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cal poly, san luis obispo winter 2015

Karen Ross, Secretary of California Department of Food and Agriculture speaks with Cal Poly

inside Life on the Farmstead How a Napa Valley farm stays at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement

A View From Above Drone technology in agriculture takes flight

How Much Longer ?

Rebuilding California agriculture as the state awaits El Ni単o

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Ross took time to speak and participate in a question and answer session with Cal Poly students and faculty in October. Ross clearly understands the balancing act of upholding and appeasing agriculture’s traditional aspects, while being a champion for changing the future in terms of sustaining C a l i f o r n i a’s position as the top agriculture state. This issue touches on the idea of innovation and new leadership. Taking Ross’ lead, two Cal Poly seniors, seeing the lack of women in agriculture, inspired female high school students to be the new leaders and faces in agriculture. In innovation, we share stories on the new technology of drones and how a Napa Valley farm is taking sustainable farming to the next level. And in current agricultural challenges, one story highlights threats and opportunities of El Niño, the other, debates in Congress over food labeling. We hope you enjoy our first issue of the school year as Ag Circle continues to highlight the leaders and innovators in agriculture for our readers.


A LETTER FROM THE STAFF Recently, Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences began a hashtag campaign with #AgNowMoreThanEver. Cal Poly students used the hashtag to showcase their hands-on labs and hometown farms, creating awareness that agriculture is essential for life. The message extends beyond students exhibiting Learn by Doing. At this point in California agriculture, the industry needs innovators, thinkers and leaders more than ever before. Few people exhibit this more than the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, and that’s why we chose to feature her as our cover story.

CONTRIBUTORS Top row left to right: Hannah Beeler, Diane Meyer, Hailey Nunn, Marleigh Ostrom. Middle row: Emma Morris, Rylin Lindahl, Jeanine Madson, Arielle Dubowe. Bottom row: Corinne Madison, Mady Braught, Mackenzie Gomes, Carly Boudreau.

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Harrison, Kenna, Katie & Jordan















agcircle Volume 34, Issue 1, Winter 2015 Published three times a year by the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication

California Polytechnic State University Brock Center for Agricultural Communication 1 Grand Avenue San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 Building 10, Room 234 Editor-in-Chief Harrison Reilly Faculty Advisor Megan Silcott Associate Editors Jordan Dunn Katie Roberti Kenna Lewis Writers Hannah Beeler, Carly Boudreau, Emma Morris, Kenna Lewis, Corrine Madison, Jordan Dunn, Arielle Dubowe, Diane Meyer, Mackenzie Gomes, Jeanine Madson, Marleigh Ostrom, Katie Roberti, Harrison Reilly, Rylin Lindahl, Hailey Nunn, Mady Braught. Photographers Hannah Beeler, Haley Seeger, Emma Morris, Sherri Freeman, Arielle Dubowe, Diane Meyer, Stephen Smith, Matt Edge, Mackenzie Gomes, US Agriseeds, Talley Farms, Marleigh Ostrom, Katie Roberti, Harrison Reilly, Mady Braught. Graphic Designers Katie Roberti, Jordan Dunn, Harrison Reilly Submissions to agcircle are welcome. Permission to Reproduce All material in this issue may be reproduced with the expressed written permission of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication. The contents of agcircle are generated by students, and do not reflect the opinions of California Polytechnic State University, its administration or faculty. Printed by PRP Companies.








Senior project leads to Young Women in Agriculture Leadership Seminar

Career insights from the 2016 Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit

Behind the scenes with the Ag Ops team

In the classroom with teacher candidates

Cal Poly students excel in internships across the country

The path of a Cal Poly product

Trendy dining makes it’s way to Cal Poly’s campus


How a Napa Valley farm is at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement

SOWING THE SEEDS Where every agriculture story begins

A FRESH HARVEST NEAR YOU Local CSA finds success


Drone technology in agriculture takes flight


MAJOR FOOD LABELING BILL HANGS IN THE BALANCE Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act makes its way through Congress






Rebuilding California’s agriculture as the state awaits El Niño



Social media connects farmers and consumers

The importance of transportation in agriculture

A GLIMPSE OF MONTANA’S AGRICULTURE Photo essay exploring agriculture production in the Treasure State agcircle | 3

Women in Agriculture



he future of American agriculture once rested solely in the hands of men. And for years, the industry succeeded. But with time, agriculture—like many other things—joined the long list of activities where women excelled. Two Cal Poly seniors, Natalie Madson and Diane Meyer, understand this reality and shared their expertise. They hosted the Young Women in Agriculture Leadership Seminar (YWALS) for high school females, with the hope the takeaway message would be one thing: confidence in themselves. “Our goal was to educate young women in FFA programs about agriculture career opportunities, as well as incorporate leadership and confidence building exercises to encourage them to become leaders in the industry,” Madson said. In September, more than 50 high school girls and their advisors visited Cal Poly’s campus for the YWALS. The event, developed as a senior project by Madson and Meyer, had speakers from all over the state of California and left young women with an abundance of knowledge on the industry and information on agriculture programs at universities around the state. “I think the most valuable element of conferences like YWALS is that they actively encourage women of all ages and backgrounds to share their experiences in order to help others grow,” said Leslie Friend, speaker and BASF representative. Madson and Meyer’s passion was sparked when they heard about a similar event for 4 | Winter 2015

college females. They felt high school females should be equipped with the same knowledge when deciding on their major and potentially their career choice. After one year of planning, the day arrived and all of their hard work came together. “At the end of the day, I was approached by two high school students from Shandon who thanked us for putting this on. One of them said, ‘I really needed this.’ Knowing that we made a difference in at least one person's life made every minute of hard work all worth it,” Meyer said.

The seminar’s inaugural theme, “Put Your Best Boot Forward: Find Your Road to Success,” helped define the event. Some of the topics the speaker topics included, “How Big Do You Want Your Fire?”, “The Future of Women in Agriculture”, and “The Big Picture: Global Agriculture.” Each attendee had the opportunity to have a hands-on experience

in the industry and it wasn’t just the students who took away something new. “I took away that you're never too old or young or too anything to be able to share value about connecting with others and networking with new colleagues,” Friend said. “It was amazing to watch young women talk to old; seasoned career women engage with other seasoned career women; students listening to their counterparts.” This may have been the first YWALS event, but Madson and Meyer don’t plan to stop there. They see the event growing and hopefully continuing as an annual event where students can come to learn and grow in the industry. “Ideally, I would like to see it expand to other counties in California. We coordinated with colleges around California to get agriculture program literature for our attendees and many of them were interested in sending a representative,” Madson said. “I would like to see college representatives at the event, possibly set it up as a mini tradeshow. I think that it would be a great resource for both the students and college programs.” The event met its goal — instilling confidence in young women. “Above all, my hope is that the students were able to understand that before they know where they want to go to school and what career to have, they'll need to know themselves,” Friend said.


Cal Poly Alumni Take Fresh Summit



his past October, four hardworking students from Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences traveled to Atlanta, Ga. and to attend the Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) annual Fresh Summit International Convention and Exposition. Each year, Fresh Summit hosts many of the top industry leaders in the produce and floral industry from around the world. Students selected to go have the opportunity to network, gain industry knowledge, and create long lasting relationships with professionals in the field. Agricultural communication students Kenna Lewis, Harrison Reilly, Carly Boudreau and agricultural science student Sammy Mass attended the expo as participants in the Pack Family Careers Pathway Program. Megan Silcott, director of The Brock Center for Agricultural Communication, traveled with the students as their advisor. Eleven years ago, Jay Pack created the Pack Family Careers Pathway Program with the desire to bring the brightest students in agriculture together with industry professionals. Amongst the 20,000 plus attendees, Cal Poly alumni were well represented. Alumni spoke with Cal Poly students and shared their first-hand experience working in the produce industry. Olivia Wenger with the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), Katie Veenstra with GloriAnn Farms and Lindsey Roberts from Monterey Mushrooms answered a few questions regarding life after Cal Poly.

Q: How has Cal Poly helped your career?

A: Olivia: Cal Poly has instant credibility for anyone within the agriculture industry. Simply having a Cal Poly degree has been a great conversation starter both in interviews and business networking settings. Katie: Quite literally, Cal Poly got me started in my current career. After graduating and looking at job listings on multiple websites

and hearing of jobs, I found my employer through a MustangJOBS posting. This served as a reminder to me, and hopefully to all of you, to take advantage of everything Cal Poly has to offer. I had a background in agriculture coming in, Cal Poly greatly helped expand my knowledge and understanding of different industries that I wasn’t previously familiar, such as produce. Beyond the technical knowledge and skills learned in classes, I was able to improve and strengthen my capacity for effective communication, collaborative teamwork and efficient time management through interactions with fellow students, advisors, and professors. These, and many others, are skills I use on a daily basis in my career, and Cal Poly afforded me the opportunity to develop and strengthen those during my time as student. Cal Poly provides a great network of alumni who I always look forward to connecting with at industry events Lindsey: One of the biggest advantages I’ve gained from the Agricultural Communications Department was the basics of design. Although I’m not a graphic designer, it is so helpful in my job and saves companies so much money. I can create this stuff and I don’t have to hire somebody at $110 an hour to do it and not get it really the way I wanted it. Q: Why do you attend/ participate in PMA? A: Olivia: It’s a great part of my job! Katie: PMA is the largest tradeshow for the produce industry and is always well attended by both produce companies and buyers. As a company, GloriAnn Farms has exhibited at this show for many years because it is a great opportunity to meet with existing and potential customers in one central location. I attend the PMA Fresh Summit not only because it’s my job, but because it’s a great way to build a network of peers within the industry. After almost three years in produce,

it’s so exciting to attend an event like PMA and start recognizing familiar faces and continue building and strengthening relationships. Lindsey: This is my first year at PMA with Monterey Mushrooms. The last two years I was here with Lakeside Organic Gardens. This is a whole new perspective for me looking at it from the mushroom industry, which is so different from the organic industry. Q: Any advice to students regarding classes or internships to seek? A: Olivia: There is a reason that marketing is PMA’s middle name. The produce industry needs professionals who are capable of creating a branded product approach to marketing commodities. Any opportunities you can find to learn about added value products, branding and packaging innovation will be invaluable. PMA’s Fresh Ideas Showcase is a great place to see what the industry’s leading innovators are doing in these areas. Katie: Take advantage of everything Cal Poly has to offer. When people ask me what I enjoyed most about my education at Cal Poly, my response is always the variety of classes I took and organizations I became involved in. Even if you know exactly what industry you want to work in after graduation or what career you’re working towards, take time to immerse yourself into classes and organizations that may not have a direct connection to that industry. Here I am, almost four years graduated, working in produce sales and marketing. It’s important to understand that there are skills and knowledge to be gained from these courses that will serve you well in any and all industries. I look back on my time at Cal Poly as a time in which I received a true, well-rounded education. Lindsey: Internships. Learn the basics of design and social media.

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Ag Operations Behind the Scenes with Cal Poly’s Ag Ops


al Poly is known for its beautiful and productive agricultural land, both on campus and throughout San Luis Obispo County. But what goes into making this agricultural land so beautiful and functional? That is where the Cal Poly Agricultural Operations team comes in. Known as Ag Ops, this hardworking team of staff and students accounts for the behind-the-scenes aspects of Cal Poly’s agricultural endeavors. “Ag Operations is a support department for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences,” said Kevin Piper, Ag Ops director of operations. “We’re here to make sure that each of the 10 departments within the college are kept greased and running.” Ag Operations is responsible for more than 6,000 acres of

land, including all of Cal Poly’s campus, and the Peterson, Serrano, Chorro Creek, Walters and Escuela Ranches owned by Cal Poly. “The average day in the Ag Ops program mainly entails equipment maintenance and repairs in the shop, as well as dealing with irrigation water and the pumping and distribution of that water out on the croplands,” Piper said. Two major aspects of Ag Ops are its water recycling and composting programs. Cal Poly is required by law to manage its waste and lagoon water from the various animal confinement areas on campus, including the dairy, swine, beef, poultry, horse and sheep units. The Ag Ops program has a permit from the Regional Water Quality Control

Board allowing utilization of some lagoon water and recycling it for irrigation purposes on

“We’re here to make sure that each of the 10 departments within the college are kept greased and running.” KEVIN PIPER

Director of Operations for Ag Ops

certain parts of campus. Ag Ops also uses animal wastewater


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to use by combining it with leftover feedstock, grass, and tree clippings from campus to create nutrient-dense compost. The composting site, managed by Mike Bridgman, a farm maintenance mechanic, is located above the dairy unit. The waste from the animals is put into windrows at the composting site and typically sits for 90 to 120 days, depending on the soil degree of breakdown and the Ag Ops schedule. It is checked for temperature on a daily basis until it is moved to the finishing process. “Seventy to 100 percent of the compost that is made goes to fertilize crops on campus and on the ranches,” Bridgman said. The compost is also sold through the Poly Plant Shop and occasionally to local farmers and ranchers. The Ag Ops team is not only doing its part to reduce, reuse and recycle waste and water for Cal Poly, the team is also open to student employment and research assistance. Piper said Ag Ops “typically supports research projects by expanding or modifying irrigation systems, or developing pieces of ground,” for students and faculty members conducting research. “We’re here to support our faculty and students, so we try to accommodate them in any way we can, based on what they need,” Piper said. Additionally, Ag Operations employs six to eight students at a time during the school year, and up to 10 during the summer. According to Piper, students looking to work for Ag Ops need not have previous experience in the agricultural realm — he’s looking for people who are


“motivated and willing to work” — but he prefers students who are comfortable using the equipment the job requires. He added the Ag Ops staff know part of their job is to mentor student employees, so if students are willing to learn and work hard, they will do well working for Ag Ops. Many factors are involved in helping make Cal Poly’s agricultural programs as successful. Ag Ops is just one more program continuing to support the agriculture industry through hands-on student experiences using Cal Poly agriculture facilities.

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In the Classroom with Cal Poly’s Agricultural Education Teacher Candidates STORY BY KENNA LEWIS PHOTOS PROVIDED BY SHERRI FREEMAN


he success of any high school agricultural program can be traced to the backbone of the department: the teachers. Now more than ever, California is in need of dedicated agricultural educators in high schools across the state. It is forecast the state will be 40 teachers short every year into the near future. This does not include plans to make agriculture more mainstream in middle schools. While the quantity of teachers may be short, the quality of dedicated agricultural educators graduating from the Cal Poly credential program are prepared to fill the teaching gap. Thanks to hours of instructional training, and most importantly months of hands-on student teaching, Cal Poly graduates are prepared to launch into their careers. According to professor Ben Swan, the most important part of an agricultural educator’s training is during the four months of student teaching. “We want them to experience all of the components of a total agriculture program,” Swan said. “This includes teaching 8 | Winter 2015

Where are Cal Poly’s ag education student candidates in California?

subjects across agriculture — agricultural mechanics, horticulture, agricultural science, landscaping, animal science, agricultural chemistry, etc. It also includes being heavily involved in the FFA leadership component.” Each semester, Cal Poly teaching candidates are assigned to a program deemed fit by its regional supervisor. Depending on how many candidates are enrolled, they can be placed as near as San Luis Obispo High School or as far as Hollister High School. Mentor teacher and candidate personalities are taken into consideration for candidate placement as well as living arrangements during the student teaching process. “We know our candidates pretty well and know who can handle a really progressive agriculture department with strong personalities,” Swan said. “We try to match our candidates with programs that will suit them best.” Once placed, the amount each candidate teaches varies depending on the school’s need. For example, Gary Potter, placed at Santa Maria High School, covers one period of agricultural mechanics, and co-teaches


“Our teacher candidates have put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get ready for their student teaching experience.” BEN SWAN

Agricultural Education Professor

two periods of advanced and beginning agricultural mechanics. He also designed the curriculum for each course. Nearby, Jennifer Daniels, placed at Righetti High School, teaches two agricultural science classes. Regardless of teaching levels, all candidates see a gradual increase of class time as the semester progresses. Even though teaching candidates are out in the field and away from the Cal Poly classroom, they still work closely with Cal Poly faculty during the semester. In addition to being enrolled in 28 units and receiving 10 units towards their master’s degree in agricultural education, they receive a visit from a Cal Poly agricultural professor for at least half a day once a month. Classroom management is continually one of the toughest transitions for student teachers. For Chelsi Faria, student teacher at Hilmar High School, success was found by setting clear expectations from day one. “My cooperating teacher told me, ‘As we look at you, you are a credentialed teacher. The students cannot question you, you have all the power of a teacher.’ So the first day I took over

the class, I observed for a while, then I told them, ‘In your eyes, I’m a teacher. I can give out detentions, I can call your parents,’” Faria said. Although teacher candidates go through several hours of hands-on training to prepare them for the classroom environment, these simulations can’t fully prepare teachers for what is to come. “When you tell an adult, ‘okay stop talking now,’ they are likely to listen to you,” Daniels said. But actually having students where there is not just one of them talking, or one of them goofing off or off task, you can’t really prepare for that.” While the classroom can be challenging at times, there have been several rewarding moments for the student teachers as well. “I have two students who typically are more underperforming than the rest of the class and we just did [FFA] opening and closing ceremonies in class. I expected them to not even go up in front of the class, but they stood up there and had their parts memorized and I was blown away,” said Joanna Gomes, student teacher candidate at Ripon High School. The semester of student teaching allows

teaching candidates to get comfortable in the classroom, while discovering what teaching style works for them. Swan sees the experience as the pinnacle of the entire agricultural education program. “Teacher candidates go through their student teaching experience to develop teaching competence, which leads to confidence,” Swan said. “The student teaching experience is the capstone experience to their 17 years of education. Our teacher candidates have put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get ready for their student teaching experience.” A semester in front of the classroom has been an integral part of the Cal Poly agricultural education program for many years. The classroom experience, mentoring from seasoned teachers, and guidance of Cal Poly professors has continued to make the Cal Poly agricultural education program one of the best in the state.

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LEARN BY INTERNING It is no secret Cal Poly students Learn by Doing. Labs, enterprises and extracurricular activities are typical examples of hands-on learning at Cal Poly. In addition are internships. Internships are a phenomenal way to gain

experience in a particular field and can help students find their future career paths. For many students, completing an internship is a requirement to graduate. For others, it is another way to gain experience outside of the classroom. The following

students from Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, all fourth-year students completed internships over the summer with companies throughout the state and nation.

1. What was your day-to-day routine? My day-to-day routine consisted of analysis and small projects in the mornings and pressure bomb readings (uses a leaf to measure the water stress of the plant) in the afternoons.

Trelawney Bullis Irrigation efficiency intern Nichols Farms (Hanford, Calif.) BioResource and agricultural engineering

1. What was your day-to-day routine? It changed over summer. First, I was in charge of working on and overseeing an onion sorting and packaging line. The bulk of my summer was spent managing onion seed harvesting and combining. Since we grew different varieties in each field, it was very important to make sure that the seed did not cross-contaminate. 2. How did you find out about this internship? I first came into contact with Sensient at the Cal Poly’s Ag Showcase, and followed up at the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering career fair.

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2. How has being a Cal Poly Mustang helped to prepare you for this internship? Being a Cal Poly Mustang really helped me be prepared for my internship because I was very confident with my knowledge. I think this is because of my professors and the numerous labs I have done at Cal Poly.

3. What is one piece of advice you have for future student interns? My advice for other interns would be to not be afraid to say you don’t understand and to not be afraid to ask questions. I learned so much this summer about so many things simply because I asked questions all the time! As an intern, you are there to learn, so treat the experience as so. Also, take every opportunity that you can. You’ll regret it in the end if you don’t.

3. What was the most challenging aspect of your internship? It was challenging to be the manager and gain the respect of groups of 20 to 30 farm workers. After showing mutual respect for each other, it all turned out well. 4. What is one piece of advice you have for other students that will become interns one day? Take as much out of those 10 to 12 weeks as possible. Volunteer to work overtime, and never cut corners. Most importantly, make sure to leave a good impression with that company while developing connections.

Austin Jones Seed operations intern Sensient Natural Ingredients (Central Valley, Calif.) Agricultural systems management



1. What was the most rewarding aspect of your internship? The most rewarding part of the whole experience for me was learning something new each week. I hadn’t done that much traveling within California, and especially not into Nevada. I learned more about California agriculture this summer than I ever anticipated. 2. What was the most challenging aspect of your internship? Although it was awesome to see so much of the state and learn so many new things, it was challenging to get a grasp of an area’s industry since I was only there for five days. The short amount of time

really forced me to soak in as much as I could, as quickly as I could, so I could be prepared for the week of work. 3. How has being a Cal Poly Mustang helped to prepare you for this internship? Cal Poly prepared me for the internship because I took the Rural Property Appraisal course. The more indirect way that it prepared me, though, was being able to hit the ground running. With the quarter system, there isn’t a lot of time to waste, and I found that to be true this summer as well. Cal Poly has also enabled me to make lasting connections simply because we share the Cal Poly education. The Cal Poly Alumni network is huge.

1. What was your day-to-day routine? I think what I loved the most about this internship was that there was no day-to-day routine. Some mornings I would come into the office and have meetings with our partnered creative agency but then I also had days when I was in a field all day watching the film crew create promotional videos. Every day I was tasked with numerous unique projects that all combined to make my internship the rewarding experience that it was.

Trevor Surrock Marketing communications intern Olam International (Fresno, Calif.) Agribusiness

2. How did you find out about this internship? I got lucky because this internship kind of found me. I had never heard about the company before and I happened to just stumble across them at the Ag Showcase. 3. What was the most rewarding aspect of your internship?

Michelle McClure Appraisal intern Western region of American AgCredit (California and Nevada) Agricultural communication

The most rewarding part the internship for me was giving my final presentation to the president of the company, the director of HR and my supervisor. It was rewarding seeing the main project that I had been working on for 10 weeks come to an end. 4. What is one piece of advice you have for other future student interns? My advice for other students would be to ask questions. Internships are learning opportunities, so learn as much as you can in the short amount of time that you are there. Don’t be afraid of asking to job shadow in other departments, take on new projects and even point out ways that you believe processes can be done in a more efficient way. Take advantage of everything and make an impression. Your summer can turn into a full-time career. agcircle | 11

1. What was the most rewarding aspect of your internship? I think the most rewarding thing about the internship was I had a ton of independence in terms of deciding how I wanted to run my internship. Everyday was decided by me and I could learn how to plan and strategize to become the most efficient in terms of calling upon accounts. Working with the Rosas and their tight-knit business was also extremely rewarding, as they made me feel like family and I was able to implement some ideas and suggestions that I came up with over the summer.

Jace Tarbell Sales and marketing intern Rosa Brothers Milk Company (Tulare, Calif.) Animal science

1. What was your day-to-day routine? I was in charge of compiling news articles to put into the Pork Daily, which was an email news blast sent out to the council’s membership and subscribers. I also managed the various news email accounts to keep their information up-to-date. My daily routine was probably a little different from other interns that come in during the spring or fall though, because Congress goes on recess during the summer months. 2. How did you find out about this internship? My grandfather is a past president for the National Pork Board…so in one word, networking. 3. What was the most rewarding aspect of your internship? While the internship work was a fantastic experience that I am so grateful for, I think one of the most valuable parts of it was learning to live and work in an unknown area. Not only was I living across the country, but I was working with people who grew up on that side of the country. By doing this, I learned about other issues outside of California that are affecting the 12 | Winter 2015

2. What did you learn that could help you in your future career? Persistence. In sales, you must be persistent and whenever you get told no, you simply need to take a step back and figure out what steps must be accomplished to get a yes. The time frame on decisions varies greatly, but the one constant that I discovered that consistently remains the same is being

persistent. Also, learning to be respectful of other peoples’ time and accept the fact that not everyone will always think the same way you do. This is something that pertained greatly to sales. I think that ultimately connects right back to the ethical selling approach instead of the approach of any sale is a good sale. 3. What is one piece of advice you have for other students future student interns? I think the best piece of advice I ever received was: It’s not about finding what you want to do, it’s about finding what you don’t want to do. I think every internship will have its moments when you think that you have gotten yourself into a horrible mess, but the best thing I can suggest is to suck it up because in the end result is usually worth it. Either way, you get to grow from an experience that will only be an asset to your resume.

agriculture industry and how agriculture has affected people in different areas of the country. 4. What did you learn that will help you in your future career? I learned a lot about inter-business communication during this internship. It was a lot about who to address and when, and how to address them as well. I also got to see first-hand how to deal with angry consumers, which will be relevant in almost any subset of the agriculture industry. 5. What is one piece of advice you have for other students that will become interns one day? One piece of advice is don’t be afraid. If you are extremely comfortable with where you live and what you know, apply for internships outside of that comfort zone and go somewhere you’ve never been. It will show you a lot about yourself and it will show you a lot about what you want to do with your career.

Kaity Carpenter Communications intern National Pork Producers Council (Washington, D.C.) Agricultural communication


Signed, Sealed, Delivered The Path of a Cal Poly Product Locations


Vons Big Sky Cafe Bliss Cafe


SLO Natural Foods Co-Op Mother’s Tavern Kona’s Deli Campus Market


Village Market Red Radish Organic • Winter squash • Lettuce • Onion • Carrot • Kale • Summer squash • Tomato • Pepper • Eggpant • Cucumber • Beets • Cilantro • Broccoli • Cauliflower • Cabbage • Kohlrabi • Turnip


ith the increasing trend of local eating, Cal Poly students are getting direct experience in growing and distributing food to local markets. Cal Poly students grow 38 conventional products and 15 organic products that are sold throughout the city of San Luis Obispo. These fruits and vegetables, according to Professor Lauren Garner, crop science professor and faculty supervisor for the Cal Poly orchard operation, are the result of two teams of hard working students.

San Luis Obispo

Conventional • Blenheim Apricots • Yellow Peaches • White Peaches • Black Mission Figs • Hass Avocados • Lamb Hass Avocados • Lisbon Lemons • Fuji Apples • Gala Apples • Mollies Delicious Apples • Moonglow Pears • Orient Pears • Monterey Pears • Seckle Pears • Asian Pears • Pineapple Pears • Kiefer Pears

“We have a group of students that we refer to as the production crew, and then another group of students that are the picking, processing and market crew,” Garner said. The production crew is primarily responsible for growing the fruits and vegetables. The second crew is involved in the postharvest handling of the produce, including dealing with buyers who are interested in purchasing Cal Poly produce. Students facilitate the produce sales and also deliver the fruits and vegetables, Max Poswillo,

• Fuyu Persimmons • Hachiya Persimmons • Vincent Kiwis • Teawi Kiwis • Lisbon Lemons • Star Ruby Grapefruit • Rio Red Grapefruit • Oro Blanco Grapefruit • Melogold Grapefruit • Mexican Limes • Satsuma Mandarins • Lane Late Navel Oranges • Washington Navel Oranges • Valencia Orange • Blood Oranges • Trovita Oranges • Ruby Grapes

agricultural and environmental plant sciences senior said. “Students personally deliver our produce and sell produce to our customers,” said Poswillo. “Along with selling produce to our wholesale customers, we also have weekly farmers’ markets where the public can buy our produce.” Many sales are still made directly on campus, but Vons is one of the larger purchasers of Cal Poly fruits and vegetables, Garner explained. “Vons was initially approached about selling Cal Poly Products,” Garner said. “They were already buying vegetables from another

• Red Flame Grapes • Red Globe Grapes • Thompson Seedless Grapes

Locations not on map • SLO Veg • Vons - Atascadero • Vons - Grover Beach • Vons - Nipomo

faculty member’s student group, so they had a nice reputation there. We got to take advantage of that and now they buy fruit from us.” With an industry continuing to turn toward eating locally, the experience students are getting through selling their own produce directly to San Luis Obispo customers is undoubtedly a practice that will come in handy upon graduation, Garner said.

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Trendy Dining Makes It’s Way to Cal Poly’s Campus


any students enrolled at Cal Poly are part of the millennial generation, born between 1982 and 2004. This generation has shown specific and unique consumer habits, and Cal Poly dining has taken notice. Millennials have been known to value independent thinking and a love for creativity, art and witty banter. Cal Poly installed new alternatives to current on-campus dining options, which target this audience — the quickly growing millennial population of students. Millennials’ have a heightened awareness of healthy food and their obsession with creatively customizing their diet led Cal Poly’s dining choices. According to Ellen Curtis, Cal Poly’s OnCampus Dining director of corporation marketing and communications, changes such as the menu at VG’s, Yogurt Creations and Red Radish came directly from students’ requests for more nutritious options. “It has been very successful and well received by students, parents, faculty and the community,” Curtis said. Cal Poly introduced Red Radish in 2014 and the cafe quickly gained popularity based on its elaborate salad bar setup. Salad bars are an iconic institution in college dining halls, representing the best and most popular alternative to greasy pizza or fries. Where the typical dining hall salad bar may lack in freshness and originality, Red 14 | Winter 2015

Radish offers both. The Red Radish menu contains five signature salads, nearly 40 toppings and an arrangement of gourmet salad dressings. Red Radish gives students control over how fancy and unique they want their salad bowl to be. As specified by Eater’s article “11 Things Millennials Want, According to Giant Food Companies,” some things are necessary for a food company to attract millennials: meat, kale, mason jars, a chill place to hang out at, customizable dishes and artisanal options. A student can walk into Red Radish and easily find all of the attributes that define millennial-targeted restaurants. While Red Radish offers signature salads with fixed

ingredients, creating a custommade salad bowl is the preferable option for most students. For millennials, it is all about having many options and having control over those choices. With kale’s recent rise in popularity, Red Radish management made the decision to include this healthy green in their salad bar. Meat, although not a typical salad bar option, is a musthave for millennials since it has recently gained more popularity among young people. According to Curtis, fried and grilled chicken are the two most popular meat toppings. Red Radish decided to cater to millennials by including the dining options they are looking for, such as gourmet toppings and locally sourced ingredients. The

concept of using local produce is a big driving force behind Red Radish and one of the reasons for its popularity. Millennials lean more toward food items with a story behind them and have been obtained from local farms. “We currently carry Cal Poly cheese and try to maintain one [Cal Poly grown] product when production of the farm allows,” Curtis said. “Offering options is our goal. As far as student diets, Campus Dining has a Wellness Office run by registered dietitian, Megan Coats, who offers peer counseling and campus-wide wellness programs to help students make healthy choices.” By making this addition to campus, Cal Poly is serving what today’s students want.



Life on the Farmstead How a Napa Valley Farm is at the Forefront of the Farm-to-Table Movement STORY BY DIANE MEYER PHOTOS BY DIANE MEYER, STEPHEN SMITH & MATT EDGE


ed and Laddie Hall, proprietors of Long Meadow Ranch and Farmstead Restaurant in St. Helena, Calif., developed a full-circle farming operation embodying the farm-to-table movement. After starting out as a small home garden, Long Meadow Ranch (LMR) now produces fruits and vegetables, wine, olive oil, beef and lamb, honey and preserves. Farmstead Restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch incorporates all aspects of the ranch to provide local, organic and seasonal products to customers. Farmstead is one of the many components of LMR. The Halls acquired the original property, known as the Mayacamas Estate, in 1989 to pursue a career in winemaking. Their children, Chris and Timmy, were active in 4-H and raised hogs, chickens and lambs. They also started a family garden at the ranch, which soon started producing more crops than the family could consume. “We decided to ask the market manager of the St. Helena Farmers’ Market if the kids could sell produce there,” Laddie Hall said. “It was their version of a lemonade stand. The manager got all excited and said, ‘Of course! We would love to have the kids come because they are our future farmers.’ She really wanted to support them.”

As Chris and Timmy ran a successful stand at the farmers market and expanded the garden under Laddie’s supervision, the family began planting vineyards and building a winery. During construction, they discovered an abandoned olive orchard containing more than 250 trees hidden within an overgrown forest. Believing the trees were planted for a good reason, the Hall’s decided to restore the

orchard. They designated a wing of the winery for an olive press to make their own olive oil and LMR now produces extra virgin olive oil and planted more than 1,500 new trees since discovering the orchard. In 2002, the Halls acquired six acres in Rutherford, Calif., and began harvesting organic fruit and vegetable gardens, and

managing egg-laying hens, beehives and additional vineyards. Soon the excess of fruits and vegetables grew so large, Laddie began offering local chefs the extra produce she couldn’t sell at the farmers’ market. “Then one day, we discovered property in town that was for lease,” Hall said. “We thought, we have all this product, instead of always begging the restaurants to take our food, let’s just start the restaurant!” And so, in 2009, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch opened its doors in St. Helena. Everything grown at the Rutherford Estate is used to supply the restaurant and the chefs at Farmstead design the menu around the seasonal produce and meat available. “The food isn’t manipulated,” said Kipp Ramsey, the farm-to-table manager and sous chef at Farmstead. “It is grown right, picked right and served right, so the true flavors of the food really emerge. So many people are used to what a tomato tastes like on a Big Mac, that they forget what a fresh-picked tomato really tastes like.” The Rutherford Estate is currently more than 90 acres of produce and vineyards, increasing production to meet Farmstead’s demands as much as possible. LMR is constantly working to increase supply to the restaurant. LMR recently acquired 500 acres in Tomales, Calif., agcircle | 15

to raise grassfed lambs and Scottish Highland cattle. The staff at Farmstead is committed to only serving fresh, seasonal and local food, and tries to limit outsourcing the necessities, such as potatoes and eggs for baking. “We sometimes can’t offer people certain foods because it isn’t in season or it doesn’t grow in this region,” Ramsey said. “But the reality is food isn’t available year round. We are trying to change the perspective of how people eat. “ LMR operates using a full-circle farming method, meaning everything produced is used. This includes using all parts of the livestock carcass, and using trimmings from vineyards and olive trees to make compost, which is then used in the fruit and vegetable gardens. The ranch is also committed to using organic farming techniques.

16 | Winter 2015

“Organic farming ensures quality product while at the same time preserving the land,” Hardin said. “We are not comprising the land for later use or for future generations. We take

“We had support back when our our kids were raising animals for the fair...we want to give back and show appreciation for the support given to us.” LADDIE HALL

Co-Proprietor at Long Meadow Ranch

great care and pride in our farming methods.” Rather than focusing on the things organic farming doesn’t do when compared to

conventional farming, LMR focuses on the positive management techniques of organic farming, such as testing the soils to make sure they’re healthy, and managing cover crop growth. The Hall’s make it a priority to foster growth and give back to the local community, because as Laddie put it, “once everyone goes home after wine tasting, it’s the locals that are here.” Farmstead gives back to the community through it’s “Corkage for Community” program where at the end of each month, a local nonprofit is chosen to receive all money generated from Farmstead’s $5 corkage fee. Past recipients include St. Helena FFA, the Boys and Girls Club, and local sports teams. “The local community has been very important in our lives,” Hall said. “We had support back when our kids were raising


animals for the fair, when we were still commuting from San Francisco to the 4-H meeting at the Rutherford Grange on Monday evenings. We want to give back and show appreciation for the support given to us.” LMR and Farmstead cater to locals because the community is their key to success. The restaurant has a casual outdoor bar and lounging area, a café, farmers’ market stand, demonstration gardens and a tasting room to

sample the wines, olive oils, preserves, jams and pickles. Parts of the grounds can also be used to host private events such as weddings. “The success of planting, growing, and sitting down for a meal where everything on our plate is raised by us is so satisfying and fabulous,” Hall said. “We really want to sustain agriculture in this valley, because that is what is sustaining us.”

Long Meadow Ranch by the numbers • 650 acres at the Mayacamas Estate and 90 acres at the Rutherford Estate • 159 acres of vineyards across three estates, growing cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, sangiovese, pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris • Eight acres of olives with nearly 1,000 mature trees • 350 Highland cattle and three breeds of chicken • LMR grows many different fruits and vegetables with many varieties of each, including six varieties of melon and eight varieties of potatoes

agcircle | 17

Sowing the Seeds:

Where Every Agriculture Story Begins


hat does a bowl of breakfast cereal, a warm winter sweater, a savory steak and a full tank of fuel all have in common? Each product began by the sowing of a simple seed. As the world’s population continues to rise, the production of the seed industry is flourishing. Not only is California the top agricultural producing state in the nation, it is also a leader of the global seed industry representing 13 percent of the nation’s annual sales, according to the California Seed Association. This multi-billion dollar industry is a virtue of California’s dynamic climate, unique high quality specialty seeds and innovative growing, harvesting and processing methods. The seed industry provides a bounty of plant life, as well as countless career opportunities. These careers include: management, business, science, engineering, and even education, communication and service, according to seed industry data. Many Cal Poly graduates found their passion for produce by immersing themselves in the global seed industry. Cal Poly graduate Salvador Hurtado works for US Agriseeds, a successful, family-owned, internationallyknown company. The goal is to provide consumers with healthy vegetables and fruit. What started as an internship with US Agriseeds at the San Luis Obispo 18 | Winter 2015

“In the end, it is not about which specific variety is used, it is about helping farmers. ” SALVADOR HURTADO

Sales Representative at US Agriseeds

headquarters, transformed into a passionate career for Hurtado. “My goal was to gain agriculture industry experience through internships,” Hurtado said. “Although I knew very little about the seed industry, I decided to apply and was offered the internship. A desire to gain a better understanding of the seed industry led to me



falling in love with it and US Agriseeds.” As the sales representative for Central/ South America and Caribbean markets, Hurtado said that no two days of his job are alike. “One day I may be focusing on forecasting and projections and the next I am working with the USDA trying to export seed to a foreign country,” Hurtado said. His advice to any aspiring seed industry professionals is to be flexible, move and think quickly, as well as be willing to learn a little about every aspect of the industry. “The most fascinating thing I have learned is that nothing is for sure and each day provides an opportunity to learn something new,” Hurtado said. “You learn how to adapt, how to analyze, and how to teach your audience. In the end it is not about which specific vegetable variety is used, it is about helping farmers.” Although the average American farmer acknowledges seeds as a top input expense, consumers often overlook this essential ingredient. “The work of the seed industry is one of the first steps toward harvesting food and

feeding our world,” Hurtado stated. “I believe every industry that works towards this common goal is extremely important. The seed industry is part of that process, and it is our job to provide high quality seed that can thrive in different conditions.” With a master's degree in agricultural education, Hurtado still views his job as a teaching role, using it to educate the public about genetically modified organisms.

“What many consumers don’t know is that not every seed company works with genetically modified organisms. That is the first question people often ask when I tell them what I do for a living and to their surprise, I do not work with GMOs at all. I wish more people had a better understanding of GMOs,” Hurtado said.

While Hurtado does not work directly with genetically modified seeds himself, he still sees educating consumers about them as a responsibility of his job. “Both options offer excellent varieties. It is now our job to teach the consumer and the grower what we do and how we do it. This is one aspect of agriculture communication and education that we are working to improve,” Hurtado said. This is just one example of the modern practices keeping the seed industry profitable and the agriculture industry thriving as a whole. “I have the opportunity to work with fantastic, innovative people towards the common goal of providing farmers around the world with quality vegetable seed. I once heard a great Cal Poly professor say, I don’t have to teach, I get to teach. For me, I don’t have to go to work, I get to go to work. Every day we face challenges and everyday allows for new growth,” Hurtado said. As each new seed is sown, possibilities abound for a prosperous crop and an innovative career path. agcircle | 19


A FRESH HARVEST NEAR YOU Talley Farm’s CSA Finds Success

About Talley Farms

With a smile, Talley Fresh Harvest Manager Andrea Chavez said, “I plan on spending the rest of my working days here. We are a team, we work together.” For nearly 70 years, Talley Farms has provided North America with fresh, farm-to-table produce. Founded by Oliver Talley in 1948, and still operated by the Talley family, the farm grows, packs and ships produce all throughout North America. Located in Arroyo Grande, Calif., Talley has a wonderful reputation for its fresh produce, wine and hardworking employees. The diversified family owned company operates with the vision “to strive for 20 | Winter 2015

excellence in everything the family does, consistent with the original commitment to quality established by Oliver Talley over 60 years ago.”

Fresh Harvest

In June 2012, Talley Farms Fresh Harvest began to provide local produce to local people. Fresh Harvest is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which provides people in the community with fresh fruits, vegetables and jobs. The program uses about 30 acres of Talley farmland to produce seasonal produce for the community. Fresh Harvest is a compilation of seasonal fruits and vegetables


“If you seek fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, then you’re going to love Talley Farms Fresh Harvest.” ANDREA CHAVEZ

Talley Farms Fresh Harvest Manager

packed into a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly box. These boxes are delivered to homes and businesses throughout the states of California, Arizona and Nevada. Boxes can also be picked up at various locations throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Inside a Fresh Harvest box

Fresh Harvest provides seasonal fruits and vegetables in year-round boxes. There are two size options: the original Fresh Harvest box, and the Junior Fresh Harvest box. The original box contains nine to 12 items, while the junior box holds five to seven items. Recipes and instructions on what produce to use first and how to properly store it are included in the box. The original box is priced at $26 and the junior is $19.50.

Community Supported Agriculture

A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is a way for consumers to buy directly from the farmer. According to Talley Farms, buying locally benefits the local economy by providing individuals with jobs. For Talley Farms Fresh Harvest, the CSA employs 20 people. By growing, selling and buying items close to their original harvest site and direct to customers, CSA programs can help reduce the products’ carbon footprint eliminating broker exchanges. Fresh Harvest is one of the many CSA programs benefiting both the local farmer and the consumer.

Giving Back

Fresh Harvest manager Andrea Chavez’s passion is to get people to eat fresh, healthy food and be aware of the benefits of doing so. “We do a lot of community outreach and educational programs, along with donating to numerous charities in the county,” Chavez said. Fresh Harvest reaches out to local high school physical education departments with at-risk students and provides their classes with fresh vegetables weekly to help teach the value of healthy eating. Additionally, Fresh Harvest donates gift certificates to local charities and works closely with the Food Bank and Glean SLO. Every Tuesday, the Food Bank comes to Talley Farms to collect around 30 totes of fresh produce to give back to the community. Also, nearly every Friday, Glean SLO comes to Talley to glean the Fresh Harvest fields. If there is excess produce, Glean SLO comes and harvests extra produce and takes it to the Food Bank as well. Talley Farms also participates in Harvest of the Month, a program with the University of California Extension at Davis, which teaches elementary students about fresh produce.

Looking Ahead

For Fresh Harvest, expansion is certainly on the horizon. In the coming years, Talley Farms hopes to purchase another delivery truck, which would help increase the frequency of drop-offs as well as expand delivery locations.

For more information or to sign up for a Talley Farm’s Fresh Harvest Box visit agcircle | 21

A View From Above

Drone Technology Takes Flight in Ag



ractical, affordable, user-friendly and easy to operate, drones, starting at only a few hundred dollars, have the potential to significantly change the agriculture industry. Professor Bo Liu, assistant professor in the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department (BRAE) at Cal Poly, claims drones have many benefits such as being relatively cheap, providing higher-quality images than those taken by satellite and are relatively easy to use. A quick and convenient way for farmers and ranchers to evaluate the success of their crops, agricultural drones can provide high-resolution videos and photos to analyze the uniformity of irrigation or to identify problems in their fields such as disease. Precision Drone is an agricultural drone company providing services to farmers across the United States. Precision Drone lists some of the services a drone can provide on a farm such as geographic information system (GIS) mapping to determine the borders and boundaries of each field, as well as using crop

22 | Winter 2015

health imaging to identify problem areas of the field. Precision Drone reports over the past 10 years, their fields have seen an average of a 10 percent increase in the gross sales per acre for their crops. Farmers can operate a drone as simply as flying a toy airplane. Agricultural engineers are even looking for ways drones can eliminate the human error factor of farming by programming drones to harvest or spray crops. Tristan Twisselman, a San Luis Obispo local and owner of Twistair Cinema uses drones for photography and filming. “With Cal Poly’s history of innovation and their Learn by Doing attitude, I think that they could be at the forefront of [production agriculture],” said Twisselman. Although drones can be beneficial, agricultural drones are not seen on every farm across the United States. If a farmer was told a century ago that modern farmers would be able to start an irrigation cycle on their fields by using an app on their cell phone, no one would have believed or even comprehend what they were being told. Many of today’s

farmers and ranchers have the same notion about agricultural drones. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average age of the American farmer is about 57 years old. Farmers and ranchers are constantly adapting to keep up with the ever-changing technologies incorporated into the day-today operations of farms and ranches. At this point, it is difficult for anyone in the industry to view agricultural drones as a technology for everyday operations. According to Franklin Gaudi, a Cal Poly BRAE professor and a project manager for the Irrigation Training & Research Center, the problem with drones at this point is we do not yet know how to process and evaluate all of the information drones provide. For example, when a drone flies over a crop with an infrared camera and takes a picture illustrating the thermal imagery of the crop, most people see some variation of reds, greens, and yellows Some may not realize the color red illustrates an area of the crop with water stress or low water concentration. “[Drones] have the capability of providing


some excellent information; we just need to figure out what to do with that information,� Gaudi said. Liu believes this is exactly where Cal Poly students and faculty members can come into the equation. Liu added making the data and results gathered from drones accessible and usable to farmers is important. While Cal Poly students and faculty members cannot fly drones on campus for research-based needs, they are working on developing systems and programs in which the data gathered from drones can be collected, analyzed and put into practical use so that farmers and ranchers can use that information to improve their operations.

agcircle | 23

Rebuilding California Agriculture as the State Awaits El Niño


the cost of the drought in California is up to $2.7 billion, according to a UC Davis study. The Golden State is yearning for relief and hopefully a huge gulp of water as the result of a wet winter. Many are looking to El Niño to bring intense moisture and heavy snowpack to California during the final months of 2015 and in early 2016. However, even with what is looking like a promising wet winter for the state, more than just one season of moisture may be needed to repair the number one agriculture state in America. The four-year drought has hit on many of the 400 agriculture commodities California produces. The lack of water forced many farmers and ranchers to cut back on crop production and limit herd growth due to their inability to feed and water livestock. Cattle producers are just one example of how the agricultural industry made difficult decisions over the years to survive, such as culling herds and selling cattle at lighter weights. “Cattle numbers have decreased in California as a direct result of the drought. Some ranchers are reducing the size of their herds in order to survive the duration of dry times in California,” said Malorie Bankhead, director of communication for the California Cattlemen’s Association. With California being such a large state, the severity of the drought for each commodity, including cattle, depends on location. Some ranchers took more drastic measures than others. “On the North Coast, ranchers aren’t really seeing the effects of the drought as compared 24 | Winter 2015

to ranchers in the Central and San Joaquin Valleys, who are reducing herds, feeding supplementally, and not retaining heifers at all,” Bankhead said. In addition to reducing livestock numbers in the state, land used for agriculture also decreased. In many cases, land lies fallow, purposely not used for crops because of the drought. In a study conducted by UC Davis, researchers say farmers will fallow 560,000 acres, or about seven percent, of the state’s irrigated farmland in 2015. It will take time for livestock numbers to be increased and for the land to recover. “Because of drastic cuts made to most herds in California, it will take a while to rebuild herd numbers, even if El Niño does bring the rain cattle ranchers are hoping and praying for daily,” Bankhead said. “Scorched rangelands may need several growing cycles to replenish back to what they were before the drought hit them.” The upcoming El Niño has the potential to provide relief for California. Brian Bledsoe, chief meteorologist of KKTV in Colorado Springs, Colo. has reason to believe this El Niño will be beneficial for California in terms of moisture. “I think this El Niño event is likely to bring a whole lot better moisture to the state than what California has seen lately,” Bledsoe said. “Every El Niño event is different and I have seen history show clearly that some El Niño events do not pan out for California; that being said I don’t think that this is going to be one of those events. The way things are lining up, it looks like it’s going to be beneficial.”

Bledsoe is a well-known Colorado meteorologist with a background in agriculture. , Bledsoe additionally, works with individual farmers and ranchers, as well as agricultural and insurance companies. Bledsoe says this El Niño is looking to be the second strongest El Niño since 1950, the only other event stronger occurred in the last part of 1997 and beginning of 1998.


“I think the chance for California to be graced with some serious moisture is pretty likely and that also brings its own set of problems,” Bledsoe said. “With the drought and as hard as the soil is, the state has had a lot of fires and burn scars out there, the chance for mudslides is going to be a pretty big deal.” Because the state is full of dead vegetation and dry soil, the majority of the state’s land is unprepared to receive large amounts of water in a short amount of time. As of Sept. 15, approximately 700,000 acres burned in California due to wildfires. Many are worried this El Niño event may cause devastating floods and mudslides. “Anytime you run a fire and alter vegetation, you also alter the soil and its ability to absorb any type of rainfall, and that sets the stage for the potential for some pretty serious mudslides, especially if you get storm, after storm, after storm,” Bledsoe said. Yet, Bledsoe does not believe the negative effects of heavy rainfall will outweigh the good that will come, especially for agriculture. “There is nothing worse in agriculture from a weather perspective than drought. Some would say flooding, but when you’re getting rain, it is easier to take because you know eventually it will dry out,” Bledsoe said. “Droughts usually will last longer than any wet spells that are there and droughts are always more harmful to the agricultural business than anything else.” The thought of more natural disasters in the state is worrisome for Californians who have already seen a great deal of destruction over

the past four years. However, Bledsoe says people he has talked to in California are ready for something other than drought, even if that means the bad coming with the good. The best thing farmers and ranchers can do for now is to plan how they can efficiently utilize and maximize the expected moisture. Bledsoe has been advising farmers and ranchers to plant crops that do well with moisture. “Some ranchers and farmers are preparing for the added moisture and for what they

“There is nothing worse in agriculture from a weather perspective than drought.” BRIAN BLEDSOE

Chief meteorologist, KKTV

could possibly see in terms of growth, as far as crops are concerned,” Bledsoe said. “Do I want to grow this if we are going to have more moisture, or do I want to hold off?” Not knowing how much rain California will receive in the upcoming years, makes for a difficult situation. People in the agriculture industry are equipped and accustomed to

making decisions and executing plans. While planning may be as important as ever in maximizing success during extreme years, Bledsoe warns ranchers and farmers not to put all of their eggs in this El Niño basket. “Just because there was an El Niño in the past that looks like this one, doesn’t mean that the impact is going to be exactly the same,” Bledsoe said. “It’s great to have good optimism about what’s to come, but to completely sign off on that just because this happened back in 1997 is something that people shouldn’t be doing.” With California’s agricultural economy producing bountiful amounts of food for not only the United States, but also the world, all eyes are on California’s drought situation. Many are anxiously waiting to see what will happen with El Niño, and how farmers, ranchers and California agriculture will press on. Additionally, it’s not clear if California will step up as a state to address water issues that have been avoided for over 40 years, such as water storage, overgrown watersheds and the fact that the California population has grown since the state government last confronted such issues. The drought is a testimony that when faced with adversity, the agriculture industry not only survives, but also becomes more innovative.


Major Food Labeling Bill Hangs in the Balance


significant piece of legislation on food labeling in United States history is at the door of the Senate after being passed by the House of Representatives in July. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act would establish federal labeling standards for foods with genetically modified ingredients, giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to require labeling on foods containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms) if they were deemed unsafe or materially different from non-GMO foods. The bill states the use of GMOs does not, by itself, count as a material difference. Rep. Mike Pomero (R-Kan) who introduced the bill to Congress, said in a press release “this bill, supported by over 400 groups that provide safe and affordable food for our world, will eliminate the state-by-state labeling patchwork that would serve to confuse consumers, stigmatize GMO crops, and raise food costs. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act provides needed clarity and transparency in food labeling, supports innovation, and keeps food affordable.” Opponents say the bill unfairly takes away states’ rights to decide on their own whether they want to label food containing GMOs and that it takes away the right of basic consumer information. “What this legislation is suggesting is that regardless of what consumers want, they won’t be told. This is not about a small group of activists. This is states like Vermont, like Maine and like Connecticut, with massive bipartisan votes, Republicans and Democrats, 26 | Winter 2015


saying that they wanted to have the right to have these products labeled,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), an opponent of the bill, told The Huffington Post in July 2015 If the bill is passed in the Senate, it could lead to a messy legal battle. Ultimately the Supreme Court will decide on whether states have a constitutional right to pass GMO labeling laws. In addition, the bill amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) , to establish a voluntary GMO certification program. A company who wants to market a product as non-GMO would have to prove the product was separated from GMOs through the entire production process. However, the food’s label or advertising cannot suggest non-GMO foods are safer or of higher quality than foods containing GMOs. Finally, a small but significant part of the bill is designed to create more federal standards for labeling by requiring the FDA to regulate the term natural on food labels. It is not yet known when the Senate will vote on the bill. It is also possible an opposing bill, called the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) will gain traction in Congress. Sen. Boxer’s bill would require all foods containing GMOs to be labeled in grocery stores, regardless of the FDA’s safety determination. One thing is for certain: a major foodlabeling bill will go before the Senate by mid-2016.

Key points in the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act • Establishes federal standard for food labeling that preempts state laws. • For a food containing GMOs to be labeled, it must be deemed unsafe. • Requires the Agricultural Marketing Service to establish a voluntary GMO food certification program. • For a food to be labeled as nonGMO, the product must be subject to supply chain process controls that keep the product separated from GMOs. • A food’s label or advertising cannot suggest non-GMO foods are safer or of higher quality than GMO foods. • The FDA must regulate the term natural on food labeling.

Scan the QR code below to read the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.


Social Media Connects Farmers and Consumers STORY BY RYLIN LINDHAL


or Erik Wilson, a memory from his youth set the stage for developing a social media campaign that has since gone viral. It all began when as a young city boy in Dos Palos, Calif., Erik Wilson visited a farming family after church one day. The family took him fishing and just as quick as a fish took the bait, they learned a cow was struggling with delivery and had to run to the barn to pull a calf. Wilson watched the dairyman bring the calf back to life. It surprised him how hard the dairyman worked to make sure the calf survived. Fast-forward and Wilson saw a very different story of agriculture being told to the average consumer about farmers and ranchers in the Central Valley. However, spending time with that family after church gave him insight into the challenges facing agriculturists today. This city boy turned country boy and now owns his own crop spraying business. “This is why stories matter to me,” he shared. “It didn’t make sense what I was reading, and what I was seeing with my own eyes, didn’t match up.” Seeing the increasing disconnect in agriculture, Wilson talked to his friend Steve Malanca. The two united to start a movement called My Job Depends On Ag. Wilson runs the Facebook page, which has gained nearly 50,000 followers since its start in May 2015,

and Malanca distributes the decals seen on thousands of vehicles and storefronts in 15 states. The Facebook page spreads awareness of current agricultural issues, circulates different perspectives, opinions and agricultural sources, and encourages farmers to share why they do what they do. Shanna Braught is a small business owner, hobby farmer, 4-H leader and a frequent user on the Facebook page. She is proud to be a part of a movement able to accomplish so many different goals. “It encourages a wide variety of ag professionals to unite under one banner without paying for a membership or traveling to do so,” Braught said. “It encourages them to share their stories and to learn from one another.” In addition to agriculturalists, group membership includes consumers. Consumers have started following the page, learning about their food, and asking questions. “It is my hope that even the most passionate opposition will have something to take away from it and will close their computer or smartphone screens in thoughtful contemplation of their positions and perceptions of the world of agriculture,” Braught said. “I think agriculture has been gut-punched for a long time and people have become real defensive of anybody who may not quite grasp what we do, but still criticize our practices. But on this page we have a chance to teach

them,” Wilson said. The teaching component of My Job Depends on Ag begins with the youth. One of the goals of the two founding members is to help the youth of the agriculture industry. So far, they have given a few thousand dollars as add-on bids to livestock auctions at fairs across the state. This money is currently coming from the sale of the group’s stickers. Once they gain non-profit status, they hope to get larger donations and make an even greater difference. Malanca’s idea has spread faster than they duo ever imagined it would. The My Job Depends On Ag stickers sell for $5, and cost $2 to produce. The remaining $3 goes to scholarships and some promotional material, like a blimp at the World Ag Expo. Braught sees the stickers as a way to bring the consumers and the farmers together, “We share the same goal: to provide the world with good food, fiber, and building materials,” Braught said. “Whether we are organic, industrial, or hobby agriculturalists, the key is promoting the ag industry and changing the public’s negative perception of agriculture today.” Wilson encourages everyone to share their own stories about how their job depends on agriculture. “Even though I started it, it’s just as much my page as everybody else’s.”

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Trucking: Taking Food from Farm to Fork



onsumers tend not to think about how their produce and agricultural commodities move around the country. California agricultural production encompasses a wide variety of products. The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports that 400 different commodities are grown within the state. California production of specialty crops abounds, with nearly half of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables produced in the United States grown in California. Thousands of tons of produce are transported around the United States daily by truck, air, rail and ports. As indicated by the reported data in “An Analysis of California Agricultural Transportation,” the mode of choice for the movement of California fresh fruit and vegetables is by truck. Transportation may be the most crucial and necessary part of California agriculture, and yet it often goes unappreciated. Most consumers do not understand the privilege of eating fresh fruits and vegetables picked the day before in a location hundreds of 28 | Winter 2015

miles away. According to “An Analysis of California Agricultural Transporting,” truckers who use Route I-5 and I-80 encounter congestion at least 30 percent of the time. This past fall, Route I-5 temporarily closed after flash floods unleashed mudslides that stranded hundreds of vehicles and forced many drivers to scramble to the rooftops of their cars. According to the California Department of Transportation, more than 45 miles of I-5 was closed from Santa Clarita to north of Fort Tejon State Park, Calif. “The closures were an example of highway congestion issues. The I-5 probably delayed shipments to southern California and southern routes to other states by a day or two causing other routes to back up, “ said Jay Noel, Cal Poly professor and assistant writer for “An Analysis of California Agricultural Transportation” in 2012. Other routes truckers rely on, such as Highway 99, Interstate 10 and local Highway 101, can also be a great challenge. But traffic on the roads is not the only issue keeping truckers awake at night.

Regulations by California’s air quality control governing boards are constantly being updated and enforced. The price of fuel in the state of California can be especially punishing. Truckers crossing over from other states make sure they fill their tanks before they enter California. In-state truckers don’t enjoy this luxury. “The biggest issue facing the transportation industry today is a low supply of truck drivers. Other issues include: highway conditions, congestion, and truck emissions rules and federal rule on rest periods,” Noel said. California trucking companies are always looking for qualified drivers. The demand for drivers exceeds supply, thus wages for qualified drivers are rising. Drivers must consent to constant drug testing and vehicle inspections, as well as abide by strict logbook requirements. Fresh produce in the marketplace is something consumers take for granted. California truckers perform a service to be thankful for.


A Glimpse of Montana’s Agriculture STORY & PHOTOS BY MADY BRAUGHT This past summer, junior agricultural communication major Mady Braught had the opportunity to live in Thompson Falls, Mont., working as a summer intern for the Sanders County Montana State Extension. She had a wide variety of experiences, including working as an aide at a kindergarten to eighth grade summer school at the Thompson Falls Elementary School. She also collected Nap Weed insects with Montana Conservation Crews, worked at three different county fairs and had the opportunity to tour cherry and hops farms. Braught used photography to document the agriculture in Montana and shared her experience with Ag Circle.

Hops is something Montana has never had before. This is a half-acre research plot for Montana State Extension. They have the largest variety of hops being grown in one place, west of the Mississippi River.

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Cherry Production The Montana cherry production is approximately valued as a $2.7 million industry in Flathead and Lake Counties. The production as a whole for Montana equals 1,000-acres and 150 growers.

> Testing Varieties

Lambert and Lapin varieties are grown in the Flathead and Lake County areas. Montana is currently growing different varieties to find one to withstand the year-round cold nights in Montana. Most Montana cherry operations are small and high valued, dating back to 1895.

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Glacier Hops Ranch Glacier Hops Ranch is adding a $1.4 million, 27-acre addition to the ranch where two-year-old hops plants will be planted for harvest in Fall 2016. This will bring in contract growing for local breweries.



Introducing Hops Hops is a new commodity for Montana. This is a half-acre research plot managed by the Montana State Extension. They have the largest variety of hops being grown in one place, west of the Mississippi River.


Fostering a Niche Besides this research plot, there are two other hops growers in the state of Montana. Montana Extension wants to reach the needs of the craft brewery niche in Montana statewide. They will be keeping the research plot to continue to grow and focus on 14 different varieties. At this location pictured, they will continue to test new varieties for breweries. agcircle | 31

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Brock Center for Agricultural Communication 1 Grand Avenue San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 Scan to view our blog.

32 | Winter 2015

Ag Circle Winter 2015  

Check out the latest Ag Circle Volume 34, Issue 1.

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