Farm Worker Serial Killer Juan Vallejo Corona Dies

“Machete Murderer” Juan Vallejo Corona Dies of Natural Causes

News Release Edited by Laurie Greene

California State Prison Corcoran inmate Juan Vallejo Corona, 85, died of natural causes Monday at an outside hospital, according to an online public statement by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. Corona was serving 25 concurrent life sentences for 25 counts of first-degree murder. His victims were all migrant farm workers.

In 1971 ,25 bodes buried in orchards along the Feather River in Sutter County were found—a record-setting number of murders in the United States at the time. All of his victims were men who had been seen with Corona or had been hired through Corona’s Sutter County labor contracting business.

Corona, referred to as “machete murderer” by the press, was tried in Colusa County, found guilty in January 1973, and sent to state prison one month later. He barely survived a stabbing attack in 1973 while at California Medical Facility in Vacaville that cost him the sight in his left eye.

In 1978, an appellate court overturned Corona’s conviction, and he was granted a new trial. In 1981, he was admitted to a Correctional Training Facility in Soledad as a safe-keeper commitment until the proceedings were moved to Alameda County. In 1982, Corona was again convicted of all 25 murders, sentenced to 25 concurrent life sentences, and began serving time for the Sutter County commitment.

One decade later, Corona was transferred from Correctional Training Facility to the Protective Housing Unit at California State Prison Corcoran, a unit that houses inmates whose safety would be endangered by general population housing. Corona was denied parole eight times, most recently in 2016.

Featured Photo: Juan Vallejo Corona. Source: California Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation, March 23, 2018.

Healthy Soils Initiative Looks at Cover Crops

Cover Crops Between Annual Veg Crops Studied

 By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Research is under way to determine if using cover crops between two annual vegetable crops will improve the soil for future crops. It’s all part of the California Department of Food and Ag Healthy Soils Program—a statewide project.

Amber Vinchesi is a UCANR Vegetable Crops Farm Advisor in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties. She works mainly with processing tomatoes but also with growers farming vegetables for seed as well as fresh market vegetables such as honeydew and cantaloupe melons.

Vinchesi is collaborating with California’s Healthy Soils Initiative, a partnership of state agencies and departments led by the CDFA Healthy Soils Project. It’s a combination of innovative farm and land management practices that may contribute to building adequate soil organic matter that may increase carbon sequestration and reduce overall greenhouse gases.

“We have three sites, and the site that I’m working on is focused on winter cover crops between crops such as wheat, tomato or corn, to improve soil health,” said Vinchesi, who is being assisted by her colleague Sarah Light, the agronomy advisor in Sutter, Yuba, and Colusa counties

Other Healthy Soil sites are located in the Delta area, and overseen by Michelle Leinfelder-Miles, UCANR Delta Crops Resource Management Advisor in San Joaquin County. Brenna Aegerter, a UCANR Vegetable Crops Farm Advisor also in San Joaquin County, is working with Leinfelder-Miles. Additionally, Scott Stoddard a UCANR Vegetable Crops Farm Advisor in Merced County has a site.

The cover crop will be vetch, a legume.

“We hope that it will put nitrogen and biomass into the soil,” Vinchesi said. “We’re not sure what the results will be, but we hope it will help with aggregate stability, water infiltration, and even reduce weed density.”

She noted that the trial, which is in the first year of a three-year project, will include two different seeding rates, a high and low rate, and then an untreated control where there’s no cover crop.

“And we’ll do soil testing to see how things change in the soil over time,” she explained.

Ag Uses Sound Science to Help Fish

Ag Collaborates to Help Endangered Fish

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Don Bransford, president of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) as well as a member of the State Board of Food and Agriculture, expressed major concerns with the proposed State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) diversion of 40% of the water from many irrigation districts on rivers that drain into the San Joaquin River to increase flows in the Delta to protect endangered fish.

 

“It’s a very difficult challenge because it appears that the SWRCB wants to increase the flows in the Sacramento River. That water has to come from somewhere, and it looks like it’s going to come from the irrigation districts. Unless we can do environmental projects on the River to improve habitat for fish and re-manage our water, we have water at risk,” said Bransford.

Don Bransford, president, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District
Don Bransford, president, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District

 

Bransford, who is also a rice farmer, said “Everyone has their own science regarding protecting those species. We’re talking about salmon, steelhead trout, and of course the smelt.”

“The difficulty is, we believe they’re using a lot of old science. There is newer science that suggests there are better ways to manage this. And, if something does not work, then you change. You just don’t throw more water at it,” he noted.

“We think habitat improvements are important in providing refuge for the fish,” Bransford explained. “We’re looking at flushing rice water into the rivers to provide food. Currently, the rivers are pretty sterile because they are just channels now. If we could apply flows from rice into the rivers like we did for the Delta Smelt this summer, you’re providing food for smelt.”

Bransford noted the Northern California irrigation districts work with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to increase flows in certain areas of the Sacramento River at certain times. “Our irrigation district managers work with the Bureau to provide flushing flows on the upper Sacramento.” These flows clean out diseased gravel beds in the absence of natural high water flows.”

“So they used some extra water late March of this year,” Bransford elaborated, “to just turn the gravel over to freshen it up. It did help the fish, particularly the salmon,” said Bransford.


Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID), according to its website, is dedicated to providing reliable, affordable water supplies to its landowners and water users, while ensuring the environmental and economic viability of the region. As the largest irrigation district in the Sacramento Valley, GCID has a long history of serving farmers and the agricultural community and maintaining critical wildlife habitat. The District fulfills its mission of efficiently and effectively managing and delivering water through an ever-improving delivery system and responsible policies, while maintaining a deep commitment to sustainable practices. Looking ahead, GCID will remain focused on continuing to deliver a reliable and sustainable water supply by positioning itself to respond proactively, strategically and responsibly to California’s ever-changing water landscape.

Initial Walnut Irrigation Can be Delayed

Walnut Irrigation Research Update

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

First springtime walnut irrigation can be delayed, according to a UC Cooperative Extension team in Tehama County working on some fascinating research regarding irrigation practices. Allan Fulton is an Irrigation and Water Resource Advisor who covers Tehama, Colusa, Shasta and Glenn counties. “We actually just finished one of our irrigation experiment harvests this weekend. It was looking at early season water management decisions, basically deciding when to begin the irrigation season,” Fulton said.

allan_fulton
Allan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension Irrigation Specialist

Growers typically begin irrigating their walnuts sometime between late April and early May. In order to be as thorough as possible in their experiment, Fulton and his team have been pushing the limits beyond what most growers would ever consider. “We had some treatments that got no irrigation until almost the end of June,” Fulton explained.

Now in its third year, the research experiment is generating information that will provide a variety of benefits. “The whole motivation is to avoid possible injury to the trees from irrigating too much, too early, from lack of aeration and damage to the root system,” Fulton said. Delayed irrigation, while having no impact on yield or nut size, can also provide a bit of water savings. “We’re trying to look for the sweet spot,” with less intensive early season irrigation in favor of root health, tree health and disease prevention.

California walnut orchard, walnut irrigationThe research is being conducted in the northern Sacramento Valley primarily using the Chandler variety of walnut trees. Fulton has spent some time working in the San Joaquin Valley as well and understands different weather conditions can be a significant factor when applying their findings to other regions. “Our spring rainfall is quite a bit different than other walnut growing areas. Usually we’ve got an added source of water that sometimes you might not have in the southern San Joaquin Valley,” Fulton noted. From his experience, he suggested growers could usually wait until “the first week of May in most years, before really getting pressed for irrigation.”

The location of the research exposes groves to the opportunity to receive “more rain during the dormant season with a better chance at a deeper profile in moisture before you ever break dormancy,” Fulton said. More regional rainfall is possible in the spring as well, while the trees are growing.

The information gathered so far indicates growers should not jump the gun on springtime irrigation, particularly if there is still any kind of standing water issues. “The data is starting to suggest that you’ve got some room. You don’t have to irrigate at the first sign of heat; you can use a little bit of the stored moisture coming out of winter,” Fulton said. He also noted “It’s a lot more difficult to recover from a damaged tree with a sick roots system,” than it is to recover from a lack of early season irrigation.

Episcopal Priest Becomes Farmer

Following His Heart to a Second Calling, Suburban Detroit Priest Becomes California Farmer

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

People change careers for a variety of reasons, but Ken Erickson took that notion to an extreme. Erickson, who had grown up in the Detroit suburbs and who was serving as an Episcopal priest in Detroit, received a phone call from relatives who had been farming in Sutter and Colusa Counties for 25 years.

 

“My aunt and uncle asked if I would be interested in coming to California to learn how to farm and help manage their orchards, which included walnuts, pecans, and olives for oil,” said Erickson. “So my family and I eventually made a decision to do just that, and it has been a big adventure for us.”

walnut orchard

 

Currently living in Meridian, Sutter County and working side by side with his cousin, Lars Jerkins, Erickson took stock, “We are enjoying living and working in the country. It’s great to work outside,” he said.

 

People often ask Erickson about the difference between farming and pastoring. “I tell people trees are like people; they need lots of nurture and care, but they don’t talk back,” he quipped.

 

But, of course, giving up his career as an Episcopal priest required a great deal of thought. “It was a hard decision,” Erickson explained. “It was a big change, but we decided to go for it. Here we are and learning from lots of people, especially from my aunt, uncle and cousin. And I have come to respect and appreciate the fact that the farming community is supportive. They want to help in any way. My family and I are here to stay.”

Record Walnut Crop Harvest

By Colby Tibbet, California Ag Today Reporter

With a predicted record 545,000 tons to be harvested, the walnut industry is getting very busy this time of year.

Janine Hasey is a UC Cooperative Extension Tree Crops Farm Advisor and County Director for Sutter-Yuba Counties. She also assists growers in Colusa County.

“We started early up here, but the hot weather we’ve had has slowed things down again. So we’re working on early varieties, a lot of Serrs are in; Vinas are in, and Tulares are being harvested, and we are trying to get the Howards harvested.”

“Right now it sounds like we’re on track for that record production prediction to come true,” said Hasey. “Growers are now harvesting early varieties; I have just talked to a grower who doubled Serr production from last year, and her Ashley production has tripled or more,” Hasey commented.

Growers have used a lot of Ethrel, a common late-season spray, to help speed up harvest and trigger a more even harvest period. “Some growers are saying it has worked, while others say maybe not so well,” said Hasey.

In addition to the hot temperatures and dryness, Hasey said, “we’ve had a little bit of dew last week. We are expecting some possible rain showers on Thursday…which would be really good to get the walnut hulls splitting, and get things moving again.”