AgCircle Summer 2018

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agcircle |

cal poly, san luis obispo summer 2018


The art of growing gifts


Food straight from the source


A LETTER FROM THE STAFF Welcome to the Summer 2018 issue of AgCircle! As a team, we've had a great year working together to produce this magazine among other projects for Cal Poly's Brock Center. This issue features our annual photo contest, as well as stories covering a range of topics from the leatherwork industry to gray wolf migration into Northern California. Our goal with this magazine is to showcase student work, from photography and writing to design, in a professional and interesting way. We hope you enjoy our efforts and the talent of our student volunteers. Happy reading!

Nate, Elise, Chloe, Felipe, Emma, & Scott


AgCircle is a student-run magazine published twice

a year. Students write the articles, edit, design and contribute photography.

Taylor Chalstrom Page 24

Sarah Frushour

Chanel Jensen

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Halley Lauchland

Page 10

Page 16

Megan Farley

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ON THE COVER Congratulations Celeste!

Haley Olson

Brooklyn Peterson

Page 32

Page 14

Celeste Roberts Page 12

Sophomore business major and agricultural communication minor Celeste Roberts' photo is featured on our cover as the winner of the 2018 annual photo contest. Roberts will join the Brock Center team for the 2018-2019 year. See page 18 for more photo entries.

Roman Waskiewicz

Shelby Watts

Page 22

Page 29

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Volume 36, Issue 2, Summer 2018 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 Emma Morris Faculty Adviser Megan Silcott

Nathan Brickman Chloe Fowler Scott Middlecamp Elise Regusci Felipe Vallejo Writers


Associate Editors

Taylor Chalstrom, Megan Farley, Chloe Fowler, Sarah Frushour, Chanel Jensen, Halley Lauchland, Emma Morris, Haley Olson, Brooklyn Petersen, Celeste Roberts, Roman Waskiewicz, Shelby Watts Photographers

Tucker Banta, Emma Blair, Mady Braught, Taylor Chalstrom, Megan Farley, Mackenzie Gomes, Quincie Gourley, Richard Green, Della Hayden, Kelly Huibregtse, Chanel Jensen, Halley Lauchland, Caroline Lee, Justice Osiecki, Katelyn Pedersen, Brooklyn Petersen, Primal Pastures, Kelsey Prins, Jillian Raycraft, Celeste Roberts, Tiffany Thompson, Tyler Wilkerson Graphic Designers Emma Morris Felipe Vallejo (Pistachios, Charles Paddock Zoo, Tiny Trees) Copy Editors Yasi Arami, Sophie Carnevale, Julia Glick, Camila Gonzalez, Nicolas Gonzalez, Tabata Gordillo, Krista Hershfield, Serena Lopez, Alyssa Mavor, Connor McCarthy, Sophia O’Keefe, Isabella Paoletto, Summer Jo Santangelo, Joseph Schutz, Samantha Jo Siegal, Jared Smith, Priya Sodlapur, Allie Rohlfs, Jaelin Wilson Permission to Reproduce All material in this issue may be reproduced with the expressed written permission of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication. The content of AgCircle is generated by students, and does not reflect the opinions of California Polytechnic State University, its administration or faculty. Printed by PRP Companies.

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Kelsey Prins

Contents Primal Pastures

Megan Farley

Richard Green



LIVESTOCK JUDGING Cal Poly livestock judging makes a comeback

CALIFORNIA CLYDESDALES Clydesdale heaven in Cambria



LEATHERWORK A rich history of craftsmanship

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NUTS ABOUT PISTACHIOS The story of a local pistachio business


FLORAL INDUSTRY The art of growing gifts


CHARLES PADDOCK ZOO Conservation. Education. Recreation.

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Jillian Raycraft

Quincie Gourley



PHOTO CONTEST Photos of people, landscapes, produce, and livestock

Mady Braught


AMERICAN BISON Upholding history through conservation





MAKING THE GRADE Infographic about USDA grades

TINY TREES The bonsai industry

BACKYARD BUTCHERY Food straight from the source

GRAY WOLVES IN CALIFORNIA New predators present new challenges


FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY Deliciously beautiful

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LIVESTOCK JUDGING Cal Poly livestock judging makes a comeback By Megan Farley Photos by Mady Braught and Tatum Holdener


eart pounding. Mind sharpening. Adrenaline pumping. One deep breath and open the door. “Hello sir, how are you today?” This is the experience every livestock judging competitor has before they enter the reasons room in a competition. It is not for the faint of heart or the stress averse. Competing as a collegiate livestock judging team member is both mentally strenuous and tremendously rewarding. Ask any member of the Cal Poly Livestock Judging team, and they will tell you, there is truly no feeling like it. For many years, livestock judging and evaluation played an important role in Cal Poly’s Animal Science curricula. Its evidence is seen through decades worth of pictures, awards and memories lining the halls of Building 10. This program prided itself on producing prominent industry leaders, many of them seen in those very photos and named on the plaques and awards. Although the Cal Poly Livestock Judging program took a brief hiatus due to budget constraints, Coach Lee Rincker is getting the program rolling and back 6 | Summer 2017

on its feet. Rincker grew up on a diversified grain and livestock operation in central Illinois. Since he was eight years old, livestock judging has been his true passion. After a successful collegiate judging career at Lake Land Community College and the University of Illinois, Rincker went on to be the assistant judging coach at Chico State University before he found his career at Cal Poly starting in 2014. When asked why he loves serving as a judging coach, Rincker said “If you are interested in livestock production, the experience you gain will prove to be one of the most valuable. As I reflect, I had numerous mentors whom I was fortunate enough to learn from and I want to share those same teachings and philosophies.” Rincker added he believes that although science and innovation have increased in animal agriculture, a visual element always remains. Jokingly, Rincker says, “If you want to create a masterpiece you can’t paint with a blindfold on. Selection and evaluation are objective, but also need to be accompanied with visual appraisal.”

Members of any livestock judging team can be compared to a traveling sports team. They are committed to their teammates and competing together across the country. Some of students’ fondest memories are made on the livestock judging road according to the 2017 team. Through snow and rain, hot autumn suns, miles of dirt roads, and visiting endless livestock operations, students learn perseverance and mental fortitude in the pursuit of what they love. Although the experience is one of constant challenges, it is not without insurmountable joys. The 2017 team cannot recall a time when they were not smiling about every new experience that came their way. One such trip was to the National Western Livestock Show in Denver, Colorado. The team arrived in Colorado in early January. Their Californian idea of winter was quickly shattered as they braved negative degree mornings and cattle cloaked in winter coats. Rincker said “It is not every day that you get to judge livestock next to the Rocky Mountains.” Morgan Wonderly, a member of the


2017 team, discussed her experience as a livestock judging contestant. Wonderly said, “Livestock judging was one of the toughest mental challenges I’ve ever faced. It takes a lot of practice time. But what you put in is definitely what you get out of it.” Wonderly still sees the positive effects of her hard work today, as she attributes many of her successes to the skills and network she gained from her time as a livestock judging competitor. The benefits of livestock judging are limitless. Students are exposed to hands-on learning in animal husbandry, handling and basic science. They obtain a working knowledge of four primary species: cattle, swine, sheep and goats, and apply it in livestock judging contests all over the country.

The Contest

A collegiate contest entails twelve classes of livestock with four animals in each class. Competitors are required to rank livestock in the classes from best to worst, based on varying factors and personal opinions. Several classes provide real-world production scenarios that incorporate genetic predictors, which are expected progeny differences, actual performance measures, and indices. These serve as other selection pressures for

students to utilize when coming to a conclusion. Thus, students must develop a knowledge of different livestock production environments in the United States. The second element of the judging activity is the presentation of oral reasons. This allows the participant to defend their placing in a formal and professional manner, teaching them how to communicate more clearly and effectively about the livestock industry, Rincker said. “Even more valuable than principle knowledge gained through the livestock judging process, are the essential life skills that are developed,” he added. Students learn balance through academic obligations, a rigorous practice schedule, communication skills, quick decision making, and critical thinking. Being a member of a collegiate livestock judging team is no easy task, but with the right work ethic, it quickly becomes an invaluable experience.


Decades of alumni speak to the impact this program had on their life. Not only do they establish personal and professional life skills, but team members develop connections in the industry that last forever. Lindsey Higgins, a former Cal Poly Livestock Judging Team member and professor of agricultural business at Cal Poly, feels as though

she and her team members developed many relationships during their time in the program. “We made friends with students on other teams, many of whom I am still in touch with now,” Higgins said. She also notes the rigor and pace of Cal Poly’s academic programs provides a unique challenge for team members, yet knows that with a dedication to success, students are up to the task. For those looking to add dimension, travel and unforgettable memories to their academic experience, the livestock judging programs hopes to find future students just as it's found so many others. If you too want to leave your mark on halls of Building 10, contact Lee Rincker for more information at Team members competed in numerous contests throughout the year including the Arizona National Livestock Show, Phoenix, Arizona, National Western Stock Show, Denver, Colorado, American Royal, Kansas City, Missouri, National Barrow Show, Austin, Minnesota and the North American Livestock Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. Pictured below from left to right the 2017 team: Matt Durian, Emily Babcock, Morgan Wonderly, Brooke Martin, Megan Farley, and Coach Lee Rincker.

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LEATH E R W O R K A rich history of craftsmanship

Story and photos by Sarah Frushour


eather, or tanned animal hide, is perhaps one of the oldest human inventions. Its history is both functional and artistic. Ancient civilizations tanned hides for survival purposes such as shelter, today, leather is used for everything from tasseled accessories to horse saddles. “Leatherwork has a rich history of craftsmanship,” said Sherri Freeman, an experienced leatherworker and professor in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department at Cal Poly. Historically, leather was made by hunters and gatherers by skinning animals and rubbing rendered fat, or tallow, on the hides to keep them from rotting. These methods were used throughout the world, and were documented everywhere from ancient Egypt to North America. Throughout the years, the methods of making leather have been improved and refined, and today’s leatherworkers have an arsenal of techniques available to them. Some of the processes that are used today include sammering, where the hide is pressed between two rollers that squeeze out all the water, tanning, which involves chemical treatments (usually with some form of salt solution) to the hides, and liming, where hides are


The beveller is used to finish the edges of the leather, giving it a smooth finish. soaked and then treated with lime and acid to remove the hair. According to Leather Resource, each of these methods

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expedites the original leather making processes, which could take over a year. Today, leather can be manufactured in a manner of days. Leather continues to be popular in Western culture fashion. In this context, it is frequently dyed and “tooled,” which is an ornamental style achieved by pressing the leather with hot stamps. Freeman said tooled leather


The swivel knife is used to cut the pattern into the leather. This tool takes a lot of practice to master, but it is essential to tooling. articles of clothing as a design trend are here to stay. Western enthusiasts seek wearable pieces of art such as belts, purses, wallets and other novelties as expressions of personal style. These pieces can be unique and individually expressive for the buyer, but they also reveal the style of the artist. There is great diversity in the leatherwork craft, which gives it an inherent artistic freedom. Part of the fun for leatherworkers comes from adapting a piece to the individual customer. “I can make unique, one-of-a-kind items,” Freeman said. Some of Freeman’s more memorable pieces include saddles she has made and tooled for friends and family. Freeman has developed a deep passion for leatherworking over the years and said it opened a lot of doors and started great friendships.


Some people start working with leather because of their interest in the art, while others have historic family ties, like Nora Hirons, whose father passed down the craft to


layers of craftsmanship, according to Freeman. Typically, an artist starts with half a hide and visualizes the end product. After the leather is cut, carved and tooled, the pieces are combined to make a single piece the artist planned. “It is a lot of planning, a lot of fun, and it gives you the opportunity to be creative in your own way,” said Freeman. Freeman said there is “no right or wrong way

"It is a lot of planning, a lot of fun, and it gives you the opportunity to be creative in your own way." - Sherri Freeman The pear tool is used in conjunction with the mallet to create dimension within the piece. her. “When I was a little kid, I loved watching my dad make belts and other things, and he would tell stories about his cowboy days in Northern California,” Hirons said. She said her father taught her the basics and then let her develop her own artistic style. “Learning to work with leather took patience and a good teacher,” said Hirons, who has been teaching her daughter the art. Leatherwork is dimensional and combines different


to go about it—it’s art.” Every pattern is unique and each piece of leather cooperates differently. “I’ve had fun,” said Freeman. But it does take practice learning how to control the tools. She said the best way to start is to “watch others, get a few tools and start playing.”

BACKGROUND TOOLS The background tools are commonly sold in sets and each tool assists in the development of the blank space on the leather.

The mallet is used to tap on the tool to create the desired effect on the leather.

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Clydesdale heaven in Cambria Story and photos by Chanel Jensen


oughly 45 minutes north of San Luis Obispo sits Cambria Pines by the Sea Ranch, home to Covell’s California Clydesdales. Ralph Covell is the founder and owner of the unique seaside ranch established in 1850 by Irish immigrant, Jeffree Fallon. What sets this ranch apart from most is its more than 70 “gentle giants.” The Covell family, including Cuesta College student, Tara Covell, keep the

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ranch that serves as home to dozens of champion horses and their offspring. Covell can quickly glance at any one of his horses and give its name, the sire and dam, offspring, and any previous show experience the horse had. The ranch was kept in the Fallon family until 1980, when the property was sold to developers who planned to create housing, a golf course and an air strip. However, environmental groups halted those development

efforts to protect the rich, natural significance of the ranch. In 1998, Covell took on the land acquisition and bought the property from the developers. Working with the environmental groups, they successfully enacted a conservation easement on the property, meaning that it will always remain ranch land. Cambria Pines by the Sea Ranch is almost 2,000 acres of pristine land overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Part


of the land is covered in the largest strand of Monterey Pine forest in California, and the rest is hilly grassland. From certain ridges and hills on the ranch, there is an ocean view in three directions. Cattle can be found roaming, playing a symbiotic role with the forest. The cows get forage from the forest, and their grazing allows the trees to grow with little competition from invasive species. Covell’s Clydesdales come from excellent pedigrees and have had success in breed association shows both in the United States and abroad. Covell had the winningest team of driving mares in 2007, world champion studs, and claims numerous other championships. But life moves slower now for the horses. The majority of the horses are no longer ridable and live as if they were wild. Those that are trained, and able to be ridden are used for guided trail tours for guests of the ranch. Typically, Clydesdales are a rich bay color with four white socks, but the Covell’s herd has many unique colorings and markings. Some are dotted with white splashes, known as “sabino” coloring. Others have one or more dark legs – a trait that is fairly uncommon in the breed. A couple of Shire horses – a Scottish breed commonly mistaken for the

English Clydesdales are also mixed in with the herd. There are three main ways to tour the ranch: guided trail rides, a 50-person “people mover” or private tours given by Covell in the ranch SUV. The course for trail rides varies, depending on where the majority of the herd is grazing, but typically it winds through the hills of the ranch

where guests can learn more about the history of the ranch and its environmental significance. Individual and private tours can be scheduled where guests ride in an SUV. This more individualized tour allows for one-on-one discussion with Covell and for personal encounters with the curious Clydesdales, who are familiar with their caretakers. Covell and his operation provide an example of how agriculture, the environmental community, and the general public can combine their interests to establish and preserve a beautiful part of a local area’s history and legacy. The tours offer a window into the rural lifestyle, while also informing the public of the relationships between creatures great and small.

Covell had the winningest team of driving mares in 2007, world champion studs, and claims numerous other championships. and up to the high points where riders can see the ocean. Tara Covell leads two-hour trail rides through the ranch on horseback. These tours have a maximum of six people, giving each tour a unique approach. The people mover is an openair wagon hitched behind a team of Clydesdales. Since it is able to accommodate large groups, this is a popular way to tour the ranch and was featured in Sunset Magazine in 2015. The tour takes guests through the herds of Clydesdales, who often come to investigate. The ranch also offers a “Picnic in the Pines,”

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The story of a local pistachio business

Story and photos by Celeste Roberts


The Pistachio Factory’s Story

merican farmers and consumers alike are going nuts for pistachios. Paul Peguero capitalized on the growing popularity and is producing alternative ways to consume this delicious nut. Peguero graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in landscape architecture in 2010 and began selling his family’s pistachios in Santa Clara County, eventually founding The Pistachio Factory in Paso Robles. Peguero initially sold only roasted and flavored pistachios, but after a while, customers wanted more variety. He began experimenting — trying to develop new and innovative pistachio products. After researching nut butters and finding the right people to help him with his business idea, Peguero invested in a machine, jars and labels and began creating his pistachio butter. “I specifically remember taking my first set of jars to one farmer’s market 12 | Summer 2018

and to my surprise, I sold three that first day,” he said. “After only six months the word spread, and before I knew it, I was selling out.” In 2013, Peguero made the decision to move The Pistachio Factory out of California's Central Valley to the Central Coast wine region of Paso Robles. “Little did I know that Paso Robles was going to become one of the toprated tourist destinations in America,” Peguero said. The Pistachio Factory differentiates itself from other nut butter companies by using only his family’s California grown pistachios. Peguero also prides himself on his butter being 100 percent pistachio without any added oils or sugar additives. Since 2013, The Pistachio Factory’s vegan and gluten-free recipe has remained unchanged and a fan favorite; it frequently sells out at farmer’s markets and various retailers. The Pistachio Factory remains growing at a steady pace each year. Peguero continues to use his family’s

pistachios in his products and, at least for now, remains a one-man show.

The Pistachio Industry

Some would say an orchard is a living legacy. The land, materials, equipment and resources to begin or maintain any orchard are extensive and costly. Pistachio farmers dedicate decades to ensure success. “Some crops are grown for your family, [but] pistachio trees are grown for your grandchildren,” Peguero said. “Because pistachio trees have a very long lifespan, they’re planted with the next generation of farmers in mind, and generations after that.” It takes five to seven years for an orchard to produce a saleable crop, according to the American Pistachio Growers (APG). American farmers and consumers alike are going nuts for pistachios as pistachios are increasing in popularity. In 2013, over 469 million pounds of pistachios were produced in California, which is about 17 times the amount produced in 1985, according


to the APG. The United States pistachio industry now takes the lead in global commercial production, since the first commercial crop was planted in the United States in 1976. About 98 percent of the entire country’s pistachios are grown in California, and the small remainder are grown in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. The spike in pistachio popularity can be credited to the nut’s delicious flavor and various health benefits. Nutritionally, pistachios are also one of the lowest-calorie nuts, and they’re high in fiber, protein, and antioxidants. American Pistachio Growers research suggests pistachios have numerous benefits and may help to maintain good health, support an active lifestyle and reduce the risk of nutritionrelated diseases. The versatile nut can be utilized in various recipes ranging from pistachio pasta sauces, to pistachio salad dressing, and pistachio ice cream. Guy Fieri, an American restaurateur and

television personality, experimented with a Pistachio Parmesan Crostini dish on a television episode of Guy’s Big Bite. Guy Fieri’s unconventional pistachio-based recipe can be found on

flavor. In his opinion, “whether it is creating the richest pistachio gelato or spreading it on your favorite bread, pistachio butter brings out the best flavor.” Peguero’s current lineup of pistachio butter includes three different flavors: raw, roasted unsalted and roasted sea salted. Additional pistachios products are in the works, Peguero said. All the Pistachio Factory products are - Paul Peguero available for sale online at ThePistachioFactory. com, Amazon and in various restaurants, shops and The pistachio industry’s future looks wineries along the Central Coast. bright as growers and processors look to the next product, tree variety and farming techniques to ensure consumers can enjoy more pistachios in a variety of ways.

“Whether it is creating the richest pistachio gelato or spreading it on your favorite bread, (the) pistachio butter brings out the best flavor.”

Topping it off

From the farm to final packaging, Peguero said his goal for pistachio products is to highlight the pistachio’s

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THE FLORAL INDUSTRY 14 | Summer 2018

The art of growing gifts Story and photos by Brooklyn Petersen


fter years of drought, the flower industry is blooming once again on the Central Coast, fertilizing a major sector of the agriculture economy. California is America’s leading producer of cut flowers, providing the rest of the nation with 75 percent of all domestically grown cut flowers, according to the California Cut Flowers Commission. Locally, cut flowers were the seventh most valued crop in San Luis Obispo County in 2016 accounting for more than $86 million in revenue, according to the county’s annual agriculture report. The cool coastal breezes and moderate temperatures in San Luis Obispo County provide some of the best flower growing conditions in America according to local growers. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), there are 685 floriculture producers growing cut flowers, potted plants, bedding/garden plants, and more throughout the state. Some attribute the floral industry’s success to the healthy living trend that is sweeping America. Jamie Kitz, the key account manager at Sakata

Seed America, called this trend the “greening of America.” “There is a booming market in house plants and community gardens because people love to pick their own flowers and vegetables,” Kitz said. Many backyards in urban areas consist of just a porch or patio, so companies like Sakata Seed America have created products to fit the urban demographic needs. Sakata Seed has noticed consumers want a variety of flowers in their gardens as opposed to beds of just one or two flowers like petunias or marigolds. Kitz has also seen a rise in flowers that only master gardeners had previously grown. Consumers want their products fresh and they want them on demand. Floralife, located in Walterboro, South Carolina, prides itself in the best technology for preserving and prolonging the longevity of flowers. With industry leading technology from companies like Floralife, customers can order their floral arrangements and have them delivered fresh the next day. E-commerce has made ordering flowers easy for consumers. Steven Daum, director of Superflor Tech


Division at Floralife, emphasized the importance of ensuring consumers have a positive experience when they receive their flowers. Superflor does extensive research on the flower food packets that come with floral arrangements. “The idea is to give the customer 7-10 days for the flower to develop, open up, and keep their scent,” Daum said. With the help of the packets, the flowers receive nutrients through the water causing them to live longer and be healthier. Skyline Flower Growers is a fourthgeneration flower grower, shipper, and

“The idea is to give the customer 7-10 days for the flower to develop, open up, and keep their scent.” - Steven Daum

wholesaler headquartered in Nipomo, California. Skyline’s motto is, “Backed by more than 60 years of growing experience, we strive to produce the finest blooms and greens in the market.” Skyline has three growing locations in California with more than three million square feet of state-of-the-art greenhouses, shade houses and open field production. Skyline grows a variety of flowers in Nipomo, from sunflowers and ranunculus, to rows of snapdragons and gerberas daisies. Like any agricultural commodity, flowers are impacted heavily by both Mother Nature and by regulation. A current industry concern, as shared by Skyline, is labor regulation and litigation. Minimum wage increases and changes in immigration regulations have increased the need and research for mechanization in the industry. Growers are forced to turn to other, often more costly options, to ensure they can keep their operations running. The drought, along with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in the state have

also led to higher costs for producers. The floriculture industry is uniquely affected by these issues as they are constantly working against the clock. “For many agricultural commodities, there are secondary markets for the products that do not get sold. Some secondary markets for strawberries, for example, are jams, juices, or sauces. There is only one market for flowers because no one wants wilted or dead flowers. It makes the floral industry a very difficult and perishable one,” Daum said. Despite the roadblocks, floral industry producers are committed to ensuring that flowers are available to consumers — they know that from Mother’s Day to Valentine’s Day to “just because,” their flowers will always have a role in American markets.

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CHARLES PADDOCK ZOO Conservation. Education. Recreation.

Story and photos by Halley Lauchland


oos come in many forms. They can be large or small, and can be home to both familiar and exotic animals. Visitors of all ages can find enjoyment while viewing and learning about animals they may never get to see in the wild. San Luis Obispo County is home to the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero. This zoo is an exciting and educational destination with hundreds of animals throughout the five-acre park. The zoo keeps the experience fresh for visitors with new exhibits and a wide range of personalities between the zookeepers and animals. With the near extinction of the southern white rhino and the recent pregnancy that saved the species at the San Diego Zoo, zoos are more important than ever to ensure wildlife does not disappear. A zoo’s success 16 | Summer 2018

depends largely on high quality zookeepers and keeping the public interested and willing to learn. “What we do matters. It has a huge impact to the animals and next generation of zookeepers,” head zookeeper Flavia Parotti said. She has worked at Charles Paddock for 10 years. The Charles Paddock Zoo puts the health and well-being of its animals first. While it is small compared to many zoos, it provides a diversity of animals including venomous chameleons, monkeys and tigers. “I love the fact that we are a small zoo and that we can reach people,” Parotti said. “We have easy access to the community because we are so small.” She added she loves seeing familiar faces that continue to revisit the zoo.

The zoo’s animals require a lot of maintenance. Zookeepers are required to do much more than just play with the animals, though many park employees say it is a perk of the profession. They are also in charge of giving individualized care to each animal at the zoo. “A lot of zookeepers develop a passion for conservation. The fate of all the animals that we work with is 100 percent tied to human activities,” said Steve Tirotta of Charles Paddock Zoo, who has been a zookeeper for 26 years. He also said it is the job of the zookeeper to educate people and they want to pass on the message of conservation. “We are also educators, plumbers, carpenters…[and] crowd control,” Triotta said. Rain or shine, zookeepers can’t take a day off—animals need


food and care no matter what. Each species of animal has a different meal plan that needs to be weighed, prepared and delivered each morning. Every animal has specific dietary needs. Some need certain vitamins and some are even diabetic, but the zookeepers are there every day to ensure these animals are fed, have fresh water and clean pens. Zookeepers think about the animals frequently, even off-duty. “When we go home, we are thinking about these guys. When one is sick, we are wondering how they are doing or we wake up in the middle of the night wondering if everything is in order,” Parotti said. They also try not to pick favorites. “It is like picking your favorite child. I can’t pick,” Parotti said. Being a zookeeper may be a lot of work, but it has its advantages. Some zookeepers develop special bonds and personal connections with the animals they care for. The animals seem to love the attention, and when they see the zookeepers coming, they recognize it is feeding time. “Some are more social, others are more solitary. The ones that are more social in nature sometimes will seek out interactions with other animals including humans,” Tirotta said. Fernando, the red-legged seriema (a predatory terrestrial bird), is always at the gate, ready to greet the zookeepers. Zookeepers take the time to hand-feed him to ensure he is getting enough food. Fernando’s curiosity to explore and meet new people got him into trouble because he was always escaping his cage and greeting the zookeepers in the morning. Now the curious bird gets a special pen to sleep, where he is unable to escape, to ensure his safety. Zoos give the general public a great opportunity to learn about a vast number of different species of animals. 4-year-old, Max, a visitor at the zoo who also attends the Cal Poly Preschool, said he’s been to the zoo three times and his favorite animal is the tortoise. “Knowing that I am making a difference, whether it is taking care of these animals or even when you have a kid at the zoo come over and interact with you, you can see the little light

bulb go off in their head and they are starting to develop that same passion that we have,” Parotti said. Zoos also provide close encounters between humans and animals that don’t typically happen in the wild, which provides researchers the ability to study how these animals act outside their natural habitats. Most of the animals at the zoo are there for a reason. Recently, a family of opossums were hit by a driver on the road. Two babies were left orphaned while the other two, as well as the mother, did not survive. The zookeepers took in the animals without hesitation. The opossums are now being nursed back to health and are fed multiple times daily. Some of these animals would not be able to survive in the wild, which is what makes zoos so important. Another fascinating animal found at Charles Paddock is the Aldabra tortoise. Tortoises are surprisingly fast when it comes to greeting the zookeepers for feeding. Within about five minutes, the tortoises’ curiosity gets the best of them and they make it to the zookeeper to see what they are doing. Zookeepers’ jobs are extensive in scope, but ultimately, the keepers at the Charles Paddock Zoo are in this line of work because they love animals. “Everything we do has the animals in mind,” Parotti said. The work of a zookeeper is never complete, and though it may look like a fun job, it requires long hours and intensive care for many animals. The animals become part of the zookeepers’ lives, almost like their children, with great reward following careful care, Parotti said. Zoos are an often overlooked but important part of society. They provide centers for education, research, and animal rehabilitation, with an underlying passion for nature and a desire to give the public a glimpse into what it’s like to care for animals. The Charles Paddock Zoo, is working toward this goal every day.

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Photo Contest

Tiffany Thompson

Mady Braught

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The 2018 Brock Center photo contest was open to the public. The winning photo was taken by Celeste Roberts (cover photo). The images below are second place, third place, and honorable mentions. Cash prizes were awarded to the top three entries.

Katelyn Pedersen

Tucker Banta agcircle | 19

Kelsey Caroline Prins Lee

2nd place Jillian Raycraft

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Quincie Gourley

3rd place

Justice Osiecki Quincie Gourley

Tyler Wilkerson agcircle | 21

Making the Grade Consumers rely on what they can see and read when making purchases. In order to provide information to consumers, a set of standards was created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services states that “The USDA shields and labels assure consumers that the products they buy have gone through a rigorous review process by highlyskilled graders and auditors that follow the official grade standards and process standards developed, maintained and interpreted by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.” These grade standards allow consumers to base their purchases off of quality standards that are consistent. Grading is used to standardize more than 18 different commodities in the United States, which include the following: beef, cotton, dairy, eggs, fish and seafood, flowers and plants, fruits, goat, lamb, nuts, organic, pork, poultry, rabbits, specialty products, tobacco, vegetables, and wool and mohair. These grade standards are used by direct consumers as well as purchasers. Perhaps the most common sightings of grade standards by direct consumers is with eggs and meat products. To learn more about thve quality standards for the grades of shell eggs and beef, see the next page for an explanation. 22 | Summer 2018

Shell Eggs

Below are the shields consumers would see labeling the grades of shell eggs and beef, along with the qualifications to meet grade standards as defined by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services. “The freshest and highest quality eggs will receive a Grade AA.”

“Very high quality eggs will receive a Grade A.”

“Grade B eggs are usually used for breaking stock (liquid eggs) and baking, depending on the number of defects.”

Moderately Abundant

Slightly Abundant


“Prime beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has slightly abundant marbling (the amount of fat interspersed with lean meat), and is generally sold in upscale restaurants.”




“Choice beef is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. It has at least a small amount of marbling.”


“Select beef is very uniform in quality and normally leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. It has at least a slight amount of marbling.” *All grade shields, meat pictures and definitions of standards retrieved from USDA Agricultural Marketing Services.

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TINY TREES The bonsai industry

Story and Photos by Taylor Chalstrom


onsai is an art form, a hobby and a cultural phenomenon worldwide. Some would even go so far as to say bonsai is a lifestyle. For over 1,000 years, it has been a staple of Japanese culture, and more recently, American culture. Bonsai did not gain much popularity in America until after the Revolutionary War but it now has a small, loyal following. Bonsai is a Japanese term that literally translates to “planted in a container." The practice was redeveloped from ancient Chinese culture under the influence of Japanese Buddhism. As a general rule, bonsai trees are kept under four feet in height. Size classifications range from the smallest, called “Keshitsubo” (1-3 inches), to the largest, called “Imperial” (60-80 inches) according to Bonsai Empire. They are not genetically dwarfed, and any plant or tree can be formed into a bonsai through the traditional processes. They’re popular among growers because of the way they look, the atmosphere they can create and the artistry involved. The reasons for developing such tiny trees vary among growers, but most appreciate the aesthetic the trees provide. They also find it rewarding. Johnny Rosecrans, a technician at Cal Poly’s Crops Unit, said he was drawn to the beauty of seeing old and established bonsai trees about 20 years ago. “When I saw a master’s bonsai tree that was over 1,000 years old for the first time, I was blown away.” Rosecrans is referring to the Ficus Bonsai tree, which is the main tree on display at the Crespi Museum in Italy. It is thought to be the oldest bonsai tree in the world. This tree, (along with many others), is a great example of why bonsai has remained an art form for so long. A bonsai tree can be kept alive for multiple lifetimes if it is properly cared for. However, caring for these plants is no simple task. “Bonsai trees are very high maintenance,” Rosecrans said. “They require consistent but careful watering, root pruning, wiring and trimming as well as leaf defoliation.” These types of practices are often overlooked or not practiced by beginners. For example, root pruning is a key part of keeping a bonsai tree alive and small. “When the tree is about to come alive in the spring, I take the tree out of its pot and shave the bottom half of the roots in order to keep the tree alive for so long,” Rosecrans said. "Additionally, I defoliate the leaves of deciduous trees in 24 | Summer 2018

the summertime to acquire the look of smaller leaves. I also do wiring on the branches to shape them into whatever direction that I want them to go.” Bonsai requires a great deal of responsibility. George Muranaka, who owns Muranaka Bonsai Nursery in Nipomo, California, said “most people who start getting involved with bonsai become over-involved.” “The thing with this, is that it’s a waiting process. You can’t get a bunch of trees and expect everything to work out on its own,” he said. "I encourage people to get one or two older trees so that the workload is slightly reduced and that they are able to still learn the art at an efficient rate. It’s a matter of training and perseverance.” This approach of bonsai that

Muranaka advocates speaks volumes to the overall goal of bonsai. It is an art form meant to be practiced with persistence yet still give joy, whether that be from the aesthetic of the plant or general reward of care taking.

“My father needed help at the nursery so I started helping and when he became old, he asked me to take over. I have close to about 5,500 trees at the nursery. I water most trees every day or every other day,” Muranka said. “Otherwise, I am usually weeding the growing areas or looking for the trees that need to be pruned.” This daily routine may seem mundane, but it requires patience and attention to detail—something that Muranaka finds most -Johnny Rosecrans rewarding. Muranaka’s experience with bonsai, “I always try to leave myself a few however, is different from most. He hours towards the end of the day to has the distinction of being involved work on trees. That is where I get in the industry for decades. Thus, enjoyment from my job,” he said. he brings onto himself a greater responsibility with both the art and his business.

"Bonsai trees are very high maintenance. They require consistent but careful watering, root pruning, wiring and trimming, as well as leaf defoliation."

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PHOTOGRAPHY Deliciously beautiful


By Emma Morris Photography by Richard Green & Kelly Huibregtse


n its most basic form, a photograph is nothing more than a compilation of light pixels captured through the lens of a camera. So how is it that photos can evoke such powerful feelings and emotions in humans? A picture of a beautiful sunset can bring a sense of calm and peace. Photos of war or poverty elicit sorrow and sympathy. A photo of a juicy cheeseburger with the lettuce, onion and tomato perfectly placed, and the cheese flawlessly melted over the burger can literally make mouths water. Successful food marketing can even cause people to satisfy their sudden urges to eat a cheeseburger. This is no accident; in fact, food 26 | Summer 2018

companies all over the world spend billions of dollars annually to ensure consumers have that exact reaction to photos of their products. The food photography industry is vast: it ranges from food bloggers to massive restaurant chains, and it marries art and marketing in a beautiful way. Photography is used as a marketing tool in virtually every industry that’s trying to sell something. Its ubiquity, perhaps, makes most unaware of its effects. However, pictures impact consumer purchasing decisions every single day, as is evident with advertising and social media being used at all levels, from high-end

restaurants to fast food chains to the wholesale of agricultural commodities. Richard Green, former fine art photography professor and chief photographer of a Salinasbased newspaper has had the opportunity to photograph a wide range of food products. “You name it, I’ve shot it,” Green said. “I’ve worked for most of the biggest agricultural companies in Salinas, whether it’s for advertising or marketing. I do a lot of work in the actual field.” Green also photographs for top restaurants along the Central Coast. “I do a lot of shoots for restaurants where they have a chef with 10 new dishes and I’m there


shooting nothing but food shots for four hours.” California Farm Bureau’s California Bountiful Magazine occasionally hires Green as a freelance photographer, and he has shot everything from Talley Farms produce boxes to abalone farms in Morro Bay for them. “There’s so much that falls within the industry — including things like traditional farming and produce production all the way to fishing. I’ve done so many fun stories. I often do two-part photoshoots. The first part is the products in the field and then the second part is in the restaurant. It’s powerful,” Green said. In the era of social media, amateur food photography has seen a spike in popularity. This is particularly true on Instagram, a photo sharing platform where many users have taken to snapping pictures of their food for likes. Instagram food

photography has become a cliché, but users’ photos combined with the “location” feature on the app have brought unexpected crowdsourced advertising for many food establishments. This phenomenon has put food photos at the forefront of consumer reviews, and restaurants aren’t complaining. Thousands of users post millions

Huibregtse owns and manages a successful food blog called “A Side of Sweet” ( “I work 60 hours a week at a hospital in Berkeley and part time in the pediatric unit at a hospital in San Francisco,” Huibregtse said. “But if I wasn’t a doctor, I’d make enough income that my photography and blog businesses would sustain me.” Huibregtese makes money on the blog through advertising on her site and charges by the session for her photography services. Huibregtse started her blog in college “like everyone did -Richard Green back then, but unlike of food pictures every day, and it everyone else I didn’t stop, I just has proven to correlate directly to kept going.” Like artists of any restaurants’ popularity and sales, form, food photographers each according to Business Insider. have their own individual style. Food blogging is also a popular Ultimately their goal is to make trend in the online foodie world. food look as appetizing as possible Kelly Huibregtse is a full-time using the tools and techniques physician in the Bay Area who available to them. Huibregtse also has a passion for food places high importance on the photography and blogging. quality of the food photographs in

“If I find a recipe online without a photo, I won’t use that recipe. That’s how I cook — follow the pictures. A compelling image draws people into the story.”


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her blog. “It’s so competitive and the market is so saturated, if you don’t have eye-catching photos, it would be hard to be successful,” she said. Similarly, Green has spent many years perfecting his style, starting in college where he earned a bachelors degree in photo journalism. Even with years of formal and on-the-job training, he acknowledges that there’s no true formula. “Anyone can buy a camera — how you use it is what separates photographers. I don’t just mean having the eye, but the lighting is so important. And the angles are so important. When you’re dealing with a client you have to give them

28 | Summer 2018

something that pops off the page,” Green said. Green shoots with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and has an arsenal of about 10 different lenses with him at all times. Huibregtse’s photographic background is more informal and self-taught. “I think I’ve just learned through repetition. It’s this feedback loop of looking at what I created and then comparing it to photographers I look up to,” she said. Huibregtse shoots with a Nikon D750 and her favorite lens is the Nikon 24-70 mm. Her method for making food look appetizing through the lens is to start with fresh and beautiful ingredients. “I also like to layer stuff. For instance, adding a slab

of wood or a rustic cutting board under the plates, adding a napkin. It adds interest,” Huibregtse said. Photographers like Green and Huibregtse, along with consumers, marketers or advertisers agree that photography is an absolutely integral part of marketing in the food industry, whether it be for a personal blog, a cookbook, a farm, or a five-star restaurant. “Any time I look for recipes, I look for the photo. If I find a recipe online without a photo, I won’t use that recipe. That’s how I cook — follow the pictures. A compelling image draws people into the story,” Green said.



Upholding history through conservation

By Shelby Watts Photos provided by Lazy Arrow Adventures Co.


he North American Bison are making a comeback — not just for their meat, which is considered healthier than other beef, but also by attracting tourists who wish to observe them in their natural habitat. Due to their strong presence in American history, bison project a sense of majesty with their towering size, shaggy brown coat, short curved horns and overall regal appearance. Hundreds of thousands of bison once roamed the open North American plains, thundering down wide-open grasslands and prairies. Historically, Native Americans relied on bison for food, clothing and trade. They made grand efforts to ensure bison numbers were sustainable as they were a critical part of the Native American lifestyle. Minimal waste was a requirement and every part of the bison was used by the Native Americans. However, by the 19th century, these creatures were on the brink of extinction due to excessive hunting practices of American West settlers. According to the American Bison Society, settlers mainly desired the unique hide of the bison and relied on the animal for meat as well. But they did little to ensure

the herds were being maintained; directly contradicting the ideals of Native Americans who had relied on this animal for centuries. Eventually, the number of wild bison dwindled to lower than 1,000. Fortunately, admirers of the bison began to take the initiative in the late 1800s and early 1900s to preserve and save the dying species. The American Bison Society officially formed in 1905, with the help of William T. Hornday and Theodore Roosevelt, to preserve the herds. Today, bison are a protected species, and have been given a chance to thrive once more through the efforts of numerous ranchers, federal and state organizations, and Native American tribes. According to the 2012 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) census, the number of bison in the United States on private ranches and farms was 162,110. A 2014 report by the Department of the Interior lists the approximate number of

bison in U.S. federal herds to be around 9,855. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services reported 9,008 bison are in state and other public herds according to a 2011 count, with the estimated number of bison on tribal lands to be approximately 15,000. While bison numbers are nowhere near historical populations, bison tourism is rising in popularity. The most popular destination to watch and observe bison is Yellowstone National Park, where, according to the population recordings done in 2016, there are approximately 5,000 bison scattered throughout the vast and rugged landscape. In California, tourists can view bison at the Lazy Arrow Adventures Co. and Camatta Ranch located in San Luis Obispo County. Lazy Arrow is home to many exotic animals, but its bison are the most popular. Here, the bison roam and graze freely on the landscape for tourists to see. Co-owner of Lazy Arrow Adventures, Felicia Morrison said she’s observed

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some interesting behavior in her herd. “We had one of our older [bison] cows lie down in pasture. I just kind of knew she was getting to be about that age where they start passing just from old age. It was interesting, because these two cows came and stood on either side of her.” Morrison explained the rest of the herd stood off in the distance, but these two stood by her all day and all night until the older cow eventually passed away the next day. “I believe those two cows were actually her daughter and granddaughter, but I don’t see that kind of connection in any of our other animals,” she said. Lazy Arrow Adventures also provides tours and special accommodations such as the “Buffalo Bungalow.” The bungalow is a house located adjacent to the buffalo pasture, giving overnight guests` a chance to live close by to the herd of 29 buffalo during their stay. Throughout the country, agricultural tourism has grown to include bison admirers. Also, the demand for bison meat is increasing. Bison meat is low in fat and cholesterol content in comparison to other meats, and bison meat is seen as a healthy option for consumers. Weston Spivey co-owns and operates Green Acres Buffalo Farms located in Alabama. Green Acres provides buffalo meat to restaurants all across the state. The company’s main goals are to advocate for the bison meat industry, encourage the consumption of buffalo as an alternative protein source, and to educate consumers about the

30 | Summer 2018

business with special attention to animal welfare. “If you take animals and research, raise, care, and harvest them appropriately, and further your education as well as others’ education about the animal, you’ve done so much more for that animal overall,” owner of Green Acres Buffalo Farms Weston Spivey said. Spivey emphasizes the care his operation puts into raising these unfamiliar and sometimes misunderstood animals. He abides by the motto, “Treat the animals how you, yourself, would like to be treated.” Green Acres Buffalo Farms are producers and advocates for their industry. Spivey and his team strive to advance their genetics and maintain a healthy herd, as well as keep consumers informed about their practices. In line with what the American Bison Society set out to do in 1905, modern bison farms and ranches are finding more ways to incorporate this historic American icon into the modern world. The North American Bison continues to be admired as these animals come back into contemporary society. As the herds grow, history is preserved and the value and legacy of bison continues into the future.


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BACKYARD BUTCHERY Food straight from the source By Haley Olson Photos provided by Primal Pastures


s the gap between consumers and agriculturists grows, it has become harder for the general public to understand where their food comes from and what goes into actually raising an animal. In 1880, farmers made up about 50 percent of the labor force, according to Agriculture in the Classroom. Today, that number is down to 1.5 percent. In an effort to counteract this disconnect, more old school butcheries are popping up around the country, allowing butchers and meat producers to have face-to-face conversations with consumers. Even though interest in local meat production is rising, small butcher shops are still rather scarce in the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), processing facilities experienced a decrease between 1990 and 2010, with numbers falling nationwide from around 1,200 in the early ‘90s to around 800 in 2010. Large processing facilities now process the majority of livestock, but it can be difficult for small farmers to access

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these facilities. A few family companies are working to improve consumers’ understanding and access to locally-sourced meat products. Here is a look at how three of them, Primal Pastures, J+R Meats and Arroyo Grande Meat Company, are making an impact on their consumers. These companies have honed in their customer base while providing a high-quality local product that answers customer demands.

Primal Pastures

Primal Pastures, located in Murrieta, California, was founded by Paul Grieves, a former officer of the Marine Corps and current CEO of Pasturebird. Primal Pastures opened six years ago and is a unique operation focusing on regenerative agriculture, meaning as Grieves described, they "use chickens in a symbiotic relationship with cattle, sheep and pigs to replicate nature while providing a more vibrant ecosystem that regenerates the land we farm.” This is made possible with mobile coops and pens which

are moved every day to provide the animals fresh grass. Grieves and his family process and package the meat themselves. While they personally prefer to eat local food, they understand many working families are too busy to go to farmer’s markets. This is why they have chosen to deliver food straight to customer doorsteps using special insulated boxes which are kept cool with dry ice. The Grieves family works hard to give their customers a better understanding of where their food comes from by providing private and group tours of their facility. They also utilize social media to bring awareness of how their livestock is treated, the steps of processing they carefully accomplish and what products are available for purchase. Primal Pastures has grown exponentially since its opening and delivers its products across seven states. Grives said his family "hopes to one day expand to every state west of the Mississippi.” Grieves is happy with the growth this company has seen, and said that it has


been a fun ride so far.

J+R Meats

Like Grieves, Jim Fogle has also been operating his meat processing business for a few years. His company, J+R Natural Meat and Sausage, combines modern online ordering with the classic butcher shop. J+R Natural Meat and Sausage has locations in Paso Robles and Templeton, California. Fogle opened his shop April 2010. His goals included educating families about where their meat comes from, offering a wide range of services for his customers, and providing a unique variety of flavored sausages and sandwiches for walk-in customers to enjoy. Fogle said he and his staff “want to keep a personal experience with their customers.” As with Primal Pastures, Fogle’s shop is USDA licensed, which gives him the ability to offer custom processing to hunters and ranchers. Fogle said it takes effort to maintain USDA regulations. He “stays in good communication with USDA supervisors” in order to meet their expectations to keep his shop running

smoothly and safely. For Fogle, grass fed beef tends to be the most popular item on the menu, but J+R Meats also sells sausages, pork, lamb, bison, and venison providing a variety of products to consumers. He said his passion for providing local food to customers stemmed from conversations with neighboring farmers and those connections keep him excited for the future.

Arroyo Grande Meat Company

Henry Gonzales, alongside his wife Julie, own a San Luis Obispo County business called Arroyo Grande Meat Company. Unlike the others, this small shop has been open for a little over 120 years. In his 26 years of ownership, Gonzalez has done it all— from answering phones, to harvesting, to making sausages and tri-tip sandwiches. Since they are such a small company, Gonzalez said the staff “wear a lot of different hats. [They] get really strong in all areas, not just in one thing.” Gonzalez and his staff work hard

to answer a wide variety of their customers’ questions, from what exactly a tri-tip is, to what meat is in their sausage. The company does not currently have any social media because they are doing well by word of mouth. “When you are looking for a butcher, that is a very specific thing so you really have to search for them and do your research about it,” Gonzalez said. Gonzalez’s shop is also USDA certified and he is happy to offer custom processing to local producers. Arroyo Grande Meat Company customers can place their orders in the store, over the phone, or online. His shop offers a variety of products including Sterling beef, a specialty usually only found in top restaurants and not offered in many retail stores. Gonzalez’s son is currently working on preparing the supplies needed to deliver straight to customers’ doorsteps. Gonzalez said he feels privileged to have the opportunity to work alongside his family and is especially proud of his son’s work to keep the doors on this historic butcher shop open. agcircle | 33

GRAY WOLVES IN CALIFORNIA New predators present new challenges

By Chloe Fowler Photos provided by Della Hayden


Game camera photos of wolves and a bear in Siskiyou County, Calif. (2018)

orthern California is currently experiencing an influx of the endangered gray wolf — a predator causing significant ecosystem changes in the area. Over the past few years, the gray wolf population has slowly dispersed further into Northern California ranges and mountains where there have been no wolves in recent history, according to residents. This ecosystem change forces ranchers to find new ways to protect their livestock. The new wolf territory is also a source of tension, especially between those who are interested in the care and safety of livestock and the enforcement agencies who oversee the regulations

and restrictions set forth by the Endangered Species Act. Outlined below are the differing opinions on the subject as well as some suggestions for dealing with wolf sightings and livestock protection. Director of Government Affairs for the California Cattlemen’s

presence in Northern California. Wilbur is currently devoting a majority of his time to predator management issues — not strictly the gray wolf, but also species such as the mountain lion and the coyote. A major focus of the Cattlemen’s Association is a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of San Diego to overturn the California Fish and Game Commission’s 2014 decision to list the gray wolf as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). This suit made the following claims: “1) The northwestern gray wolf, a subspecies of gray wolves currently present in California, are not a native

"...wolf dispersal throughout Northern California from Southern Oregon can only be handled with a ‘wait and see’ approach.”

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- Larry Forero Association Kirk Wilbur provided insights to several aspects of the political controversies surrounding the gray wolf and its newly discovered


subspecies of gray wolves, thus, they are not eligible for CESA protection, (2) that the Commission wrongly limited its interpretation of the wolves’ ‘range’ to California rather than the wolves’ overall geographic range in an effort to conclude that the species is endangered throughout that more narrowly-defined ‘range’ and (3) that the Commission impermissibly listed the species based on what was, at the time, an occasional presence in the state by a single wolf (OR-7). Based on its listing on the only occasional presence.” California State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wolf specialist Kent Laudon has studied the gray wolf species and their patterns for over a decade and is currently located in the Redding area of Northern California, about two hours north of Sacramento. His efforts include research on how to protect, monitor and prevent conflicts between livestock and the gray wolf. His goal is to encourage a flow of communication between livestock managers and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to collaborate on monitoring, locating and tracking the travel and growth of these wolves. Laudon studies the wolves by evaluating them after being caught in snares and being collared by government agencies for monitoring purposes. Since wolves travel in packs, the goal is to have one collar per pack, preferably on the breeding female to monitor their travel through the northwestern states. Laudon believes the packs currently located in California came from Oregon. While there have been five different collared wolves known to have crossed the state border, all but one have returned to their packs in Oregon. Under the Endangered Species Act, farmers cannot take the customary steps to eliminate the threat of this predator to their farms and livestock. As such, the Department of Fish and Wildlife offers advice and rules on its website and local constituents’ websites, for how ranchers in the

area should manage their livestock. The current regulation on protecting livestock from endangered predators is vague. “If the gray wolf is within a ¼ mile of livestock, you have the right to approach in a vehicle to encourage the wolf to leave but cannot pursue,”

Laudon said. “You can also fire a shot into the air, not in the direction of the wolf, in an effort to use the loud noise to scare the wolf away.” The Department of Fish and Wildlife uses instruments keep distance between livestock and gray wolves by using fox lights and fladry. Fladry is a new and adjusted form of deterrence. It is a pole with a large red flag hanging off of a rope with electrical wire attached that is placed in the middle of a field. The

red flag draws wolves in and they are shocked by the electrical wire when they get too close. The objective of this tool is for the wolves to learn to lead their herds away from these red flags by associating them with an uncomfortable experience. “These non-lethal deterrents can be quite costly, typically are only effective for 6-9 months (at which time a rancher must employ a different non-lethal deterrent), and aren’t 100 percent effective (even with these non-lethal deterrents, depredations are known to sometimes occur),” Wilbur said. Larry Forero, the Shasta County University of California Cooperative Extension Advisor, said the issue of wolf dispersal throughout Northern California from Southern Oregon can only be handled with “a ‘wait and see’ approach.” He also stated that while the current deterrence methods may be effective, the stress of having a gray wolf in the area “can also include [losses] of performance (both gain and reproductive) that influence the bottom line as well.” The increased presence of gray wolves in Northern California is a controversial topic. The heart of the conflict is due to the fact that ranchers feel as though their hands are tied in their efforts to protect and maintain their livelihoods, and the government feels that their hands are tied under the restrictions of the Endangered Species Act that is trying to protect the gray wolf. However, there is still hope. The Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Cattlemen’s Association and many other interest groups are working to successfully mitigate gray wolf threats, give ranchers the tools they need, and manage and protect gray wolf populations in their natural habitats.

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