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A LETTER FROM THE STAFF Welcome to the Winter 2017 Issue of Ag Circle, a particularly special edition to us for many reasons. This is our first issue as a new editorial staff and we have had a great time learning the process of designing, editing and printing the magazine. We have been fortunate enough to receive an abundance of guidance and support, especially from Brock Center Director Megan Silcott. With this issue, we celebrate three decades of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communications serving as a bridge of communication between the agriculture industry, media and the public. In honor of celebrating this milestone, we dedicate this issue to all of the past students, professors and contributors who have lent their skills and inspirations to the pages of this publication. We also send a special thanks to our readers and supporters through the years, and include you in our continuing journey. Some of our stories include the 30-year evolution of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communications, a family

with three generations of leadership at Cal Poly, farmers irrigating their crops with an iPhone and the biggest change Cal Poly Royal Rodeo has seen in 77 years! We hope you are inspired by this issue and choose to be an advocate for agriculture in your own way. Best Wishes,

Samantha, Emma, Annie & Mary

CONTRIBUTORS Ag Circle is a student run magazine published twice a year. Student volunteers write the articles and contribute photography. Hailey Nunn

Crystal Avila Page 12

Page 14

Haley Pezzini

Christine Curtis

Hanna Meisinger

Page 10

Rylin Lindahl

Page 17

Michelle Burns Page 20

Page 22

Quincie Gourley

Page 24

Page 29

ON THE COVER The Brock Center turns 30 years old! The design shows a collection of past Ag Circle magazine covers. Arielle Dubowe

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Siena Birdsall Page 33

Mackenzie Bressler Page 44

Cheers to a great 30 years!

Volume 35, Issue 1, Winter 2017 Published by the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication California Polytechnic State University Brock Center for Agricultural Communication 1 Grand Avenue, Building 10, Room 235 San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 @brockcenter / @brockcenter @AgCircleMag Editor-in-Chief Samantha Wallace

Faculty Adviser Megan Silcott

Mary Allen Annie Hamilton Emma Morris Writers Crystal Avila, Siena Birdsall, Mackenzie Bressler, Michelle Burns, Christine Curtis, Arielle Dubowe, Quincie Gourley, Haley Pezzini, Rylin Lindahl, Hanna Meisinger, Hailey Nunn Photographers Mary Allen, Annie Hamilton, Charlie Hamilton, Emma Morris, Hanna Meisinger, Megan Silcott, Sarah Tormey, Paolo Vescia, Dr. Scott Vernon Graphic Designer Annie Hamilton 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.


Associate Editors

Photo by Annie Hamilton

Adobe Stock Photo

Adobe Stock Photo



30 YEARS STRONG A passion for agriculture since 1986

URBAN FARMING A new agricultural community











SIBLINGS IN CAFES Building family legacies at Cal Poly

J&G LAU FAMILY MEAT PROCESSING CENTER Projects expand at Cal Poly's meat processing center

THE COLOMBINI LEGACY Hard work and family traditions

RIDE HIGH, YOU MUSTANG Coach Ben Londo's rodeo legacy is just beginning 4 | Winter 2017

MAKERS & ALLIES Wine. Crafts. Spirits.

SUPERVISOR DEBBIE ARNOLD A voice for San Luis Obispo County's agriculture

COWS ON PARADE The intersection of art, agriculture and community

CIDER ON THE CENTRAL COAST Cider houses make thier mark


Adobe Stock Photo

Adobe Stock Photo Adobe Stock Photo


THE BIG CHEESE More than cheese and crackers


ATTORNEYS IN AGRICULTURE Defending the agriculture industry





THE WHOLE AVOCADO The impact of the California avocado industry


FLORENCE CUBIBURU Inspiring success through life's trials


WHAT'S THE BUZZ ABOUT BEES? Beekeeping at Cal Poly and industry issues agcircle 5


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30 YEARS STRONG A passion for agriculture since 1986

By Samantha Wallace Photos Courtesy of Cal Poly University Archives


he Cal Poly Brock Center for Agricultural Communication is celebrating 30 years of serving as a stepping stone for students into professional communications careers by providing leadership and direct journalism experience to Cal Poly students. In the early 1980s, Cal Poly alumnus James (Jim) Brock and Cal Poly journalism professor Jim Douglas Hayes identified a need for a specific discipline within the industry. Brock had a desire to enhance the image of the agriculture industry. Hayes saw a demand for journalists to report agriculture with the same professionalism of other industries. For many years prior to the Brock Center’s start, Hayes guided Cal Poly journalism students. During his time as the director of the Brock Center, he focused on agriculture in the media. Supporting Brock’s vision, Hayes and Brock's wife, Martha, known as Marty, made a purposeful donation to Cal Poly and started an endowment. In 1986, the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication was formally established as a joint institute on campus between the Journalism and Agricultural Education and Communication Departments. The masterminds of the center and the faculty of both departments saw a need to correct the misrepresentation of agriculture in the media due to individuals entering into journalist careers with a lack of agricultural backgrounds. The center began to train students with both farming and urban upbringings in professional communication skills combined with science-based knowledge in agriculture and natural resources. Today, Cal Poly’s agricultural communication program experiences combine technical knowledge and

refined communication skills that enable graduates to work at educational institutions, governmental agencies, technological research facilities, advocacy groups and nonprofits in the public and the private sector. J. Scott Vernon, agricultural communication professor, is a nationally-acclaimed speaker and seasoned auctioneer. Vernon’s passion for the agricultural industry is a testament to his decades of classroom instruction. He led the Brock Center from 1990 to 2000, modernizing the center’s student publication, Ag Circle, from a black and white to color newsletter utilizing new digital publication software. Vernon was also instrumental in developing the agricultural communication major in 2011 — the only program of its kind on the West Coast. “Agricultural communication majors at Cal Poly are entrepreneurs that articulate the Cal Poly story – Learn by Doing. For 25 years, I have witnessed students who utilize the tools and wide network of the Brock Center become highly successful graduates,” Vernon said. He added that graduates of the program often have multiple job offers after college because of the hands-on approach and skills acquired at the Brock Center. Following Jim Brock’s passing, Vernon worked alongside Marty Brock to further develop the center’s endowment. “My time as the director was enjoyable predominantly because of my relationship with Marty Brock,” he said. “She was so sweet and interested in what students were doing with their contributions to Ag Circle. Jim Brock was adamant about agriculture agcircle 7

“Agriculture is the biggest and best industry in the United States. It has set standards of efficiency and high production that have done more than anything else to assure our high standard of living. Its very efficiency, however, has drastically reduced the actual numbers of those required to produce our food. As political power is measured by voting strength, the lessened numbers have greatly reduced agriculture’s clout. Furthermore, it has become the most misunderstood industry in the country and the constant target for derogatory media comment. Why not try to do something to improve agriculture’s badly battered image with the balance of society? No substantial contribution had ever been made for this purpose and we saw an opportunity to, in our small way, do more good than through any other course we could imagine.” - Jim Brock "In Fond Remembrance"

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in the news, and her passion for the alone consumers, about the evercenter was an extension of her love evolving field,” Vernon said. affair with him," Vernon said. Cal Poly journalism professor and Brock acknowledged that past Brock Center Director Richard traditionally farmers and ranchers Gearhart said the center provides prefer to spend their time and energy a unique way to communicate and producing commodities, not speaking educate others about agriculture. in front of the camera to educate the “The Brock Center has so much public or deflate myths regarding potential. Continuing to combine agriculture circulating in efforts with the Journalism the media. “Agriculture is unquestionably the biggest and most effective industry in the United States, but has the worst public relations,” Brock wrote in his memoir. The center and the agricultural communication major evolved because the movement of consumers from farm-based lifestyles to the city. The change in livelihoods off farms generated a need for consumers to hear and read about agriculture in the mainstream news because they weren’t surrounded by the industry any longer; they were outsiders to it. Today, only 2 percent of the U.S. population is directly engaged in agriculture, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. And even within the industry, regional practices and expertise differ from coast to coast. Industry leaders understand cotton and cattle-centric states are much more concerned about water Former Brock Center associates and students working to share agriculture’s story. and grazing rights than those Department can elevate the hard in the corn and soybean-oriented work students already put forth and Midwestern states. fully share the story of agriculture the “Years of studying and Center is already publishing through networking within the agriculture Ag Circle,” he said. industry are necessary to properly Gearhart said his time at the educate other agriculturalists, let


center grew his passion for furthering students’ knowledge about the industry and how they could embrace digital media to tell agriculture’s story. “I’m excited to see how future projects build collaboration and meet the mission and goals of the center,” he said. The center’s staff and student employees practice outreach efforts through multiple mediums including magazine publications, professional workshops, blog posts, community forums, public outreach, photography and videography, and social media. A recent program review showcased the center’s current and past work and offered areas for improvement. One of those areas is aligning more projects with the Journalism Department to further agriculture’s story and agricultural literacy beyond the agriculture industry itself. “The center does a fine job of communicating to those within the industry. I would like to see it

interact with more journalists and the general public so that it can truly fulfill its mission of building a bridge of communication between the agricultural industry, the media and the public,” Associate Professor and Journalism Department Chair Mary Glick said. The field of agricultural communication has grown into a dynamic industry. As the Brock Center looks to the next 30 years, Director Megan Silcott said research collaborations, increased staffing including more journalism students - and providing media professionals agricultural science training are all in the foreseeable future. “Projects on the horizon, made possible with the combined efforts of journalism and agricultural students, include a modern and useful website, weekly agricultural videos, a professional media training workshop series, a California agricultural reporting contest and issue-based

agricultural forums,” Silcott said. “The award-winning Ag Circle magazine will continue to be sought after through expanded mailings and digital reach while providing students with writing, designing, photography and editing experiences.” Silcott said Brock Center students are equipped and prepared to make a difference in the agriculture industry, even if they pursue careers in other fields. “Sharing agriculture one conversation at a time in the grocery store can educate people as Jim Brock intended,” she said. Preserving the story of agriculture and articulating the industry’s intricacies accurately through communication outlets is important — now more than ever. To learn more about the Brock Center, visit, or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

BROCK CENTER TURNS 30 JOIN FRIENDS, ALUMNI AND SUPPORTERS FRIDAY JUNE 2, 2017 The celebration dinner, live and silent auction will take place Friday night at Cal Poly’s Chumash Auditorium 7-9 PM

RSVP to agcircle 9

Siblings in CAF

Building family legacies at Cal Poly

By Hailey Nunn

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Elise and Elisabeth Regusci


t is a proud achievement for any student to be accepted into Cal Poly's College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES). For some students, the achievement is even sweeter. Not only do these students join the CAFES family, but they are also joined by a member of their own family. One such fortunate sibling, Josie Odello, a senior animal science major, spent two of her four years at Cal Poly constantly running into her older brother, Jake, an agricultural science graduate. Since Jake’s graduation, Josie said she misses running into him. Josie said having her older brother around campus was a big help. She looked to him for advice with classes and teachers, arranging trips home, but mostly, for moral support. “I miss Jake being here. It was 10 | Winter 2017

always nice to see him and take a break from the roommates or college life in general and have a piece of home,” Josie reminisced. She also shared how the two traded family favors. Jake got a puppy the summer before Josie joined him on campus. “I would watch Rogue, his dog, and in return, he would take me out to lunch or dinner,” Josie said, smiling. “In the end it was a win-win for me because I got to play with a puppy and a chance to get away from dorm food.” In fall 2016, Maddy Rausch, a senior wine and viticulture major, welcomed her brother, Jake, on campus as a bioresource and agricultural engineering (BRAE) major. Maddy is still adjusting to seeing Jake around campus, but she said it's a nice change. Maddy and her brother are from Hawaii, so trips home are few and far between. "It used to be that if we wanted to see each other, it involved a five-hour flight back home to Kauai,” she said. Maddy played a key role in Jake’s smooth transition to California. Before Jake arrived on move-in day, Maddy had already gathered his

Maddy & Jake Rausch

dorm essentials and helped make his move-in a relaxed experience rather than making multiple trips around town for last minute needs. "Going to college with a sibling is an experience most people will never have. I feel so lucky to have a part of my family so close to me. Showing Jake the ropes to survive school and have a great time will make my last year here a special one,” Maddy added. Similarly, sister duo Alisha and Alanna Smith said they love being at Cal Poly together — so much so that they are also members of the same sorority. Cue the cliché quote, “Fate made us sisters, luck made us friends.” Alisha, a freshman wine and viticulture major, said her sister Alanna, a senior animal science major, helped her glide into life after high school. Alisha said having her sister at school makes the large campus feel



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Alanna & Alisha Smith

Elise and Elisabeth Regusci

a little Elise and bit more Elisabeth like home. Regusci, Older sister sophomore Alanna agreed. twin sisters both “The best part majoring in dairy Alanna & Alisha Smith about having my science, agreed sister at Cal Poly is with Wes. True to having a piece of home with me, conventional twin wisdom, they did always. Honestly, we have always not want to consider the thought of been pretty close but now I feel like separation. But during their final days our relationship is more equal. I don't of high school, they were forced to think of her as much as my little sister imagine the worst when Elisabeth — although that's how I introduce her was accepted to Cal Poly under early to everyone — just as a I do a decision and Elise was not. Luckily, best friend.” Elise was accepted under regular "Very reassuring," is the way enrollment and they were both Wes Pezzini, a sophomore animal assigned to the Fremont dorm. science major, described being at Cal “We grew up with each other Poly with older sister, Haley, a senior as best friends, so being at Cal Poly agricultural communication major. together has only made that stronger,” Wes said he has watched friends with Elisabeth said. The twins know this siblings at different schools grow apart experience is special. "We know a day after leaving home. This is one of the will come when we might not have reasons he is especially thankful to the opportunity to see each other as be so close and to see his sister on a often,” Elise said. daily basis. CAFES is full of stories “Wes and I have a lot in common,” like the Odellos, Rauschs, Smiths, Haley said. “Last year we had our Pezzinis and Reguscis. horses here and we were able to ride While the sibling connections are together after class.” biological, Cal Poly students quickly

learn they’re amongst friends for life as they move through their time on campus and become alumni. Josie Odello said, “When I got that acceptance letter to Cal Poly, I wasn't only excited for myself; I was overjoyed to keep the family name at a wonderful school within a great department. It was a great feeling to keep the Odello legacy going.” Generations of siblings have become Cal Poly CAFES alumni and continue making history in all industries, especially agriculture. The family phenomenon adds to the close-knit culture created in Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

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J & G Lau Family Meat H

alfway down the hallway at the J&G Lau Family Meat Processing Center hangs a sign quoting Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.” Jim Douglas, manager of the Meat Processing Center (MPC), firmly believes this quote encompasses what the MPC adds to the education of Cal Poly students. Cal Poly is grateful for each and every donor who helped make the building possible. In the conference room hang silver plaques engraved with the names of Cal Poly supporters. “We are proud that these people have built this facility,” Douglas said. Five years after construction, it exceeds donor, staff and student expectations. Built to provide students critical real-world experiences, the MPC operates an environment identical to industry standards. “The Meat Processing Center easily competes nationally for the quality and scope of meat capability,” Douglas said. The carefully designed facility is a vertically integrated operation where students gain handson experience in all areas of meat processing with a program comprised of humane harvest, fabrication, innovative product development, food safety and packaging. Even world-renowned humane livestock handling leader Temple Grandin had a role in designing and engineering portions of the facility like the livestock receiving area. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a direct partner with the MPC. The USDA inspector has an office inside the facility and oversees Cal Poly’s facility along with four other Central Coast locations. The MPC works under strict guidelines and implements the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), giving more responsibility to the owner to ensure meat is properly handled and safe for consumption. Douglas noted the entrepreneurial spirit students capture when working in the facility, adding that today’s specialty and local meat demand offers a thriving small business market and it is an exciting time for the meat industry.

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Processing Center In addition to the business operations, MPC serves as a research pilot plant. Cal Poly animal science professor Ike Kang specializes in USDA grant work and provides research for the program. He is working on a chilling technique for the processing of chicken breast. Kang’s other research focuses on hot boning and chilling techniques for pork to enhance the meat characteristics. Kang is also working to bring a special hog breed, known as Iberica, to Cal Poly. The main purpose for this breed of pigs is to make Jamón — a famous Spanish dry cured ham. Douglas is hopeful for the future of the plant. “I see the

“The Meat Processing Center easily competes nationally for the quality and scope of meat capability.”

By Crystal Avila Photos by Sarah Tormey

beef can receive behind Prime, which is typically only sold at high-end restaurants. This is the kind of quality Cal Poly MPC is looking to expand and improve. In spring 2017, MPC staff, students and faculty are hoping to launch a grass-fed beef product line. The Meat Processing Center is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Jim Douglas, MPC Manager

- Jim Douglas, MPC Manager

future expanding in terms of research. Production agriculture is something that we certainly have the wheels in motion for but I see an expansion of research,” he said. Currently, Cal Poly’s MPC facility has the capacity to harvest three beef, five pigs, and 12 sheep and/or goats per day. Roughly 30 percent of Cal Poly-raised animals are processed at the MPC. Last year, MPC harvested two of the heifers raised at the Cal Poly beef unit, overseen by Aaron Lazanoff. The heifers were grass-fed graded and USDA Choice, the second highest grade

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COLOMBINI LEGACY HARD WORK AND FAMILY TRADITIONS By Quincie Gourley Photos provided by the Colombini Family 14 | Winter 2017

rowing up in a family with a passion for their alma mater, it was easy for Jana Colombini to love Cal Poly just as much as her grandfather, father, uncles and brother. Three generations of Colombinis have been a part of Cal Poly’s history, investing their time and energy into leadership at Cal Poly and beyond. They were all involved with different clubs and extracurricular activities on campus, and now lead throughout the agriculture industry. Jana Colombini, the seventh person in her family to attend Cal Poly, is the 2016-17 ASI president. Jana’s favorite childhood memory of Cal Poly is going to Poly Royal, the annual Open House and Rodeo. “Every year, as long as I remember, we would walk up and down the campus, stopping at the booths. And my dad would relive his golden days showing us everything he was a part of at Cal Poly.” For the past couple years, the Poly Royal Rodeo completely sold out, and many students willingly sat on the ground in order to see the show. The rodeo is one of the many attributes Jana fell in love with at Cal Poly while growing up, and she still loves the tradition today. The Colombini family places an emphasis on working hard for success — making it somewhat of a motto for their family. Jana's great-grandfather started farming in 1906 when he moved to the United States from Italy. The Colombini family is now fourth generation farmers growing primarily walnuts. Jana and her brother, Jason, were taught to work hard while growing up on their family’s orchard in Linden, Calif. “When Jason and I were younger, during harvest, my dad would give us five gallon buckets to fill up with walnuts, and we would get paid for each bucket of walnuts,” Jana said. The five gallon buckets were nothing in comparison to the bins that had to be filled during the harvest season. Picking walnuts was not always the most exciting thing for the siblings to do on weekends or after school, but as long as they did their part for the family orchards, they were paid for their work. After working on the ranch every summer, Jana knows how labor-intensive farming is, and said she appreciates her family and their walnut production


on a whole new level. Being taught the value of hard work allowed for Jana and Jason to build a solid work foundation. Jana and Jason’s father, Jay, also learned at a young age that working hard is instrumental to success. After graduating from Cal Poly with an agribusiness degree, he worked for Farm Credit. While at Farm Credit, Jay said he learned many valuable lessons about agriculture and what it takes to be a farmer. He later worked for Lodi Farming and is now a co-owner of the company. Lodi Farming manages 1,800 acres of apples, cherries, olives, walnuts, wine grapes, and alfalfa. Jay credits Cal Poly with instilling Learn by Doing in his work ethic and acknowledged the motto helped him in the workforce after graduating. When not aiding in agricultural financing, Jay can be found farming. Jana said, “farming has always been his passion, and being a banker, he knew that he [also] wanted to be a farmer.” The passion for agriculture does not stop with Jay — both Jana and Jason are seeking careers in the industry. In Linden, the family’s operations are amongst what Jana describes as “an agriculture town.” The Colombini family takes pride in community involvement as they have been involved in or remain active in 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America), California Farm Bureau, California Farmers and Ranchers, and

California Women in Agriculture. When Jason and Jana joined the local 4-H chapter, their family became involved too. “Our mother was the community leader for our 4-H club, and even through high school we were in 4-H and FFA,” Jana said. The family is seemingly involved in every agriculture organization from local to state levels. Just like her family involvement in the agriculture community, Jana

“I attribute where I am today, and most of my success, to FFA.”

to Associative Student Body (ASB) Government, Jana did it all and served as class president freshman through junior years. She then led the way as ASB president her senior year. ASB is where Jana found her niche in leadership. Her involvement in Future Farmers of America allowed Jana to combine her passion for agriculture and leadership. FFA inspired Colombini to find her passion and choose her college major, agricultural science. “I attribute where I am today, and most of my success to FFA.” FFA gave her many different opportunities and life skills. Along with the various officer positions Jana held, she never failed to shine in competitions and excelled in public speaking. Jana raised livestock animals at the beginning of her 4-H career, and stuck with swine through her FFA career as one of her Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects. Colombini put in hours of tears, sweat and dedication to her FFA projects. The hard work, leadership and experience Colombini gave to her FFA chapter resulted in Jana being among the one percent of FFA members nationwide to be awarded the highest honor FFA can bestow: the American FFA Degree. Jana gives credit to many FFA advisers, teachers and peers who inspired her to major in agricultural science. Her college program of choice was decided later on, but since first grade, Jana had her heart set on attending

- Jana Colombini was involved with her high school clubs, activities and sports. High school was a time for Jana to show she was not just an average student. She excelled in every aspect possible. From an active three-sport athlete

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Jason, Jay, Janice and Jana Colombini

Cal Poly. At that age, she did not know what college was, but she knew Cal Poly was what she wanted. Jana’s Cal Poly experience began just as Jason entered his senior year in agribusiness. As a college freshman, Jana wanted to step back from all extracurricular activities to enjoy her college experience. That didn’t last long. By spring quarter freshman year, Jana became involved with ASI alongside her brother, Jason who was then serving as ASI President. Throughout Jana’s years at Cal Poly, her involvement includes Greek Life, Collegiate FFA, ASI, and Ag Ambassadors. Jana’s ASI platforms are to care, communicate and to connect. She intends to create a better relationship between the students, ASI, and Cal Poly administration as a whole. 16 | Winter 2017

After her ASI presidency and senior year, Colombini plans to pursue her teaching credential and master’s degree through Cal Poly’s Agricultural Education and Communication Department. Her ultimate career goal is to be an FFA adviser and teacher at Linden High School. Jana wants to give back to her high school FFA program in hopes to inspire agriculture’s future students like her FFA advisers did for her. Eventually, Jason and Jana both expressed interest in returning to their family farm operation. Jason will complete his last year of Cal Poly’s public policy master’s program in June 2017. It is important to both siblings to start their careers first, and then return to the farm as time permits on the weekends and evenings. The Colombini family truly

“agvocates” for agriculture and positively represents the industry. Jana said, “My dad always reminds us to not let school get in the way of our education. Many things can be taught inside of the classroom, but it is what is done with the knowledge that truly educates students at Cal Poly," she said.


RIDE HIGH, YOU MUSTANG Coach Ben Londo’s rodeo legacy is just beginning

By Rylin Lindahl Photos provided by Ben Londo and Mary Allen


here is a sense of pride and dedication that comes from following in the footsteps of those before us. Ben Londo, a saddle bronc rider and Cal Poly’s head rodeo coach, made sure to continue the legacy of his great-grandfather, grandfather and father by not only passing his knowledge to his own young sons, but also to the students in the Cal Poly Rodeo program. On his parent’s cattle ranch in Oregon, Londo grew up like most

rodeo competitors, surrounded by livestock and embracing the western way of life. “Rodeo’s been in my family for four generations. Growing up in the country, it’s related to the work we do every day. It’s more than a sport. It’s a heritage,” Londo said. Accordingly, it was natural for Londo to fall into his family’s tradition. At 10 years old, he decided to try saddle bronc riding and the event became his specialty. As an event, saddle bronc riding evolved

from training horses to work on cattle ranches of the Old West. Known as rodeo’s most classic event, many cowboys claim saddle bronc riding is one of the toughest events to master. To hold on, the rider has only a thick rein attached to a halter on the horse’s head. Using one hand, the cowboy tries to stay balanced in his saddle while a 1,500-pound horse aggressively bucks beneath him. For his first ride Londo said an old ranch horse that only bucked every agcircle 17

once in a while, was caught and then flanked (adding a bucking strap) for him. The young cowboy stayed on using his dad’s old saddle until the horse stopped bucking — but it was not very long. Determined to stick longer, this experience launched Londo’s passion for America’s oldest sport. As high school graduation approached, Londo started thinking about his plans for college. He had grown more and more interested in architecture, so he started looking at Cal Poly, where his father had attended.

of college, Londo went to his first professionally sanctioned rodeo in Yakima, Wash. Competing at the pro level after recovering from a shattered leg during his freshman year was tough. Londo drew a well-known horse in the Northwest named Ghost Town. Not only did he stay on the full eight seconds, he ended up winning and took home a nice set of spurs. Londo was also crowned the AllAround Champion at the National College Rodeo Finals in 2005 and 2006; an award comparable to the Heisman Trophy of the nation’s top collegiate football player.

“I came down to look at the school and fell in love with San Luis Obispo, just like everyone does, and it was a no-brainer for me,” Londo said with a smile. His experience at Cal Poly, while majoring in construction management and riding saddle bronc horses across the West Coast, proved invaluable to Londo. “To have the chance to go to a school of this caliber, and be able to compete in a sport that you love, and have some financial assistance through that opportunity was pretty amazing,” Londo said. During his sophomore year

“The secret to doing well in rodeo is consistency,” Londo said. “Everyone can shine at times but it’s the ones who are consistent and can perform at the same level all the time who will be more successful in the long run.” After graduating from Cal Poly in 2007, Londo rodeoed aggressively for a few years. As a professional cowboy, he competed in more than 100 rodeos per year, traveling with his saddles and drawing a new horse at each town. Even though he was rarely home, Londo made a family of friends along the way. “The people you meet, travel

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with all over the country, and do so many different things with, are the type of friends you can call anytime and they’d do anything to help you,” Londo said. A few years later, Londo slowed his traveling and competing schedule. He then started a construction company with some close friends in his home state of Oregon. The company began to take off with some government contracted jobs. At the same time, the Cal Poly Rodeo coach position opened. Many of his friends, past classmates and rodeo boosters encouraged him to consider applying. However, with the success of the construction company, he didn’t apply. Londo said he was soon kicking himself for passing up on the opportunity. Little did he know, the position would open again the next year; he applied and landed it. Londo’s partners bought him out from the construction business and he moved his family to the Central Coast. He is thankful every day for what he considers the opportunity of a lifetime. “No regrets. We are in San Luis Obispo, and I get to stay involved every day in the sport that I love,” Londo said. Londo said helping the upand-coming rodeo stars succeed is extremely gratifying. “You’ve got students that are not only extremely talented in the arena competing at the highest levels of college rodeo and competing well, but incredibly gifted academically and intellectually,” he said. Cal Poly provides much more than just a place to practice and a name to compete under. The 65 students on the team are learning leadership teamwork responsibility and much more. They are responsible for the stock, the feeding, the doctoring of animals and even the facility improvements. When Cal Poly Rodeo committed to recently rebuild the arena, students contributed to the design, post pounding and welding. Londo has been the rodeo coach at Cal Poly since 2012 and seen the program grow in every way. In addition to his dedication, he said,


“I’ve kind of just been in the right place at the right time.” The support of the booster, alumni and sponsors paired with the hard work of the students has taken the program to the next level. The arena has been rebuilt, new stalls are almost complete and a new covered feedlot is in the beginning stages of construction. Over the last four years, Cal Poly Rodeo raised nearly $280,000 toward facility

improvements. The scholarship budget increased to $89,000 from roughly $12,000, with the help of the Milano family, who established a $1 million endowment for rodeo athlete scholarships. Additional support comes from Cotton Rosser, a Cal Poly Honored Alumnus known as “The King of Rodeo.” Rosser is proud Cal Poly is where his career started. He knows rodeo inside and out, from being a

collegiate competitor at Cal Poly, to being a professional rodeo cowboy, to being the man behind-the-scenes who actually puts productions on with his Flying U Rodeo Company. Along with being honored as the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences 2016 Alumnus of the Year, Rosser has helped with the major transformation of getting the 2017 Poly Royal Rodeo hosted in the university’s Spanos Stadium.

2017 Open House Come out to Spanos Stadium to cheer on the Cal Poly Rodeo Team and celebrate Cotton Rosser’s dedication to the sport on April 7 - 8, 2017

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By Michelle Burns Photos by Mary Allen


magine a community where local food and farming enterprises are sustained, the food culture is thriving, and the coexistence of food production and education fosters a resilient local food system. Believe it or not, this is a reality. Central Coast Grown (CCG), a nonprofit organization located in San Luis Obispo, accomplished this by connecting community members to one of the most valuable industries — agriculture. “We have an excess of appreciation for things that don’t really matter,” said Steven Marx, CCG president and past environmental studies professor at Cal Poly. “What we should be appreciating are things that actually mean something such as farming.” CCG embodies values of sustainability, innovation and collaboration by striving to bridge the gap between what people eat and where their food comes from. The goal is to create strong connections among farmers, the public, and the land; and to nourish the local community, support local agriculture, and make

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local food products accessible for all. The city of San Luis Obispo provided the 19-acre parcel of land CCG now calls home. The agricultural education and farming program is

run on a completely volunteer basis. A few of the programs offered to the community include a student program that allows high schoolers to take part in production agriculture, a


program for disabled young adults to participate in activities of therapeutic horticulture called “Prepare,” and the “Our Global Family” program designed specifically for younger children to grow crops from four different continents with their families and CCG volunteers. One popular program among many communities is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CCG offers a CSA program to help connect the producer to the consumer. CSA allows consumers to be directly involved in the production of their food by paying a farmer ahead of time for the expenses of growing their food. Once the food is grown and harvested, the consumer is able to pick up a basket of locally grown produce from the farmer. “Tomatoes, melons, squash, peas, beans and eggplant are just a few of the crops we’ve successfully grown this year through CSA,” said Marx. “Any surplus from the harvest gets donated to the local foodbank or Salvation Army.” Unique to CCG’s land is the opportunity for community members to try farming themselves. Participants

can rent portions of land and have a hands-on farming experience without all of the challenges of owning a farm. CCG’s convenient location off U.S. Highway 101 makes becoming a tenant desirable for those with a passion for agriculture, Marx said. The land is not restricted to just farming crops. Raising livestock,

rent four more acres in the near future, in order to increase his operations. One of the greatest challenges Magana and other tenants overcome is the soil texture. It is dense and full of clay, so keeping the water levels just right is imperative for growing the best crops, said Marx. Another obstacle is the weather. “This year has been funny. It’s been cold and then hot, so the land gets confused,” Magana said. Even with the unpredictable climate, Magana still managed - Steven Marx to grow high quality produce which he sold to local restaurants located honeybees, or any other agriculture throughout San Luis Obispo County. related activity is accepted and CCG is run by volunteers and encouraged. One tenant rented out donations. It is because of their a section of the land to experiment hard work and dedication that people growing exotic grains from around the programs come to fruition, Marx the world. said, adding that the next project CCG Javier Magana, who leases sixis looking to start is an Urban Farm acres from CCG, moved to San Luis Stand for community members to stop Obispo from Mexico to pursue his by the farm and purchase produce passion for farming. When he found grown directly from that land. CCG the beautiful land CCG offered, he hopes to increase community outreach jumped at the opportunity to start in the near future and continue to his farm. He has worked the land for spread the importance of agricultural about one year and grows garbanzo education with every person beans on a small scale. He plans to it reaches.

“What we should be appreciating are things that actually mean something such as farming.”

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By Haley Pezzini Photos provided by Makers & Allies akers & Allies is an award winning design and branding studio exclusively for the wine craft beer and spirits industry. Based on the concept that brands are life-size, Makers & Allies designs content


Sarah had a knack for art and design. Each having their own specialty, they decided to create a business of their own with combined efforts. Starting up from their home, the business quickly evolved into a successful design firm

extending far beyond the product label. To enhance the overall experience and create a brand consistent with the look of the bottle and the desired tasting room ambiance, Makers & Allies also offers physical space designs. This unique business began with a couple who are both graduates of the Art and Design program from Cal Poly's College of Liberal Arts department. Garrett and Sarah Deiter were college roommates and extremely passionate about design. Garrett focused on building the business and

with eight employees after just three years. Garrett is focused on the business side, where he runs the website and product management software. “He does the background work that nobody sees, and is usually in the office after hours,� Sarah said. She added they both have their separate roles in the business and the versatility of the couple is one of the reasons they became so successful. Garrett understands how to create a successful business, while Sarah focuses

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on the artistic portion and manages client relationships. Garrett is focused on branding and digital while Sarah manages the printing and interior design portions. “I have always been very artistic and thought very spatially,” Sarah said. She applied to Cal Poly as an architecture major “I was originally drawn to architecture; it seemed more legit than painting. But I love the storytelling, color, and texture of creating art.” When she was pondering how she could form her passion into a successful career, she found it in the design field. “I was able to measure success from art instead of creating art for the sake of beauty,” Sarah said. The company’s creative team consists of eight employees, five of whom are Cal Poly graduates. Each is well-versed and wear many hats in the business. The majority of the team are graphic designers but they also have a web developer, social media manager and studio manager on hand. This collaborative setting is enhanced by the design of the office itself, located in San Luis Obispo. There are no cubicles and natural light expands across the building. The staff shared that this open floor plan creates a high energy, collaborative environment to spark the creativity of each team member. When creating a brand, the team must grasp the goal and message their client would like to portray. They hold a “discovery meeting” at the winery or brewery where they can check out the space. This usually entails a stroll through the production site such as the vineyard, and a visit to the tasting room where they can get a feel for

representing. The design firm becomes integrated in their business where they can expand the style created for the client to every label in the line. Ancient Peaks, one of Makers & Allies high profile clients, extends its brand across all marketing materials. Makers & Allies guided Ancient Peaks to match its tasting room and brand styles, which connects the overall vision of the winery from the space to the labels. As far as internships, Makers & Allies said the team is highly selective. Since this is a fast paced industry, they are looking for people who are able to hit the ground running. Due to the nature of the business, they do not have the time to train interns. They are looking for team players who embody a large skill set and understand the creative environment of the industry. The hired interns are on board long-term and are usually Cal Poly students who are able to commit fully to their internship, not just during the summer months. Sarah offered a couple pieces of advice for individuals entering the industry: “Say yes and figure it out later; if you open yourself to opportunities with confidence and have confidence in yourself, then that’s when you’ll see most of your success and what you can accomplish.” Sarah also recommends taking courses to practice design techniques on Adobe Creative Suite. The “makers” are driven by these three goals when creating a brand: stand out, stand for something, and details are everything. They understand the importance of the element of surprise with the competition for people’s

the vision of the business. Each member on the team is assigned a project where they can focus on keeping the brand consistent and fully embody the style and story of the business. The team collaborates as a group and constantly gives each other feedback on their individual projects to get fresh perspectives on designs. The clientele of Makers & Allies includes about a dozen businesses continuously year-round where they develop yearly plans, budgets and goals for the group they are

time and attention in this specific industry. Makers & Allies is the only design firm in San Luis Obispo providing branding, packaging, spaces and digital marking for clients. -P To contact Makers & Allies, visit, call 805-439-1288 or email agcircle 23

SUPERVISOR DEBBIE ARNOLD A voice for San Luis Obispo County's agriculture By Christine Curtis Photos provided by Supervisor Debbie Arnold


ancher and former educator Debbie Arnold serves the Central Coast as the 5th District San Luis Obispo County supervisor and a voice for agriculture. Between lobbying agriculture reforms, 24 | Winter 2017

preserving land and protecting water usage Arnold and the county’s Board of Supervisors are dedicated to preserving the Central Coast lifestyle while doing what is in the best interest of their constituents.

Arnold has lived on the Central Coast since 1973. She married her husband, Steve Arnold, in 1975 and together they have been a part of the agricultural community for years, tending to their fifth-generation


family ranch in Pozo, Calif. Over the years, the family has raised cattle, farmed hay, and grown wine grapes. From her experiences living the rural way of life and being involved in many leadership platforms, Arnold is committed to be one of the Central Coast’s voices of agriculture. Arnold’s experience in the community started with 17 years of owning and operating Small Wonders Preschool in Atascadero. The experience opened the door for her to serve families and connect with people across the county. She later had the opportunity to represent those families as a legislative aide at the county supervisor’s office and as a district representative for both the state assembly and the state senate. Arnold said her main goal as 5th District San Luis Obispo County supervisor is to represent the best interest of her constituents. She does so by providing common sense government reforms to improve county services and promoting a healthy local economy to help create jobs and protect rural communities. Now in her fourth year of serving the Central Coast as county supervisor, Arnold said she is proud to represent the area encompassing Cal Poly. One of the county's most controversial issues surrounds water supply. The ongoing drought in California has been cumbersome for agriculturists across the state. From experiencing the effects firsthand on the ranch to the countywide water shortage, Arnold and her team have seen the effects of the drought and the extreme importance of preserving water. “We’ve had drought cycles before, but this recent drought has been exceptionally epic with the increasing demand,” Arnold said. “In the last 20 years the influx of the demand on water has grown.” As the drought lingers, the challenge to policymakers like Arnold is to ensure enough water is available to serve the entire county, not just for agriculture. Many rural areas have little access to water making it difficult for agriculturists to obtain reasonable yields.

“Even though I am confident that the drought cycle will break, the drought has shown us that we have to plan and create policies that ensure we don’t abuse our resources. It’s a constant, daily battle,” Arnold said. The county Board of Supervisor’s goal is to do what is in the best interest of the people who live within its five districts. The supervisors also aim to protect water resources for long-term. The effects of the drought led to the issue of land preservation. Arnold explained, “in the last 30 years or so, I have seen changes in land. Carrisa Plains used to be a lot of dry grain farming and cattle grazing. Now much of the land is in conservation and wildlife habitat preservation.”

residential development. Arnold said in the next five to 10 years, the challenge for agricultural lobbyists like her will be fighting to preserve agricultural lands from residential development due to the high demand for living space within San Luis Obispo County. Arnold continued to explain how the drought affects the county and Cal Poly. “Where the drought really effects students is when they are ready to graduate,” Arnold said. “If there is no agriculture, there are no jobs for students to strive for upon graduation and these students are graduating from one of the best universities in the nation.” Arnold also focuses her time and efforts to communicate the complexities of government to agriculturalists and ensuring compliance of all regulations at the local and state level. “The cost for regulation and the cost of doing business in California decreases the chances for the next generation to come and make a living,” Arnold said. “It is extremely important for agriculture to have a voice among the policy makers to ensure all aspects of the industry are being represented.” From being immersed in the ranching lifestyle, Arnold knows what it is like to have the desire to pass something on to the - Supervisor Debbie Arnold next generation. “The ranching lifestyle is very results-oriented. There are Arnold continued, “We are looking consequences for every action. If you at 12 percent of the land mass of leave the gate open you’ll have the this county that is no longer in horses eating your garden,” Arnold agricultural production.” said. “If you make a mistake, you In the last couple of decades, may get hurt. Often times you can many ranches within the district control the outcome. The ranching converted from grazing land to lifestyle brings families closer together intensified farming like grapes or because you work together. It requires strawberries. Likewise, some private a strong work ethic both physically land was converted into public land, and mentally.” which adds to the concern of the everArnold brought her ranching shrinking amount of arable land in the work ethic into her career. Her hard United States. work aims to empower the county’s Despite the changes in land agricultural industry to help Cal use, 800,000 acres of land in San Poly graduates have a place within Luis Obispo County fall under the the industry. Arnold remains a Williamson Act. The Williamson Act strong voice for agriculture among aids in preserving rural landscapes the policymakers and for San Luis and agriculture use, rather than Obispo County.

“It is extremely important for agriculture to have a voice among the policy makers to ensure all aspects of the industry are being represented.”

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COWS ON PARADE The intersection of art, agriculture and community

By Mary Allen Photos by Emma Morris and Mary Allen


ore than 5,000 have been created, they’ve been seen by 250 million people, and they have helped raise more than $30 million for charities. What are they? Cows on parade. CowParade is the world’s largest and premier public art exhibit of fiberglass cows. Since 1999, CowParade exhibits have been featured in more than 75 cities worldwide including Paris, Hong Kong, London, and New York. Every CowParade includes community involvement, sponsors, artists, charities, beautiful cows and increased tourism. The goal is to bring people from all walks of life to recognize talent, community, and agriculture. The artist of each cow is sponsored, and the cow is displayed and then sold at a capstone auction to benefit local charities. In 2016, San Luis Obispo County was selected to host such an event. After months of preparation, CowParade SLO gathered as a herd for their debut in September 2016. Exactly 101 cows, representing Highway 101, were showcased for the public in the Madonna Inn meadows. Of the initial showcasing, Alan Vander Horst, (Agricultural Management, ’90) sponsor and coordinator of CowParade SLO said, “It was a very surreal moment for me. The people that came were incredible. That day reminded me why we did it. All the hard work over the last 18 months paid off to see 26 | Winter 2017

little children running around and people from all walks of life enjoying the cows. It doesn’t matter your political background race or gender; everybody embraced the cows. It was really cool to see.”

Typically, larger cities host CowParades; but through the support of presenting sponsors including the

Town of Harmony and Visit San Luis Obispo, the event was brought to San Luis Obispo County. “Given our experience with other CowParades our passions and our dairy background, it was a calling for my wife and me. We felt we were in the position to make it happen. If we don’t do this, then no one would. We felt it was sort of a social obligation to bring to the community,” Vander Horst said. Each life-size fiberglass cow weighs 125 pounds and was commissioned for painting by an artist or group of artists hired by the sponsors. Sponsors coordinated with the artists to best convey their story. Local businesses organizations and individuals participated with their unique messages to share. Paintings on the cows range from Old Mission Church to images of famous San Luis Obispo County and California sights and beyond. Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) jumped on the concept and participated by contributing four cows, each sponsored by a different department. The Experience


Industry Management (EIM) Department sponsored a cow named “See Cow Do.” Bill Hendricks, department head of EIM, shared his reasoning for sponsoring the department’s cow. “Our primary reason for sponsoring a cow is to raise funds that will directly contribute to student development including Learn by Doing, class field trips, attending conferences, and providing additional funding for activities such as our Executive in Residence program

Another campus cow, “Legends of Cow Poly” welcomes all who visit the Cal Poly Dairy. Sponsored by the Animal Science Department, the cow sports images of awards and accomplishments surrounding the rich history of Cal Poly’s dairy. Tom Halen, a Cal Poly dad and member of the Experience Industry Management Department’s Advisory Council, described why he chose to

“It’s a great way to celebrate the Central Coast’s local arts and culture scene, as well as the agricultural roots that are so inherent in CAFES.”

- Haley Marconett, CAFES director of communications

commencement and end of the year banquet.” With the help of local artist Deprise Brescia, the EIM Department wanted the cow to embody protection of the environment and the magical beauty of California, travel, adventure and fun.

Beneath the paint, a Hawaiian prayer is inscribed in hopes of bringing good energy to all who encounter the work of art. The cow has images of Tahoe, Mount Shasta, Yosemite, California Missions and more. The masterpiece is on display outside of the Agricultural Sciences building at Cal Poly. “Our involvement with the CowParade has already resulted in event planning marketing and promoting Learn by Doing for students in the Experience Industry Management Department,” Hendricks said.

sponsor the Micow Distillery Cow. “I saw the CowParade SLO as an opportunity to support CAFES in a very fun and unique way; and in particular, support the plans for the development of a fermentation sciences program at Cal Poly. I like all things fermented — beer, wine, distilled spirits and cheese.” When artist Bouba Boumaiz created the initial design, Halen loved it, which led to the “Micow Distillery” name because of its “fun play on the booming micro-distillery industry.” It is stationed outside Cal Poly’s Campus Market. One of CAFES cows holds its head high at the center of Ag Circle, just outside of the Erhart Agriculture building at Cal Poly. Its gold paint shines, highlighting the college’s name, and the brands of ranchers throughout San Luis Obispo County. “It’s a great way to celebrate the Central Coast’s local arts and culture scene, as well as the agricultural roots that are so inherent in CAFES,” said Haley Marconett, CAFES director of communications.

“The college’s cow was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our Learn by Doing mission, and student artist Annierose Seifert very much embodies that spirit,” she added. Seifert, an agricultural communication senior, said, “For the design, I wanted to portray the western way of life and myself as an artist so I put the registered San Luis Obispo County brands on the cow and displayed them in a way to make it fun, bright and also a hint of my artistic side with a western twist. I put brands on the hooves to include as many as possible.”

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“I really like how all of the different cows have different themes. They all represent a part of our school and our community.” - Jill Shinn, civil engineering senior

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It took Seifert about 120 hours to complete the project. She said it provided “real life job experience that I could potentially do in the future. I learned so much.” The buyer of the cow will be able to put their personal brand on the head of the cow. Cal Poly Corporation sponsored the “Cal Poly Moostang,” located in the University Union at Cal Poly. Its green and gold colors, and mustang stamps, combine Poly Pride and agriculture. The Cal Poly Creative Services’ Student Design Team developed the design. The group of student artists explained, “The Cow Poly Moostang was designed for the Office of the President and inspired by our very own live mustang mascot, Chase. The cow incorporates Cal Poly’s colors, in a pattern intended to look like traditional cow spots from a distance. As the viewer gets closer to the cow, the spots transform into gold mustangs.” Hundreds of students have taken photos and learned more about the cows and agriculture by their prominent presence on campus. “I enjoy the presence of the cows on campus because they remind me of home and agriculture. They really brighten up my day, literally and figuratively,” said Ingrid Alamilla, a senior architecture major. Senior civil engineering major Jill Shinn said, “To me the cows all over campus really show what our school is about. One cow looks more like machinery and to me that’s kind of like the engineers here and then another cow is painted with nature scenes which reminds me of the science and art students. I really like how all of the different cows have different themes. They all represent a part of our school and our community.” The cows are on display in their designated places around San Luis Obispo County until May 6, 2017 — then they will be auctioned off. The auction net proceeds will go to

local charities including the Heritage Foundation, Obispo Arts, and the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo as well as to local charities and organizations like Cal Poly. The highest price recorded from past parades was $150,000 for "Penny Bull" in Austin, Texas. Buyers are encouraged to come view the cows before auction. The influx of tourism, artist and organization collaborations, and an appreciation of art surrounding agriculture provides great community connections, and tremendous financial assistance to the beneficiaries. To learn more about the locations and how Cow Parade benefits the county, visit



CIDER ON CENTRAL COAST Cider houses make their mark

By Hanna Meisinger Photos provided by Bristols Cider and Hanna Meisinger


he Central Coast of California Coast of California? Maybe it’s the 75 The history of cider on the Central is a hub for creators of craft degree weather or the talented brew Coast provides the perfect snapshot alcoholic beverages with masters and winemakers, but local of how the “California mentality” hundreds of wineries, breweries cider makers claim it is a combination keeps agriculture and tourism and a handful of craft distilleries. of both. businesses booming. With hundreds Throughout the year, San Luis Obispo See Canyon Hard Cider manager, of wineries fighting for customers, County is home to festivals celebrating Ciara Ramos summed up the growers and makers are seeing new culture, holidays, food and of course, industry’s success. “The Central Coast growth opportunities in the realm of beverages. In addition the cider industry. to the common wine, Wineries such as Lone harvest and craft brew Madrone and Kelsey events, new this year, See Canyon Vineyards are cider festivals. saw the similarities in Cider isn’t new the production process to the Central Coast and began creating but the local industry - Chris Lemieux, See Canyon Hard Cider's cider maker their own cider. Each is growing rapidly. cider is different and There are about 10 each company takes cider businesses in San Luis Obispo is a prime spot for hard cider because its own creative approach to develop County compared to just a of the California mentality, which is unique ciders. couple getting started exquisitely embodied in the Bristols Hard Cider was one of five years ago. Why craft cider movement that is the first such businesses to set the does cider pair so currently rolling through tone of the Central Coast scene. perfectly with the Central Coast,” Production began in 1996, mostly for the Central Ciara said. family and friends. In 2013, when cider began appearing in stores all over the U.S., Bristols decided to enter the competition and sell cider in the already established wine tasting room at

“Cider bridges the gap between beer and wine.”

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Lone Madrone in Paso Robles, Calif. As cider bottles flew off the shelves, they found themselves increasing production to keep up with demand. “Every year we are having to double or triple our cider productions and create new ciders to keep up with demand. We even had to open two production buildings and a tasting room,” said co-owner Jackie Meisinger. Bristols was the first cidery in the area to open a cider house, or cider tasting room. Bristols Hard Cider grew from producing one type of cider for family and friends to producing eight to 10 different ciders year-round. Cidermaker Neil Collins continues to think of new ideas and flavors for the cider. Bristols features a cider created in the traditional manner, as well as ciders which have been dry-hopped (adding hops to the cider during fermentation), aged in bourbon casks, aged in concrete tanks, aged with saison yeast, and even a seasonal cider infused with organic beets. Each year,

ciders aged with wine. What began as a retirement project for Dick and Dolores Kelsey quickly turned into a full-time operation of owning a winery and growing grapes. Although they started just offering wine, their unique location on See Canyon Road in Avila Beach, Calif., offered the opportunity to hop on the cider train. Kelsey currently has four ciders available at their wine tasting room, including one traditional “scrumpy” style cider as well as three ciders they age with grape juice to create cider-wine. The scrumpy cider is a classic, crisp hard cider. Two vintages of the “golden delicious,” a white wine fermented with apple

the masterminds at Bristols create at least one new cider for their lineup. This year, they created a cider called “The Green Fairy” that features cider infused with absinth botanicals. Bristols Cider is not the only cider company thinking outside of the box. Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards created

juice to create a light and fruity ciderwine, are featured, as well as a red version called the “red delicious” which is red wine fermented with apple juice. The Kelsey tasting room emulates the California mentality with peacocks, outdoor seating and

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seasonal live music playing weekly so customers can relax and enjoy the cider for hours. Another leader in the Central

Bristols Cider's tasting room in Paso Robles, Calif.

Coast cider revolution is See Canyon Hard Cider. The owners of See Canyon Hard Cider didn’t consider the option of cider-making until they found themselves nurturing an abandoned apple orchard back to health on their new property in Avila Beach. Since 2013, they have produced ciders sold in local restaurants and markets throughout the Central Coast. See Canyon Hard Cider produces seven different ciders ranging from semi-sweet to bone-dry. See Canyon strives to make approachable yet interesting ciders. Ramos said, “Those in the area seem to enjoy craft beer more than in other areas, and I think that is why they are willing to try something different.” See Canyon Hard Cider’s cider maker Chris Lemieux said, “Cider bridges the gap between beer and wine.” Other than the semi-sweet classic cider and the bone-dry cider, See Canyon features two dry-hopped ciders on tap, along with a bonedry blend infused with tangerine pineapple and orange juices. The combination of the unique ciders created in San Luis Obispo County with the beautiful Central Coast seem to create the best recipe for a good time.


THE BIG CHEESE More than cheese and crackers By Arielle Dubowe Photos by Sarah Tormey


eople’s tastes in cheese are maturing like a fine 1-year-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano — all because of a boutique cheese shop in downtown San Luis Obispo called Fromagerie Sophie. Owners Sophie Boban-Doering and husband Paul Doering opened Fromagerie Sophie in November 2013. Fromagerie is French for cheese shop. Boban-Doering, who grew up in Paris, France, holds a deep love for cheeses, especially European varieties. She and her husband now share their passion for cheese with San Luis Obispo. “Upon opening Fromagerie Sophie, the goal was simply to get people to taste new cheeses — specifically European and other regional cheeses that they hadn’t even considered trying before,” Boban-Doering said. “We have been so fortunate to see many longtime customers keep coming into our little shop and tell us how much San Luis Obispo has embraced us and

our stinky cheeses.” According to Boban-Doering, the store’s opening had opportune timing. For the past few years, people’s curiosity led to more diverse, localized food tastes. Many people used to consider specialty cheeses only for the cheese connoisseurs, she said. But at Fromagerie Sophie visitors can enjoy soft, rich brie from France, creamy goat cheese from the Bay Area or hard,

care in making the shop for everyone, avoiding a stuffy atmosphere and pricey cheeses. “We want our shop to be the entrance into the ever-changing, exciting world of cheese and show that this world is for anyone that’s interested,” Boban-Doering said. Even though Whole Foods also sells a plethora of specialty cheeses as well as cheeses from local dairy farms in California, she feels no competition between her humble store and mainstream grocers. Without any hesitation, she - Sophie Boban-Doering, owner explained how customers know what Fromagerie Sophie nutty cheese from Switzerland. carries. If they can’t find what they’re “It’s all about educating the public looking for, then she or other shop about specialty cheeses that a person employees recommend going to typically cannot find in a regular Whole Foods. grocery store and proving to them “We’re all in it together,” Bobanthat they can afford, and enjoy, these Doering said. “It’s all about making kind of cheeses,” Boban-Doering said. sure people get to experience as many Fromagerie Sophie is for everyone — new cheeses as possible and we don’t whether they are tourists, locals or want to stop that from happening even students. She said she took great because of store bias.”

“It’s all about educating the public about specialty cheeses.”

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Danielle Schmidt, the store manager, sometimes asks customers how they discovered Fromagerie Sophie. Most say they did a regular Google search on “local cheese shops in San Luis Obispo” or “in Central California.” “Whenever I hear that people actually looked up where to find a local cheese shop, that makes me so happy,” Schmidt said. “That means that people are more interested and making more of an effort in trying specialty cheeses than buying average cheeses at the grocery store.” Schmidt, a San Luis Obispo native, joined the shop close to its opening. At Fromagerie Sophie, it is not just about buying cheese. It’s about getting the chance to try unique cheeses either from nearby places or afar, and to walk away with rejuvenated taste buds, Schmidt said. “For me, I love being a part of the community by introducing new cheeses and their stories to everyone that comes into the shop, regardless if they have never heard of these cheeses before,” Schmidt said. The process of trying cheeses is simple. Boban-Doering, Schmidt or

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other shop employees first ask if the customer is looking for hard or soft cheeses. Then the customer receives a few samples. If a customer does not like a sample, then the employee tries to figure out why. Was the sample too funky, too salty or just too much? Schmidt admitted she used to be just like the people wrinkling their noses at the smelly cheeses. “I was quite unsure of the soft, stinky kind of cheeses when I first started working here,” Schmidt said. “But after two-and-a-half years of encouraging customers to try new cheeses they’ve never had before, of course now the soft, stinky cheeses are my favorite ones.” Fromagerie Sophie constantly adds new cheeses to its selection. This is why the shop has so many longtime customers because they know the store always has something new, Boban-Doering said. And new cheeses are definitely a big deal at Fromagerie Sophie. “I just get so excited to try the cheese and share that feeling with others because it’s amazing that cheese can get me this excited,” Boban-Doering said. “I always make

sure to give customers samples of a new cheese that just came in.” The newest, popular cheese at the shop are Alpine varieties from Switzerland. These cheeses, made from cow’s milk, are harder and nuttier than most cheese, and as mentioned by Boban-Doering, “pair beautifully with local Pinots.” Boban-Doering and her husband make sure to establish strong relationships with other local businesses in San Luis Obispo. Hence the wine and cheese relationship Fromagerie Sophie has with many local wineries. “Of course we want to take advantage of the many amazing wineries in the area, especially when we firmly believe in supporting local businesses,” she said. “And besides, cheese paired with wine is just delicious.” Fromagerie Sophie functions like Mary Poppins’ famous purse — small on the outside, but filled to the brim with cheeses with no end in sight. From France to Austria, Italy to the United States, and even Croatia, this cheese shop has it all. -P


Gabe Filipe inspecting avocados at the Cal Poly orchard.

THE WHOLE AVOCADO The impact of the California avocado industry

By Siena Birdsall Photos provided by Mission Avocado


s demand for avocados grows, California’s avocado industry is rapidly expanding and trying to find new, innovative ways to increase yields. Gabe Filipe, director of farming operations and grower relations for Mission Produce, is assisting Cal Poly in the transformation to a more technologically advanced avocado industry. After graduation, Filipe (Agribusiness ’04) worked as a farm manager for a private avocado grower in Ventura County. It was there Filipe successfully automated his first commercial operation. It was not long before Steve Barnard, president

and founder of Mission Produce Inc., reached out to Filipe to offer a him a position within Mission Produce. Filipe accepted and began working with various growers. In his spare time, Filipe started applying various automation technologies to the 66-acre orchard located on Cal Poly’s campus. Mission Produce and Cal Poly formed a partnership in 2002 to take the orchard to the next level. Planted in 2003, Filipe said the Cal Poly orchard is arguably one of the highest yielding avocado groves in the state. He attributes the success to the advanced automation of the orchard. With the proper care, Filipe said a California avocado grove can remain

productive for 30 to 40 years. “The whole ranch can be run through an iPhone,” Filipe said. “We can quickly adjust the different demands of each tree, and spoonfeed them individualized amounts of fertilizer on a daily basis. We have the ability to remotely control wells, pumps, field valves, fertilizer injection and monitor pressure, flows, EC and pH from anywhere.” The advanced technology of Cal Poly’s orchard includes various soilsensing devices such as tensiometers and dendrometers. The soil-sensing devices measure when the soil is drying out and report both water concentration and depth through agcircle 33

computer software. Tensiometers measure the tension at which the tree roots are pulling the water from the soil. The higher the tension, the thirstier the tree and the more water it needs. Dendrometers measure the expansion and contraction of the trunk of the tree, which is an indication of the stress of the tree. At the beginning of the day, when the tree begins to photosynthesize, a natural shrinkage of the trunk occurs. When photosynthesis stops at the end of the day, the trunk expands again. “The goal is to minimize the overall contraction of the tree and keep the tree growing each and every day,” Filipe said. Filipe and his team use this information, which is a combination of weather data tree data and soil data to adjust the irrigation for each individual block in the orchard. “Keeping the trees healthy through proper irrigation and nutrient management is key to the prevention of root rot,” Filipe added. Dave Righetti, a San Luis Obispo avocado producer and co-owner of Righetti Farms, also takes numerous precautions to limit the spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi fungus, which causes root rot in plants. Righetti recommends people stay out of avocado blocks when they are wet, unless checking sprinklers and minimize transfer from infected blocks to clean ones.

Aerial view of Cal Poly Orchard. 34 | Winter 2017

“For instance, when picking, we “Others like Thomas, Duke 7 will pick in the clean area first and and Toro Canyon may give you help then move the pickers into the infected with root rot, crown rot, and salt area afterwards. We provide copper tolerance. For now, we plant nearly all sulfate or bleach for all workers and avocados with clonal root systems and visitors to apply to boot or shoe bottoms and treat our boots after visiting other groves or infected areas,” Righetti said. The Righetti Farm also uses deer fencing to reduce the fungus spread by wild animals. And the farm carefully selects certified pest-free nursery stock to prevent root rot disease. Most growers use grafted Gabe Filipe inspecting avocados at the Cal Poly Orchard. trees to keep operations successful. “New rootstocks are huge for the very little with seedling rootstocks. avocado industry. Clonal rootstocks “We are always looking for better with root rot tolerance have saved rootstocks and think the industry is ranches and communities by keeping doing a good job developing them,” them in avocado production,” Righetti added. Righetti said. As with other commodities, Righetti Farms has many different avocado farmers are busy with clonal rootstocks and discovered that operations all the time. Filipe said, using Dusa grafted trees has curbed “There is no off-season. Farming production plaguing issues. is year-round. Harvesting may be finished but we still have to fertilize, irrigate, prune, analyze lab samples, prepare for various audits, frost protect…the list goes on.” There are thousands of named avocado varieties worldwide, but according to the California Avocado Commission, there are only seven main avocado varieties grown commercially in California. “Hass is the leading variety in California and the primary variety grown at Cal Poly. Its high nutritional value, excellent taste profile, great shelf life and thick skin make it a number one pick for global distributors throughout the world,” Filipe said. The Hass variety accounts for approximately 95 percent of the total crop each year, which runs from spring to fall, as reported by the


California Avocado Commission. “Other varieties grown in California are Reed Gwen, Bacon, Zutano, Sir Prize and Lamb Hass. The old industry standard, Fuerte, is still popular in some circles,” Righetti added. This year avocado consumption in the United States will exceed 2.3 billion pounds, according to Produce News. Filipe noted California avocado growers will have just over 200 million pounds of fruit to contribute. With that said, the market will continue to receive fruit from a variety of different foreign supply sources, with Mexico having the largest market share. Filipe stated

that California growers will have to continue to increase their average yields in order to compete against some of these low cost competitors. While automation and technology advance the growing operations, Filipe said there is still a need for people in the orchards. “You still need someone checking the lines.” Mechanical avocado harvesting would be an impressive move, Filipe said. “But avocados are not grown like grapes and don’t handle shaking like walnuts. Also, avocados are grown on some of the most difficult terrain known to grow fruiting trees. That makes mechanical, robotic or automated help farther off in the

BACON | available late fall into spring

Known For: Oval-shape. Medium to large seed. Easy peeling. Light taste.

Appearance: Smooth, thin green skin. Yellow-green flesh.

Size: Medium, ranging from 6 to 12 oz

You Know Its Ripe When: Fruit yields to gentle pressure. Skin remains green, may darken slightly.

FUERTE | available late fall into spring


future or on more accepting ground.” “Making avocado farming more automated is something we are always looking for, especially in the era of unpredictable labor supply. We study industry publications, network with other growers and packers and attend farm equipment shows to see what the latest technology is out there,” Righetti said. In order to remain profitable, avocado growers will need to continue to adapt and automation in farming will be explored. “The tools are there to make us better at farming — we just have to be willing to accept them,” Filipe said.

Known For: Pear-shape. Medium seed. Peels easily. Great taste.

Appearance: Smooth, thin green skin. Creamy, pale green flesh.

Size: Medium to large, ranging from 5 to 14 oz

You Know Its Ripe When: Fruit yields to gentle pressure. Skin remains green.

PINKERTON | available early winter into spring Known For: Long, pear-shape. Small seed. Excellent peeling characteristics. Great tatse.

Appearance: Medium thick green skin with slight pebbling. Creamy, pale green flesh.

Size: Large, ranging from 8 to 18 oz

You Know Its Ripe When: Fruit yields to gentle pressure. Green skin deepens in color.

REED | available summer and early fall

Known For: Round shape. Medium seed. Easy peeling. Good taste.

Appearance: Thick green skin with slight pebbling. Creamy flesh.

Size: Medium to large, ranging from 8 to 18 oz

You Know Its Ripe When: Fruit yields to gentle pressure. Skin remains green, may darken slightly.

More information about avocados can be found at agcircle 35

Florence Cubiburu and her son, John Cubiburu a Cal Poly alumnus.

FLORENCE CUBIBURU Inspiring success through life’s trials

By Annie Hamilton Photos by Paolo Vescia


ome of life’s best success stories can unfortunately come from tragic events. Florence Iroz Cubiburu is an example of not only how to pick yourself back up, but also take on a new challenge. Cubiburu is a descendant of a long line of sheepherders from the Basque region of France and Spain, who came to California to raise sheep and cattle. The San Joaquin Valley 36 | Spring 2016

between Stockton and Bakersfield attracted the Basque immigrants looking for wide-open spaces and vast acres of unfarmed land. Cubiburu, the oldest daughter of Peter and Marguerite Iroz, was raised in Stockton, Calif., close to where her father’s sheep operation was based. A love of the agriculture industry and Basque heritage was always near


to her heart but not always apparent. While attending the University of San Francisco and working on her pre-law degree, she met Jean Cubiburu at a Basque picnic. A hard-working man, he had emigrated from the Basque region of France to the United States in the 1950s to work as a sheepherder and had begun his own sheep and cattle operation. Jean and Florence shared a lot in common with their Basque heritage and love of family. Florence said Jean saw in her a passion for the sheep industry even though she did not recognize this passion herself. They married in 1971. Through the love and support they both shared, Jean and Florence grew the Cubiburu Livestock operation into one of the largest sheep operations in California. They also started a family, raising three busy and beautiful children: Jacqueline, John and Jeanine.

tried taking land leases from her. Cattle, sheep corrals, and equipment went missing. Many people believed Florence was too naïve to understand and run the business Jean built. In the 1980s, agriculture and especially the sheep industry was a male-dominated industry. Due to the tough working conditions, it was rare for a woman to own and run a large-scale sheep and cattle operation. Jean had aggressively and successfully leveraged Cubiburu Livestock and bankers were happy to loan him funds but Florence said the bankers panicked at the thought of a woman in his place. Raising her family while managing and meeting the financial obligations of Cubiburu Livestock took diligence and grit. Florence gives loving credit to her family for playing a huge role in helping her with the children

In January 1982, Florence’s life changed unexpectedly when Jean collapsed in an alfalfa field from a cerebral hemorrhage and died. This left Florence, at the age of 33, with 22,000 ewes, 1,000 cows, 35 herders and three young children. The well-being of her children and a large livestock operation became Florence’s main priorities. She said at times, she wanted to give up and stay in bed, but caring and providing for her three children motivated her perseverance. Florence’s commitment and desire to preserve Jean’s legacy drove her to forge a new path for herself, her children and Cubiburu Livestock. “In tough times you learn who your friends are,” Florence said. During Jean’s funeral reception, held at their home, a friend offered Florence’s foreman more money to work for him — the foreman declined the offer. During this time, neighboring livestock producers tried to take advantage of Florence. People she thought were friends

and dealing with duties on the ranch. One of the things Florence believed would help her succeed with Cubiburu Livestock was getting involved within the industry and being open minded to new ideas that could add to her success. Jean was a member of the Board of Directors for the California Wool Growers Association and when he passed away, his seat on the board went to Florence. She took advantage of this opportunity to have an active role in the California Wool Growers so she could learn more about the industry. She also wanted to develop relationships with leaders who could help her learn more about the industry and educate her about new technology in the sheep industry. She intently initiated personal relationships with producers who were willing to share their knowledge. Her willingness to get involved helped her gain leadership agcircle 37

positions on both state and national sheep committees. Serving on the national organization of the American Sheep Industry Wool Council, she decided to lead by example and had Cubiburu Livestock become the first commercial sheep operation to grade wool on site, which added value for her operation’s wool clip. Florence hosted the first on-ranch wool clinic in California to teach other producers how to skirt and class their wool clip during the shearing. Florence later became the first woman president of the California Wool Growers Association. During her presidency, she initiated the passage of the California Sheep Commission, which became the marketing arm of the California Sheep Industry. Florence also served as the first chairperson of the California Sheep Commission and currently serves as treasurer and promotion chair. The California Sheep Industry honored Florence with the Master Shephard Award and the American Sheep Industry honored Florence with the McClure Silver Ram Award for her lifetime achievement and dedication to supporting the sheep industry. David Goldenberg, executive director of the California Sheep Commission, stated Florence’s “greatest strength is her vision and drive that puts the interest of the sheep industry first and herself second. She is a remarkable role model.” Nancy East, veterinarian and former president of the California Wool Growers Association, also compliments Florence’s dedication to “maintaining personal communication with all active industry members spending many hours on the phone to ask for opinions and address their concerns.” Florence said throughout the ups and downs of her life, there was a central theme: love of the industry and a huge commitment at home. Giving their children the opportunity of a higher education was extremely important to both Florence and Jean. Florence was determined to make that happen despite Jean’s death. Their son, John Cubiburu, proudly claimed, “Growing

up, mom always placed a priority on her children. She is a very tough lady and had to assume a role of both parents. Although she was always a very busy person, she somehow always found time to prioritize for her family.” All three of Florence’s children graduated from college. Jackie attended Cal Poly and later graduated from University of Pacific in Stockton, Calif. Both John and Jeanine graduated from Cal Poly. John said he and his siblings are very appreciative of their mom’s involvement and support of their college experiences. She wanted them to take advantage of all the wonderful things that Cal Poly had to offer. “She encouraged us to have a well-balanced education both scholastically and socially. From an agricultural perspective, she encouraged us to take advantage of new technologies and to be open minded about alternative ways of thinking and doing things. She knew and understood that agriculture was changing with the times and our future success would be dependent on being unique and different,” John said. Through her commitment and perseverance, Florence achieved the ultimate goal she and Jean - John Cubiburu wanted for their children. But more importantly, she said raising three quality individuals, who have been inspired by her example to be successful in their respective careers and as parents, is a testament to her success. Today, Florence holds multiple roles in her life as an industry leader for both the state and American Sheep Industries. She is also amatxi, which means “grandmother” in Basque, to her five grandchildren, and she works together with John to continue carrying out the legacy of Cubiburu Livestock. John concluded, “I am extremely fortunate to have my mom passing her wisdom, practical knowledge and passion of the livestock industry on to me. But more importantly, I love to tell people that I am one of the luckiest ones to have the opportunity to talk to her every day.”

“I am extremely fortunate to have my mom passing her wisdom, practical knowledge, and passion of the livestock industry on to me.”

38 | Winter 2017

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agcircle 39

What’s the Buzz About Bees? Beekeeping at Cal Poly and industry issues

By Emma Morris Photos by Emma Morris and Charlie Hamilton


ees may be the unsung heroes of agriculture. Most people know bees play a role in food production, but few know just how important that role is. Bees are responsible for pollinating more than 80 percent of the crops produced worldwide. All flowering and fruiting crops need to be pollinated in some fashion, and without bees, much of that pollination would not be possible. In effect, bees allow agriculturists to feed the world. Northern California rancher Jim Morris uses bees for his sunflower production. “Wild pollinators account for no more than about 10 percent of the pollination we need. We rely heavily on European honey bees for that remaining 90 percent of our pollination,” Morris said. The magnitude of bees' importance 40 | Winter 2017

means keeping bees healthy and functioning is also important. In recent years, bees were endangered by the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) — which caused a mass dying of worker bees. The result surfaced in 2006, when there was a severe drop in overall bee numbers. Though the cause of CCD remains unknown, officials in the industry have named several suspects. “Some of the causes are the Varroa mite, stress, and increased pesticide and herbicide use,” said Cal Poly Professor Mark Shelton. Shelton taught a beekeeping course and led the bee enterprise project at Cal Poly for many years in the 1990s. He notes bees are highly sensitive to stress, which can come from transportation, overwork and drought. If bees don’t have regular access to water and plants, they cannot produce

enough pollen to live through winter, he said. California’s drought makes it difficult for bees to access plentiful water and plants and has certainly added to CCD. Cal Poly agricultural science senior Ethan Rasmussen said his family’s farming operations in California’s Central Valley utilize bees, adding that colony collapse has negatively impacted their business. “With the onset of CCD, it is not uncommon to lose 30 to 40 percent of our hives in the winter. This is a trend that is common for beekeepers nationwide,” Rasmussen said. They strive to keep their hives healthy in spite of the CCD epidemic. The Rasmussen family knows proper management is key to bee health. “The two most important aspects to manage [bees] are feeding


and mite control,” Rasmussen said. His family supplements the bees’ diet with pollen patties roughly every two weeks so they have enough energy to stay alive and healthy. They also have to control the Varroa mite, which is an external parasite that feeds on bees' blood. “There are a variety of methods of mite control on the market today. We like to alternate products often to prevent any type of resistance, and we have experienced success with this strategy,” Rasmussen said. Organizations such as the Pollinator Partnership are working to raise awareness about bee health and CCD by promoting the health of pollinators, conservation, education and research. Pollinator Partnership highlights the importance of peoples' relationship with bees. According to Pollinator Partnership research director Victoria Wojcik, “These relationships are so fundamental that we really need to drive the message every day.” Many in the industry are hopeful, including Shelton, that increased awareness is key. “I think, hope and believe that things will start to change for the bees,” he said. One of the ways Cal Poly works to improve consumer

education about bees is through the beekeeping course. Students learn about beekeeping practices and bees' role in agricultural production. The class is open to students of any major. Industrial engineering student Alex Meyer secured a spot in the class in spring quarter 2016. Meyer said he wanted to take the class because he knew bees were an important part of food production. “I always disliked bees when I was young because my only experience with them was getting stung,” said Meyer. “But I know bees are more important than that and I wanted to gain a deeper respect for them.” True to Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto, the beekeeping class gets students in the field right away. Meyer said the lecture portion of the course is exciting and includes interesting facts about bees and how to actually be a beekeeper. “Then you get to go out in a bee suit and actually work with the bees right away,” he said. The class is taught by Gordon Wardell and Gerard Loaiza, both industry beekeepers for the Wonderful Company. Wonderful uses Cal Poly’s land to rest their bees during the off-season, and in return, Wonderful employees teach a beekeeping class

for the university. Cal Poly students benefit greatly from the class, even those with beekeeping backgrounds such as Ethan Rasmussen. “Wardell gives really good insight on bee biology and specific habits within the hive, and Loaiza teaches how to implement different practices into commercial beekeeping. They are a great team," Rasmussen said. Before the deal with Wonderful Brands, the class was taught by fulltime Cal Poly professors, including Shelton. “The beekeeping project has been around for at least 35 years,” Shelton said. “I started teaching beekeeping and running the enterprise project in 1982. I taught the class and oversaw the enterprise for 14 years.” There is no longer a beekeeping enterprise project, but some Cal Poly honey is still produced with Wonderful Brand’s bees. The beekeeping class gives both students and professors a deep respect for bees. “Bees help provide better quality and more food for us,” said Meyer. “Without bees, we would be without a lot of the foods we have today.”

agcircle 41


STAN VAN VLECK Agribusiness, ’88

Stan Van Vleck graduated from Cal Poly and then from McGeorge School of Law in 1991. He is now the chairman and a partner at Downey Brand, LLP, the largest law firm in northern California. Van Vleck splits his time three ways. When he’s not at the law firm, he manages his family’s ranch of 2,000 head of cattle and also owns and operates a lobbying business. Van Vleck’s law interest became apparent at a young age growing up in the agriculture industry. He saw the issues the industry faced and wanted to help defend his family and others in the industry. Van Vleck said he chose Cal Poly because “they have the best agriculture program in the nation.” He adds, “I knew I could learn law at law school, so I wanted to learn about agriculture at Cal Poly.” Van Vleck’s favorite part of his job is when both sides win. “My client comes first, but I always want the other side to win as well, especially in this industry,” he said. He shared his least favorite parts of the job are when people whine, or refuse to take risks. His mantra is “be a part of the solution or get out of the way.” Van Vleck’s advice to future attorneys is to develop a good understanding of how business works, return calls, and ultimately, “remember you’re dealing with human beings’ lives. They’re putting their trust in you. Their future rests in your hands.”

KRISTA SABIN Agribusiness, ’95

Krista Sabin graduated from Cal Poly and then graduated from Santa Barbara College of Law. Her inspiration to become an attorney surfaced after witnessing “inefficient agriculture policy, government overreach and burdensome regulations” first-hand growing up on her family’s cattle ranch. “I knew that if I became an attorney I could effectively advocate for agriculture and the issues that were threatening America’s farmers and ranchers,” she said. Cal Poly was the only college Sabin applied to: “There simply was no other choice for me and nowhere else I wanted to go.” Sabin’s favorite part of her job is working with families and giving them the peace of mind “that their legacy will continue, and most often that agricultural land will remain in agriculture.” Her advice for aspiring attorneys parallels advice she was given upon graduating from Cal Poly: “[Our family attorney] told me to go to work for five years before going to law school. It was the best piece of advice I ever received, and I would give the same advice to any aspiring lawyer,” she said.

JOHN HEWITT Agribusiness, ’99

John Hewitt graduated from Cal Poly and holds a law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. He currently holds the title of senior director for state affairs at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, where he is responsible for legislative and regulatory activities for its member companies. His inspiration to become an attorney partially stemmed from a challenge from an alumnus, who said “we don’t need more lawyers…but we do need some more good ones.” Hewitt says Cal Poly was the right choice for him because of both the people (professors, students


and alumni) and “the product [education] felt real from the first time he visited campus." Hewitt says an important part of his career is his alumni network. “Anytime I had a question about law school, career path or life in general, the alumni I have met over the years have been extremely generous in their advice and counsel,” he said. Hewitt’s favorite part of his job is finding solutions to specific problems. His least favorite part is the convoluted nature of legalistic careers. “I believe attorneys have a way of making the simple complex for the average person and I think it should be the other way around,” he said. Hewitt’s advice to aspiring lawyers is to “be involved in things you are passionate about and surround yourself with people that work hard.”


Agricultural Science, minor in Agribusiness, ’06 Megan Dutra graduated from Cal Poly and then from the San Joaquin College of Law in 2010. Currently she is the inhouse counsel for Maricopa Orchards, LLC. Dutra was inspired to become an attorney during her time at Cal Poly. “I took a course called “Issues in California Agriculture” where professionals from the agriculture industry enlightened us on many of the issues facing agriculture and advised us of their roles within the business…Listening to their stories made me want to pursue a career in agriculture law and water law. I enrolled in law school and ended up doing just that,” she said. Dutra felt Cal Poly’s internship requirement was instrumental in preparing her for law school and for her career in law. Dutra’s favorite part of the job is working with farmers. “Working in-house for a farming company is extremely fastpaced and more exciting than one would think,” she said. Dutra advises aspiring law students to clerk during their time in law school to gain on-the-job experience before graduation.


Dairy Science, minor in Agricultural Communications, ‘07 Diane Coderniz attended law school at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and graduated in 2011. She is currently an associate attorney at Baker Manock & Jensen, PC (BMJ) in Fresno, California — a title she has held since the beginning of her career. Coderniz grew up on a dairy in Dos Palos, Calif., where her love for agriculture began. Though she has a passion for the industry, she knew from a relatively young age she wasn’t interested in the production aspect. “Before I started college, I decided I would attempt law school after college. I wasn’t sure where it would take me, but my passion is agriculture, and I wanted to assist the industry from a legal angle,” Coderniz said. She chose Cal Poly for her undergraduate education because she wanted to compete in dairy judging. She said, “Cal Poly’s team is the best in the nation if you ask me.” She felt welcomed on campus and knew it was the right choice after she attended Open House. Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing approach helped Coderniz stay focused on solutions for her cases. “The friendships and connections I made while at Cal Poly are life long and have allowed me to stay involved in the agricultural industry while focusing on learning the legal profession,” Coderniz said. Her favorite part of the job is working with farmers and ranchers. She shared her background in agriculture allows her to relate to agricultural clients on a more personal level. Coderniz encourages aspiring lawyers to “read a lot!” and says “don’t worry about majoring in pre-law during your undergraduate career. Instead, spotlight your interests and major in a subject on which you would like to focus your legal expertise.”

By Emma Morris agcircle 43

By Mackenzie Bressler Photos by Dr. Scott Vernon


he agricultural industry is the basis of many foundations, programs, and long-standing success passed down from generation to generation. One of the most prominent foundations contributing to educational and leadership success is the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF). CALF, originally created by the Council of California Growers (CCG) in 1962 as the Agricultural Education Foundation, was designed to focus on educational work throughout

the agricultural industry. The CCG and members of the Agricultural Education Foundation visited California on a trip sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. That gathering produced a Leadership Coordinating Committee composed of representatives from CCG, Cal Poly and Bank of America. The committee developed the California Agricultural Leadership Program operated by the Foundation which partners with four California universities: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; Cal Poly,

Pomona; California State University, Fresno; and the University of California, Davis. Over the last 50 years, generations of leaders have graduated from the 17-month program, often referred to as Ag Leadership. Each cohort accepted into the program is called a class. Currently, Class 47 of CALF is progressing through the leadership program. Ann Vassar is a member of Ag Leadership’s Class 18. Since her time in the program, Vassar and her peers

LEARNING TO LISTEN 44 | Winter 2017


from the course have followed each other’s careers, families and shared their life accomplishments, including journeying to Africa together. Vassar said the program helped her to break out of her shell — leading her to embrace travels, culture and shifts in perspective. “The interesting thing is that most of these experiences were not related to agriculture at all,” she said. “They gave me a greater appreciation of how things affect other people. Instead of only looking at my viewpoint, I began looking at things as to how they would affect other people.” Each class travels abroad for three weeks at the culmination of the program. The members spend time in several countries of a region, such as South America or the Middle East, and provide supplies and service as they learn about the countries’ governance and the agricultural influence on their culture. Ag Leadership is known to generate deep and valued relationships amongst the participants from administrator levels to class peers. “Listening to the presenters, international hosts, and focusing on others’ way of life helped me open my heart to the feelings, ideas and accomplishments of others,” Vassar said. Another part of CALF’s program includes Life-Long Leadership Learning (L4) seminars held at the four participating universities. Cal Poly hosted a seminar in October, at which CALF President Barry Bedwell presented Cal Poly with a check for $50,000 for its continued partnership with the program. CALF works with Cal Poly to implement curriculum, program evaluation, participant progress and program logistics, as well as other program related matters. Robert Flores, department head of

Cal Poly’s Agricultural Education and Communication Department, is the campus facilitator of CALF. “The California Agricultural Leadership Foundation provides aspiring and recognized leaders with tools for success,” said Flores. “The L4 seminars are meant to provide fellows, alumni and the interested public with an opportunity to engage in some of the educational pieces of the program. Deep listening intersects with selfreflection. Leaders need to practice self-reflection continuously.” Terry Bressler, manager of

more to consumers.” By learning how to listen in the most effective ways, agriculturalists can see what information the public is missing and where the disconnect between producers and consumers lies. An example of learning how to listen comes from Mark Goulston, M.D., and past UCLA professor of psychiatry for 25 years. In October the California Agricultural Leadership Program hosted Goulston at Cal Poly. He addressed CALF alumni, industry members, and Cal Poly faculty and students on how to make listening a more compelling skill with experiences and memoirs from his book, “Just Listen: How to Get Through to Anyone.” He reflected on his own theory of listening — how to listen to another person from their inside out. Goulston said he practices making an individual feel different by attempting to actually feel their feelings for himself. He shared a personal example from one of his patients who was experiencing dark thoughts. “Suddenly, all the color in the room got black and white and it got to be a - Carson Britz chilly black and white, and I Chief Operating Officer of HarvestPort didn’t know whether I was having a stoke or a seizure. I realized I wasn’t having a stroke or seizure, but Reclamation District 1004 in Colusa rather I was looking out at the world County, and Ag Leadership’s Class 30 through her eyes, and that’s what graduate, said listening is crucial for she felt.” Goulston said experiences all sides of any issue. like that taught him to listen from the “At times, listening is an inside out. overlooked skill and industries are What does this have to do with challenged by truly listening to agriculture? “Everything,” Flores said, all stakeholders, or may become adding that millions of family farmers distracted by a particular group’s and ranchers depend on agriculture noise.” He added, “Improving as their livelihood and the industry agriculture’s ability to listen as an relies on consumers to purchase and industry can help public perception utilize all it creates. Working towards of agriculture and further consumer understanding each other, whether as understanding about the industry a consumer or producer, can lead to a while producers can bend their ears stronger agriculture industry.

“One of the important distinctions that Ag Leadership helped me with was to truly get into the distinction of hearing versus listening, and the value of mastering the skill.”

agcircle 45

Goulston pointed out, “If you listen for it, everybody is trying to have someone listen from the inside out.” Carson Britz, chief operating officer of HarvestPort and graduate of Ag Leadership’s Class 43, credits his enriched leadership skills to CALF. "One of the important distinctions that Ag Leadership helped me with was to truly get into the distinction of hearing versus listening, and the value of mastering the skill," he said. Britz said Ag Leadership experiences helped highlight his personal strengths and weaknesses which in-turn opened his mind to understanding others better. "The net effect of this has been very strong relationships with other fellows, build on a solid foundation of trust," Britz said. Today's consumers demand trust and transparency when it comes to agriculture and its practices. All types of agriculture operations, both large and small, fall under the same scrutiny of the media and public. The California Agricultural Leadership Program classes will continue to improve leadership and learning — engaging others to listen and engage more of agriculture's stakeholders from small communities to world leaders.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Mark Goulston

CALF invested about $55,000 per fellow to participate in the program, which is underwritten by individual and industry donations. Since it was first delivered in 1970, more than 1,300 people have participated in the Ag Leadership Program and become influential leaders and active volunteers in agriculture, government, communities, business and education.

Learn more by visiting 46 | Winter 2017

CAL POLY AGRICULTURAL COMMUNICATIONS We meet. We travel. We network. We compete. We learn. We lead. We are the voice for the future of agriculture.

What career will you choose? • Agricultural Publications • Advertising and Sales • Attorney • Environmental Reporting • Graphic Designer • Magazine Writing • Marketing • New Media Communications • News Writing and Reporting • Photography • Public Relations Specialist • Web Designer

Cal Poly offers the only agricultural communication degree program in California. With leading-edge technology, intensive coursework and extracurricular opportunities, students develop skills in many disciplines of agriculture. The program offers undergraduate and graduate students real industry experience with the opportunity to Learn by Doing.

For More Information Contact: or

805.756.2803 agcircle 47

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AgCircle Winter 2017 vol 35 issue 1  

Join us in celebrating Brock Center's 30th Anniversary. This special issue, crafted with care, shows off many of the covers from AgCircle's...

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