings, oak trees and wild grapevines.
Maintaining the land in this area, with its rich soil, is a lot of responsibility. Countless people rely on it for food and to provide for their families. But animals native to increasingly rare riparian habitats count on it for their homes.
The Center for Landbased Learning balances both of these needs and throws hands-on learning into the bargain.
The center runs a Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship program that matches landowners with restoration partners and classrooms to help adapt small parcels of farmland to native ecosystems.
In this case, Miles DaPrato of Audobon California's Landowner Stewardship program designed a plan to weave in with the natural beauty of the area.
"It's easy. You plant what you think used to be here," said DaPrato.
Teacher Aleathea Langone supervised her biology students as they helped to restore a 20-acre stretch of land back to its natural riparian state.
"It's very important to me as a biology teacher to get students outside and experiencing living ecosystems," she said.
The work crew was from Middle College High School. They were out at the winery for the third time this year to learn exactly what it takes to build a diverse habitat. On the side, they were also learning what careers were available in the natural world in the future.
"It will be nice coming back here in a few years and seeing what we did," said Ali Manrique, 15.
LangeTwins built the winery in 2005 with the intention of expanding the riparian zone edging Jahant Slough behind the property.
The project was paid for through grants from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as the National Resource Conservation Service, with labor and funds provided in kind by LangeTwins.
The idea is to connect natural habitats across the property to ease migration and encourage helpful insects and pollinators.
That's something Aaron Lange can get behind.
"If every farmer gave 20 feet or so to a natural hedgerow, it would add so much beauty to our county," he said. "Farmers can do this."
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.