Ag Circle Spring 2014 Vol. 32, Issue 2

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agcircle |

cal poly, san luis obispo spring 2014

inside Ride High

Meet Cal Poly’s new live mascot: Moonstar the Mustang

Making a Living By Making a Difference Agriculture being used as a form of therapy

Reppin’ Agriculture How Poly Reps communicate Cal Poly’s connection to the agriculture industry



y standard definition, farmers are those who provide us food, fiber, flora and fauna. What we may sometimes forget, though, is that the people we rely on everyday for survival are also vital members of our community. They are our neighbors, our friends and they give back.

Several stories in the Spring 2014 issue focus on members of the agriculture industry working to make the world and their communities better places. The volunteers at Happy Trails Riding Academy are using equine-facilitated therapy to enrich lives in the San Joaquin Valley. GleanSLO brings the San Luis Obispo community together to gather leftover crops and donate them to those in need. Additionally, students in the Cal Poly Agricultural Education and Communication Department are working with the San Luis Obispo High School FFA Chapter to provide educational opportunities in agriculture mechanics.


A couple of our stories feature agriculturists giving back on a larger scale. HungerU is traveling from university to university, sharing the need for agriculture as a solution to world hunger. Also, Cal Poly student, Kate O’Leary, evaluated how her grandfather’s international agribusiness established sustainable farms in Zambia, Africa. These stories are a true testament to the service-minded farmers, agribusiness owners and agriculture educators that choose to contribute to society beyond their careers. We are thankful for these selfless people and their dedication to feeding the world, educating our future and using agriculture to heal. We hope you are inspired by this issue and choose to give back in your own way. Be the ripple that starts a movement. Warmest wishes,

Taylor, Kenna, Jordan and Amanda 2 | Spring 2014

San Luis Obispo High School partners with Cal Poly students. See Page 24.

C O N T E N T S 04


agcircle Volume 32, Issue 2, Spring 2014 Published three times a year by the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication California Polytechnic State University Brock Center for Agricultural Communication 1 Grand Avenue San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 805.756.6138 Building 10, Room 234 Editor-in-Chief Taylor Pires Faculty Advisor Megan Silcott Associate Editors Amanda Meneses Jordan Dunn Kenna Lewis Writers Meridith Bibbo, Maddie Dunlap, Jordan Dunn, Maddison Easley, Sonja Eschenburg, Kenna Lewis, Rylin Lindahl, Rachel Martin, Diana Melero, Amanda Meneses, Hailey Nunn, Taylor Pires, Harrison Reilly, Katie Roberti, Trevor Surrock, Jessica Will Photographers Alexandre Family, Anna Bates, Meridith Bibbo, Cal Poly Marketing and Communications, Jordan Dunn, GleanSLO, Mackenzie Gomes, Wendy Hall, Happy Trails Riding Academy, HungerU, Kenna Lewis, Taylor Pires, The President’s Office, Katie Roberti, Rosa Brothers Milk Company, United States Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, Western Bonanza, Western Fairs Association Graphic Designers Jordan Dunn 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. This issue of agcircle was printed by PRP Companies.






Cal Poly Chocolates Continues to Grow Student Involvement


Western Fairs Association Presents Opportunities to Agricultural Business Students


Meet Cal Poly’s New Live Mascot: Moonstar the Mustang


Mrs. Sharon Armstrong: Cal Poly’s Leading Female Role Model


Celebrating 30 Years of Cal Poly’s Western Bonanza Junior Livestock Show
















The Trend of Anti-Hunger Campaigning Goes Mainstream

California Farm Bureau Federation Prepares For a Fight

Rosa Brothers Milk Company Brings New Life to an Old-Fashioned Practice

Agriculture Being Used as a Form of Therapy

United States Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Seeks to Educate the Consumer

Volunteers Harvest Excess Produce For Local Food Banks

Freezing Temperatures Pose a Threat to California Agriculture









San Luis Obispo High School FFA Teams Up With Cal Poly Students

How Poly Reps Communicate About Cal Poly’s Connection to the Agriculture Industry

How the Alexandre Kids Have Redefined Family Business

PARTNERING FOR SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Sustainable International Agriculture

Cal Poly’s Golden Ticket

Cal Poly Chocolates Continues to Grow Student Involvement


o, Willy Wonka will not be found walking down North Perimeter Drive, but students clad in aprons, hairnets and chocolate smears can be seen through the windows of the campus’ true gem: a chocolate factory. Cal Poly Chocolates is a completely student-run enterprise on campus. It is not just a class or a project - it is a business. This means the student managers, while wearing their Cal Poly Chocolates hat, enter the real world. Andrea Zeng is a senior food science student and the sales manager for the enterprise. When asked about her responsibilities, Zeng replied, “The position entails handling orders and invoices, deliveries, [and] corresponding with customers and other sales managers from the Cal Poly Food Science Production team.” Andrea works with two other student managers, Lorin Farr, a senior psychology student, and Sara Adams, a senior biology student. They deal with the pressures of low inventory, demanding customers and detailed invoices, just as any other business would. However, unlike other businesswomen, these three are also full-time college students. They are joined by two student employees, food science senior

4 | Spring 2014

Story and photos by Meridith Bibbo

Trevor Fast and food science sophomore Meridith Bibbo, as well as a small handful of students enrolled in Food Science and Nutrition (FSN) 201. This course, like many others at Cal Poly, fully embraces the Learn by Doing motto. However, it certainly stands out from other Cal Poly courses and from courses at universities nationwide. While there are a few colleges that offer instruction on the chocolate-making process, not a single one offers the full-scale, hands-on operation that Cal Poly does, according to food science professor Tom Neuhaus. In 2000, Neuhaus launched the program with a vision. He hoped to introduce students to the world of fair trade and provide an outlet for them to become involved in the movement. “Fair trade,” according to Zeng, “is a certification that no forms of child labor are used, farmers are paid a fair wage, that a portion of the sales of fair trade product gets put back into the community, and more.” Although the enterprise still holds fast to its humanitarian roots, it also continues to reach new heights as a business. “The greatest thing about chocolates is its constant evolution. We are constantly improving our productivity and efficiency, [and]

CAMPUS BUZZ developing new products. We’re always growing,” Adams said. This year in particular will see growth from Cal Poly Chocolates in the form of three new chocolate varieties. Products you will soon see on the shelves of stores like New Frontiers began as shorthanded concepts on a classroom chalkboard. While Bibbo, Farr, Fast and Zeng all worked on conceptualizing the new products under Cal Poly’s Pilot Plant production supervisor, Brandon Coleman, it was Fast and Zeng who were most involved in the new product development. Before any chocolate could be poured, a definitive direction needed to be chosen. “We first looked at what types of chocolate bars have been trending and tried to follow that trend,” Fast said. The team also had to consider possible profit margins and the feasibility of producing each flavor. When it came down to it, the three varieties chosen were pumpkin spice, coffee crunch and cayenne. Like the original milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peppermint crunch and peanut butter crunch bars, these new varieties all begin with chocolate in disk form. These chocolate disks, whether milk or dark, are derived from beans grown in Peru or the Dominican Republic, and are produced in a completely fair trade certified fashion. Every Cal Poly chocolate bar on supermarket shelves was handmade by a Cal Poly student. “Since anyone can take the class, the girl in your anthropology class or the boy in your computer science class could have made that milk chocolate bar you grabbed at Campus Market,” Adams explained. In saying that “anyone” can take the class, Adams is referring to the fact that the course is not only for students in the Food Science and Nutrition Department. Junior civil engineering student Karl Schmidt took the course in fall 2013, and he was happy that he did. “I tried to find a class that would be a balance of fun and relaxing…something other than all of the math and science that I usually take throughout the year. I just needed a class where I could take my mind off of some of

the stresses for a bit and hang out.” Some students, though, such as Jillian Elisberg, see FSN 201 as a chance to get their feet wet in the world of food production. “As a [sophomore] Food Science major, I want to take any opportunities I can to gain experience,” Elisberg said. “I’ve made chocolates at home for years but I’ve never had the ability to use machinery like in a real industry.” Cal Poly Chocolates certainly is a unique enterprise. When they enter the doors on Friday mornings, students become employees of the food industry for the day. “It is incredible to

me,” Zeng shared, “that just a handful of students for the most part keep this business running.” And more than that, not just running, but growing. From once hand-ladling a couple hundred bars a day, a typical production day for the team now can see upwards of 1,000 bars. Production continues to increase, sales continue to rise, and now three new products will enter the Cal Poly Chocolate family. Hershey’s may have that signature brown and silver wrapper that we all grew up with, but only Cal Poly Chocolates were made by your biology lab partner or friend from the Entrepreneurship Club. Even as Cal Poly Chocolates continues to grow, they will remain a quality product created just for you by Cal Poly students.



Imagine, Energize & Cultivate Western Fairs Association Presents Opportunities to Agricultural Business Students Story by Rachel Martin Photos provided by The Western Fairs Association


magine, Energize and Cultivate. The Western Fairs Association (WFA), which serves the fair industry throughout the Western United States and Canada, continues to define their annual convention and trade show with slogans composed of single, expressive words. This year’s convention, held January 5 through 8 at the Marriott in Anaheim, Calif., boasted the theme “Cultivate.” Reminiscent of the small-time fairs that started it all, “Cultivate” encourages convention attendees to participate in the development and future of the fair industry. The industry itself is a broad and varied one, catering to the public by means of concerts, amusement parks, livestock exhibits, rodeos and judging competitions. The industry continues to grow as it seeks to meet the needs of consumer recreational demand. The primary objective of the Western Fairs Association is to promote the prosperity of fairs through educational activities, training programs and legislative advocacy. The Association culminates these efforts in its annual WFA Convention and Trade Show. With over 1,200 people in attendance and representatives from over 100 fairs scattered throughout the West, this year’s convention provided an opportunity for business owners, fair board members and

industry enthusiasts alike to gather in an exchange of ideas. Attendees had the chance to network with other professionals at the trade show, attend a variety of educational seminars, and listen to keynote speaker Doug Lipp, head of the training team at Disney University. This year, through the Cal Poly Fair Management Program, a number of students and faculty were able to attend the convention. Jacky Eshelby, a Cal Poly agribusiness alumna and current professor within the Agribusiness Department, teaches all of Poly’s fair management classes. Through her various experiences as both an accountant and marketing director for the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, she is able to provide invaluable guidance to those seeking involvement in the fair industry. With Eshelby as an advisor, Regan Steele, Ian Sunbury and Amy Crockett set out to contribute their ideas to the WFA. During the convention, they presented their senior project to the association. Entitled “Livestock Quality Assurance,”

“ ...the fair industry is guaranteed by a generation of young people who are excited to get involved.

6 | Spring 2014

their project looked into maintaining healthy and safe livestock handling practices at fairs. This group of Cal Poly students created an updated and electronic version of the State Fair Quality Assurance Program. The program provides both state and national regulations, as well as a selftest to gauge a novice exhibitor’s knowledge. In the future it will include showing and fitting videos and information. “The idea was to present our material in an easily accessible and free manner for county fairs to use,” Steele shared. Increasingly, county fairs throughout the state of California are, “using these programs in the hopes of educating exhibitors about animal welfare.” Steele, an Agricultural Science major, grew up in a “fair family” and began showing sheep at the age of nine. After starting a small club lamb operation and competing in shows at both the local and state levels, Steele’s passion for the fair industry led her to two internships with the California State Fair. Serving as Sheep and Goat Superintendent at the Santa Barbara County Fair and Marketing Manager of Cal Poly’s very own Western Bonanza, Steele is an excellent example of leadership opportunities within the California fair industry. Calli Jaqua, an agricultural business major, is a fourth-generation fair

CAMPUS BUZZ enthusiast. Her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were each fair directors, and now she has found her niche in the fair industry as well. After graduation, her dedication to the industry will lead her back into a full-time position at the Antelope Valley Fair. Jaqua, alongside Dr. Michael McCullough of the Agribusiness Department and Jennifer Murad from Antelope Valley Fair, presented on data analysis. They discussed various tips on using Microsoft Excel to analyze existing fair ticket data. This allows fairs to gain a better understanding of sales and trends to improve business operations. Both Steele and Jaqua offered similar advice to current and potential leaders, communicators and educators of the fair industry: “Be innovative.” Jaqua appealed to tradition in her response by stating that although the fair industry is rooted in legacy, “It is important to change with the times.” Steele, recognizing that California budget cuts have the potential to hurt the prosperity of the industry, put it simply: “Fairs need to remain innovative. Budgets are tight, but creativity is free.” As the fair industry continues to grow, it seeks new ideas and participation. It is open to anyone with a love for animals, public relations, marketing, managerial accounting or event coordinating. The abundance of leadership positions and possibilities for involvement within the fair industry are endless. “Whether it’s volunteering your time or money to your local county fair, working on projects to benefit the industry or taking a paid internship,” reminds Steele, “the future of the fair industry is guaranteed by a generation of young people who are excited to get involved.” Scan this QR code to see Steele, Sunbury and Crockett’s project and presentation.



Ride High

Story by Maddie Dunlap Photos provided by Cal Poly Marketing and Communications


ince his October introduction as Cal Poly’s new mascot, Moonstar has received quite the fanfare. The newest member of the Cal Poly family has been the subject of videos, articles and photo shoots. In the months following the initial video debut, students have learned of the generous donation by alumni, Robin and Michelle Baggett, and the university’s intentions of linking the live mascot to the fundamental values of the “Mustang Way”. “We are so fortunate that Robin and Michelle Baggett chose to donate Moonstar,” University President Jeffrey D. Armstrong wrote in an email. “He will be an awesome mascot for sports and the entire university.” But inquiring minds want to know: what has Moonstar been up to since making the move to college life? While the inaugural appearance of Moonstar will not take place until the 2014 football season, the 15-year-old horse has already been hard at work. Students and faculty members in the Animal Science Department have begun training the horse for his appearances. “He [Moonstar] has been a ranch horse, rope horse, etcetera, 8 | Spring 2014

so we don’t have to do much [training] in that regard,” interim Animal Science Department Chair Dr. Jaymie Noland explained. “We have to acclimate him to the different sounds, sights and smells of a football stadium, and different public arenas.” Moonstar’s stall has been adorned with flags of different colors and materials to aid with this portion of his training. “He has not been a big fan of flags, bags and other plastic materials,” Noland said. “We’ve done a lot of desensitization with those materials.” Desensitization is a popular training method that exposes horses to brightly colored foreign objects that may spook them. The horse is often more calm in exciting situations after it has spent adequate time around potentially shocking materials and objects. This is certainly a concern with Moonstar as his appearances will include thousands of students, band members and busy athletes. With safety as a top priority, several practice runs will be made before his big reveal. Dr. Noland mentioned the horse has already made multiple trips to the stadium and will have even more practice sessions with the band, the football team and the PA system. Moonstar, like many members of Cal Poly’s

CAMPUS BUZZ campus, is constantly learning. Between his own classroom sessions, Moonstar is able to teach the students in his own ways. Like the other horses in the Cal Poly herd, the new mascot is ridden by students in equine classes. Currently, Moonstar is being ridden in Animal Science (ASCI) 214, Equine Management. “He’s a member of our working herd, so he’s been earning his living,” Noland said. Dr. Noland explained working with students in classes will be just as important to Moonstar’s role as his mascot duties. “The only time when he is considered our mascot will be when he is in his mascot attire and at one of our public events,” Noland said. “Until then, he has fit quite nicely into our Learn by Doing working program.” President Armstrong expanded on Moonstar’s vital role in Learn by Doing, writing, “I tell everyone, in true Cal Poly fashion, when Moonstar is not busy with mascot duties, he will be working. When he is a mascot he will not be ridden. However, the rest of the time, he is a regular participant in Learn by Doing.”

It is not all work for Moonstar though. Interim Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences, Dr. Andy Thulin, recently took Moonstar out for a leisurely ride with some distinguished guests. “President Armstrong was able to ride him. He really enjoyed it. He was like a kid in a candy store,” Thulin shared. President Armstrong has also had a hand in planning the mascot’s starring roles. A committee formed by the President has discussed several scenarios for what the appearances would look like and what such an appearance would symbolize. A popular idea features Moonstar being led in by another horse and rider, while remaining unridden himself, a strong symbol of what a mustang is. The Cal Poly Mustang is a symbol of many things; campus community, school pride, an untamed spirit and the history of our great state. “I think it’s a great opportunity for Cal Poly to characterize the Western culture and heritage of California,” Dr. Thulin said. “The Western culture is tremendous, and we don’t want to lose it.” After all, a mustang can’t be conquered.

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A First Lady in Agriculture

Mrs. Sharon Armstrong: Cal Poly’s Leading Female Role Model Story by Amanda Meneses Photo provided by The President’s Office


n a generation where more and more young women are entering a career in agriculture, there is a crucial need for female mentors in the industry. Fortunately, the young ladies at Cal Poly do not have to search far for such a mentor. Residing on Cal Poly’s charming campus is a woman who knows a thing or two about working in the agriculture industry: Mrs. Sharon Armstrong, wife of Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. Armstrong was born and raised on a potato farm in Southern New Jersey. Throughout her high school years, she worked for a seed company grading squash, cucumbers and corn. These two aspects of her life are what inspired Armstrong to pursue a degree in plant science from Murray University in Kentucky. “I think every child should have an opportunity to be on a farm at some point,” Armstrong noted, as she reflected upon her memories of helping her father around the farm. The Armstrongs met in Kentucky. They were married a month after graduation and moved to North Carolina, where President Armstrong earned his masters and Ph.D. While in North Carolina, Mrs. Armstrong landed a job in the North Carolina Department of Agriculture with the seed regulatory section. As a seed analyst, her role was to regulate the seeds that came into North Carolina, in addition to those native to the state. Throughout her 12 years with the department, Mrs. Armstrong ensured farmers received the best quality seeds to grow the best

possible product. The Armstrongs resided in two other states, Indiana and Michigan, before heading to California. For every new state she found herself in, Mrs. Armstrong could always find a job in agriculture. “That’s the beauty of agriculture,” she explained. “No matter where you are in this world, you can always find a career in agriculture.” Today, Mrs. Armstrong’s primary role is to help and support President Armstrong in any way that she can. Her support includes meeting alumni and students. “I’ve been impressed with every student I’ve met,” Mrs. Armstrong said. “I’ve just been amazed with all that the students do; it truly is a Learn by Doing experience.” Young women are about to enter a male dominated workforce. But with triumphant role models in the industry, like Mrs. Armstrong, they have much to look forward to and accomplishments to seek. Mrs. Armstrong provided these final comments: “I would say you never know. Never close any doors because there might be something very positive through that door. Agriculture is for everybody and anyone can do it. It used to be a very male dominated field, but now women can do practically anything.”

Cal Poly ACT

would like to thank you for your support of our journey to the 2013 Agricultural Media Summit. Mr. Fred Clark Marchini Farms Santa Fe Farms San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau McKellar Ag Group - Robert McKellar RCH Farms - Roger Hakker 10 | Spring 2014

Ultratech Ind. Systems Rowley Hay Source, Inc. Leavens Ranch Sparrowk Livestock Roberti Ranch Louis and Pamela Payen


Decades of Dedication Celebrating 30 Years of Cal Poly’s Western Bonanza Junior Livestock Show


n the quarter system, it can be easy to simply go through the motions. As students, we find ourselves attending class, studying for exams and “catching up” on sleep as if we are broken records. However, there are 134 students walking the halls of the agriculture building who have much more on their minds than when they will be receiving their next eight hours of sleep. These students have the responsibility of continuing a 30-year legacy. Leadership, event planning, risk management, graphic design and customer service are just a few tools mastered by students that experience Cal Poly’s Western Bonanza. It has been 30 years since Cal Poly student Mark Riechle created a junior beef cattle show as his senior project. Since then, Western Bonanza has expanded its show offerings to include sheep, swine and goat exhibitors. Bonanza has seen many changes through the years,

Story by Jessica Will, Photos provided by Western Bonanza and Wendy Hall but one constant has been the guidance of a dedicated advisor. This year is no exception. The current advisor of Western Bonanza is no stranger to the Paso Robles show ring. Megan Silcott, a Santa Maria native, had her first encounter with Western Bonanza in 2002 as a junior showman alongside some of the best livestock showmen on the West Coast. Little did she know then, the Bonanza legacy would continue with her, as she later became the show’s advisor. “I showed in Western Bonanza with a pretty green steer and I was just not into the competitiveness. You are in with some top-notch livestock and talented showmen,” Silcott said. After showing livestock all throughout 4-H and FFA, Silcott went on to study Agricultural Science with minors in Spanish, Agricultural Communication and Agribusiness at Cal Poly. She was able to gain diverse experiences through

taking a summer abroad in Spain, dancing in the Orchesis shows, and through all five years, she helped put on the jackpot show that is known as the “Best in the West,” Cal Poly’s Western Bonanza. While attending Cal Poly, she got to experience Western Bonanza from the other side of the ring. “I loved Bonanza. I loved it because I didn’t have to be the one competing and showing. I could help run the show,” Silcott said. “My first two years as a committee member, I was also rehearsing and performing with the advanced ballet class on campus. I remember wearing boots during the day and by the time Bonanza class came around at night, my pointe shoe ribbons were trailing out of my backpack.” She served on the Entries Committee, chaired the Entries Committee and then became the Media and Publicity Manager during her Bonanza tenure. “I knew what it was like as an exhibitor that loved the


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show ring but wasn’t familiar with the intensity of a jackpot. I relate a lot better to the folks that have never done this before.” Today, Silcott has come full-circle as the 12 | Spring 2014

advisor of Western Bonanza. She teaches a series of Bonanza classes, with 134 students coming together to run the show winter quarter. “I returned to Cal Poly in 2011, quite unexpectedly. Wendy Hall called me that summer and asked if I would be willing to take over. It’s one thing to be a student and help out, so I had quite a learning curve in leading the charge and filling the great shoes of Mike and Wendy Hall,” Silcott shared. Under the direction of the Halls, with guidance also from Jacky Eshelby in the Agribusiness Department, and now Silcott, the students completely coordinate Western Bonanza. Silcott helps a team of six student managers organize a California Junior Livestock Association (CJLA) sanctioned, double-show format jackpot. This means that exhibitors get to show their animals in the ring twice under two different judges, earning double CJLA points. It is a complicated show to coordinate, but 24 committee chairmen and nine official committees help the managers, along with

an additional 100 students. “Our student staff does a fantastic job managing these events. We strive to make it a great experience,” Silcott said. “There are so many moving parts to it. It is my job to make sure those parts are happening, but not necessarily to do them. That’s where the students get to take the credit of making things happen.” This year they had quite a show planned. Western Bonanza gave away a livestock trailer with the help of Central Coast Trailers in Paso Robles. There were 10 supreme champions by Sunday afternoon’s final championship drive and they each had the chance to win the trailer. “This one has been super tricky; my jaw dropped when the managers told me the idea. The students came up with this. I was amazed that they did it, but I didn’t doubt that they would be successful with the fundraising needed,” Silcott said. “Bonanza has always been known for being a great show with plenty of sought-after awards. But the trailer is the biggest award we have ever done.” As far as the next 30 years go, Western Bonanza will continue to get even better as the students who run the show develop new ideas. Silcott credits the Animal Science, Agribusiness and Agricultural Education and Communication Departments for supporting the program. She said without administrative support from President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, and deans of the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences, Western Bonanza would not have become what it is today. “It takes the whole team to make Bonanza work and I can assure you how proud I am of the student teams and those around us that make this program a success,” Silcott said. “The Learn by Doing aspect can’t change as Bonanza moves forward; that has to be maintained,” Silcott said. “How we do that is totally up to the future of the class. The question is ‘how big do we go while maintaining the integrity of the Learn by Doing livestock show?’” Only the next set of student leaders can answer that question and continue the legacy of Western Bonanza.


Hunger: A Driving Force The Trend of Anti-Hunger Campaigning Goes Mainstream

Story by Trevor Surrock Photo provided by HungerU


hat do you depend on? It may seem like a complicated question, but the answer is actually very simple. Here is a hint: our lives revolve around it, farmers produce it, our bodies depend on it and Instagram is full of it. Yes, the answer is food! Most of us are fortunate enough to have three meals a day with a variety of snacks in between. Unfortunately, there are others going to sleep hungry all over the world. The facts make this crisis appear even more urgent. One in seven people worldwide are battling hunger, meaning approximately one billion people do not know when their next meal will be. By the year 2050, our population is expected to grow by nearly two billion people. These people will all have mouths to feed, require clothes and need a place to live. The equation is evident: more people plus less farm land equals a vital need for technological innovations. With the rapid rate of population growth, there is a call for action amongst us all. Many organizations such as the HungerU Tour, Chew On This Tour, Feeding America, and Stop Hunger Now, have been working tirelessly to spread the word about hunger awareness. Each of these groups have slightly different tactics, but all are working towards the same result: to create change and eliminate malnutrition around the world. HungerU, an initiative of the Farm Journal Foundation, is a national mobile exhibit that travels to college campuses educating students on how farmers feed the world and the role of modern agriculture. Malorie Bankhead, a recent Cal Poly Agricultural Communication graduate, had the privilege to work as a

HungerU crew member for 10 weeks on the fall 2013 tour. She originally learned about HungerU after the tour came to Cal Poly in the spring of 2013. “We traveled down the East Coast and visited 20 college campuses and universities along the way, inspiring students to be a part of the solution to the hunger crisis and educating them about American agriculture,” Bankhead explained. Her passion and love for the agriculture industry is evident. Bankhead believes, “In agriculture, everyone has such a unique story to share. The difficulty lies in sharing your story and believing your story is good enough to impact someone’s perception of agriculture in a positive way. Realizing this is an important first step in advocating for agriculture.” The HungerU Tour is spreading the word about the hunger crisis by striking up conversations with people all over the world and at universities and college campuses across the United States. The tour aims to create a planet with less food wasted, while it becomes better at producing greater amounts of food for the growing population. All hunger awareness campaigns are using their voices as a solution to this developing problem, and now it is our turn. Small steps like donating to a food drive, being more aware of personal food waste, and spreading the word about this movement, will greatly influence the future. How will you make an impact? “The sky really is the limit,” Bankhead shared. If you are interested in learning more about helping or donating to this cause, scan this QR code to visit the HungerU website.


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California Calls for an Immigration Reform California Farm Bureau Federation Prepares for a Fight Story by Harrison Reilly


griculture will be at the forefront of our nation’s capitol in early 2014. Now that the debt ceiling, health care reform and tax cuts are in the rearview mirror of Congress, the focus will shift on agricultural issues such as the Farm Bill. But perhaps most important to farmers is immigration reform. For many people in Washington, D.C., growing political pressures are pushing back immigration reform moving through Congress. As midterm elections loom, the Republican Party must be cooperative in immigration reform because they cannot afford to lose more support from the same voter demographic that lost them the last presidential election. The Obama Administration is looking for a big win after a disastrous 2013, which included a myriad of security scandals, a government shutdown and problems with the launch of the Affordable Care Act. But, perhaps more than anybody, California’s farmers have the most to gain from immigration reform. The future of California farms and employees depends on what will happen in Congress in the coming months, and much of the responsibility lies in the hands of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF). Bryan Little, Director of Labor Relations at the CFBF, along with fellow employees of the CFBF, headed to D.C. this past February to present CFBF’s platform to leaders of Congress, the White House and the United States Department of

Agriculture (USDA). Little and CFBF hope to see two policies included in the immigration reform bill; the first being a path for undocumented migrant workers to gain citizenship. A lack of this path has been “a problem that has accumulated for the past 30 years,” Little said. “These are the people that make the industry go. Traditionally, agriculture has been the first rung on the ladder of opportunity for migrants.” The program would not make the path to citizenship for undocumented workers easy. It would require a commitment from the workers and employers. According to Little, workers must prove they have been working or worked in agriculture in the past and they must show a commitment to working in agriculture in the future. Second, CFBF wants to create a program that will allow farms to replace workers as they phase out of the field of agriculture. Currently, the H2A program provides temporary visas to migrant workers who

Traditionally, agriculture has been the first rung on the ladder of opportunity for migrants.

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want to work in agriculture, but Little is wishing for something more streamlined. “[The program] needs to be a lot simpler than what we have now, better designed to match up willing workers and willing employers, and allow those employees to move around,” Little shared. “A lot less bureaucracy [is needed].” Little does not believe CFBF will get everything they want, due to the broad scope of immigration reform, which will include new policies in homeland and border security. But if there was a time to get a bill passed, it would be now, before midterm elections occur in November. “If it doesn’t happen in 2014, it will be in the third year of the next president’s administration,” Little said. “People in Washington seem to think there is a window of opportunity in April and May.” Only time will tell if Congress comes to an agreement on immigration reform, but there is no doubt much is at stake for the future of California and the nation’s agriculture in the coming months.


Where the Old Meets the New Rosa Brothers Milk Company Brings New Life to an Old-Fashioned Practice Story by Hailey Nunn Photos provided by Rosa Brothers Milk Company


airy farmers Noel and Rolland Rosa understand that the ins and outs of milk production are not exactly common knowledge. Their family has been in the dairy business in Hanford, Calif., for more than 65 years, which has allowed them to gain experience in the industry and share their knowledge with others. The brothers, both Cal Poly alumni, learned the trade from their father, and are eager to share just how their local, natural and fresh milk is produced and bottled. Their father began raising dairy cows on the Hanford property in 1953. Noel and Rolland took over for their father in 1998, but have always stayed true to their roots. In 2012, they began a new adventure: bottling their own milk. “We decided to start bottling our own milk because we live in the largest dairy county in California, yet we were buying milk for our families that had been imported [from other counties],” Noel Rosa said. That September, the brothers expanded their dairy farming operation to include a milk processing and bottling plant. They offered milk in classic, old-fashioned glass bottles. This allows customers to return for refills, which helps keep plastic out of landfills. In addition

to their milk, the Rosa brothers have also diversified with a variety of ice cream flavors. Today, a year and a half after they bottled their first glass, Rosa Brothers bottle between 10 to 15 percent of the milk their dairy produces. Their fresh products are sold across the San Joaquin Valley and on the Central Coast, including San Luis Obispo. Ted Pedrozo, a current Cal Poly dairy science student, is a Rosa Brothers sales associate. He is responsible for selling and promoting Rosa Brothers products at farmers markets and grocery stores on the Central Coast. Ted enjoys that family is at the heart of the Rosa Brothers Milk Company, and that he gets to help them share their message with consumers. “It truly is a family business. Noel and Rolland are out there everyday at the dairy taking care of the cows, and then at the plant making sure they are producing a great product,” Pedrozo said. Rosa Brothers is a prime example of a family business, and a unique one at that. When purchasing Rosa Brothers milk, one can expect the typical options of whole, reduced fat, skim or chocolate milk, in addition to the not so typical strawberry, orange cream, eggnog and even root beer flavored milks. Another thing that makes Rosa Brothers milk unique is that it is never “pooled” with other farms, which would then require additional processing to make the milk uniform. Each drop of milk in their products comes from a dairy cow on the Rosa Farm, which can help the family bridge the gap

between themselves and the consumer. Anyone who purchases their products has the chance to know exactly what farm their milk came from. The Rosa brothers have always made accountability their top priority. They encourage customers to come tour the farm to view how their milk is produced. Visitors can learn about the full spectrum of milk production, from farm to table, especially if they tour the creamery. Tours of the creamery are seasonal, lasting from April to October. They attracted a crowd of families, retired citizens, and busloads of young children. Noel estimates that about 1,000 people came to tour the farm in 2013. “We get a lot of kids visiting with their classes to learn and see how their milk is produced. A lot of other people come too because they are interested in seeing for themselves,” Noel shared. Ted appreciates that his employers are transparent and open up their farm for tours. “If you want to see the cows that are producing the milk you are drinking, you can. If you want to see the milk being bottled, you can; just stop by the plant. They are very open to the public, to show how happy their cows are.” Noel sees the company continuing to grow in size. He is quick to predict growth in the sales of their natural homemade ice cream. He also wants to continue making new and unique milk flavors. As Rosa Brothers Milk Company continues to expand, the brothers pledge to remain true to their Hanford roots, rightfully proving their slogan as the farm that produces “the freshest, most wholesome, natural milk available.” agcircle

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Story by Jordan Dunn Photo provided by Happy Trails Riding Academy

Making a Living By Making a Difference Agriculture Being Used as a Form of Therapy 16 | Spring 2014


hile everyone is involved with agriculture through food, fuel, flora, fauna and fiber, more and more people are seeing the benefits of therapeutic agriculture. Agriculture can be used in addition to traditional therapies to create a beneficial experience for those involved. Today, a growing number of organizations across the globe offer certified therapeutic services that work with agricultural sectors ranging from horses to horticulture. Happy Trails Riding Academy, based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, assists participants by using therapeutic horsemanship. Happy Trails is managed by Leslie Gardner, a Cal Poly Dairy Science alum. “Happy Trails enriches the lives of children and adults with physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities through equine facilitated therapy,” Gardner said. “Therapeutic horsemanship has proven to be a unique opportunity for self-improvement and independence in a


positive learning environment.” Much of what Happy Trails has to offer is a result of the generosity of the very community that it serves. With their resources, they are able to provide a specialized service that can only be found at a handful of facilities in the nation. Happy Trails is ranked among the top rated programs in the country, Gardner shared. “Great things happen at Happy Trails,” Gardner said. “Touching lives, strengthening bodies, broadening horizons, creating joy, inducing laughter and ultimately empowering children.” Using the horse as a therapeutic tool is one of the most unique options out there. The horse’s movements work in a way that no piece of gym equipment can replicate. While on the horse, the rider’s body moves as if it was actually walking. For a high quality therapy, the program must use high quality horses. Happy Trails prides itself in having only the most reliable horses for their program, Gardner

explained. Each horse must be thoroughly tested and trained before beginning classes with riders. In addition to their four-legged friends, volunteers serve as the backbone of the program, which is similar with many nonprofit organizations. What is different at Happy Trails, however, is that the volunteers each have a respect for the industry that allows them to make a difference in so many lives. “Volunteers are an important part of any Happy Trails activity,” Gardner said. “We [have] an average of 75 volunteers each week.” Kiara Berthholdt is one of those dedicated volunteers. “I don’t get paid as an occupational therapist here. You get to see how the horses leave an impact on other people’s lives. That’s the payment you get back,” Berthholdt shared. The volunteers donated more than 10,000 hours of service to Happy Trails in 2013 alone. Their special talents are applied to a variety of tasks, but they are

most often working alongside certified therapists in direct contact between the horses and the participants. Happy Trails simply would not be able to function without the volunteer force they have acquired over the past 30 years. According to Gardner, Happy Trails has been expanding its outreach in recent years, and has no plans on slowing down. “Each year, we offer more therapeutic horsemanship lessons than the year before,” Gardner said. “Happy Trails gives riders the opportunity to be like everybody else, to be as independent as possible and be successful in an exciting activity.” California is the birthplace for many agricultural trends, and therapeutic agriculture is no exception. Programs like Happy Trails have been brought together two great practices to provide a tremendous opportunity for an entire community.


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Food For Thought United States Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Seeks To Educate the Consumer

Story by Rylin Lindahl Photos provided by USFRA


ost Americans have never been to a farm or ranch, or spoken with the people responsible for their food source. However, the public is becoming increasingly interested, giving greater thought to the food they consume and encouraging agriculturists to inform the public about industry practices. Seeing a call for increased consumer education, the United States Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) was formed. In October 2010, a few of the nation’s major commodity groups came together with the intention of forming this new organization, and in 2011, USFRA was officially launched. The group then began to plan events to lead the conversation about how food is grown and raised. Following the Alliance’s creation, they 18 | Spring 2014

hosted four events called “Food Dialogues” in major U.S. cities. With the great success of these initial events, the group has continued to host gatherings where a variety of topics have been covered, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs), antibiotics and farm size. Lisa Cassady, the agricultural communications manager for USFRA, explained, “The theme of this food dialogue event is really to create a dialogue with those that have expressed interest in the food chain, including farmers and ranchers, about hot button topics relating to agriculture.” With great industry support and public interest, every event has had hundreds in the audience and thousands tuning in online. The enthusiasm generated by the Food Dialogues has also generated more questions. USFRA utilizes their website

and social media accounts as powerful channels to deliver information to a growing audience. They share recent news articles, videos of past events, information dispelling current agriculture misconceptions, and highlight farmers’ stories from all across the nation. Though the Food Dialogue events have proven successful, USFRA’s website and social media allows them to instantaneously reach out to a global audience and share correct information on current topics. With diverse approaches to farming and ranching, producers have different opinions on which way is the best. However, the USFRA believes that to earn the most trust in consumers, farmers and ranchers need to unite and promote agriculture as a whole. According to the USFRA website, they are committed to

TRENDING NOW working together, regardless of the type, size or philosophy of U.S. farms and ranches, to continue improving our food supply. “We are not there to dictate to consumers what their choices need to be, but instead we would like consumers to understand what choices are available,” Cassady said. Organic or conventional, small or large, all operations have the same intentions of feeding the world the safest product, and this will be done best when united together. While the USFRA actively communicates the truth about agriculture, consumers are continually provided with false information about the source of their food. As the USFRA states, what people put into their bodies, and the bodies of their children, is deeply personal and emotional. When society hears something that leads them to think that their food is unsafe for them and their family, they start to distrust farmers and ranchers. To try and help farmers and ranchers share their stories with the consumer, the USFRA has created the E.A.S.E. programs (Engage, Acknowledge, Share, Earn trust). “It is

based on engaging in conversation, acknowledging questions and concerns, sharing your story about how you grow food on your farm or ranch, and earning trust from the consumer,” Cassady explained. According to USFRA, only 33 percent of the U.S. believes the media shares correct facts. Advocates need to take the right approach to gain consumers’ trust again. The facts and figures shared by farmers and ranchers will not resonate with the consumer as much as the personal story about what that farmer does on their operation. Since the E.A.S.E. program launched in late 2011, it has had over 9,000 farmers and ranchers that have participated. Through the program, they have shared how food is grown and made strong efforts to increase trust among consumers. To promote agriculture in another aspect, the USFRA has generously supported a documentary that will come out in spring 2014. “Farmland” was produced by award winning director, James Moll, at farming and ranching operations across the United States. It gives an intimate look into everyday life and shows the true struggles that the operations go through. More importantly, the film shows the consumer the true passion that farmers and ranchers have for agriculture. For the alliance to continue to be successful, it needs to rely on continuous support from the industry. As listed in their values and commitments, USFRA explains that farming and ranching is a profession – but for most, it is also a way of life. The food that is grown and raised reflects the farmers’ character and commitment.

Cal Poly’s

Truck & Tractor Pull

Tickets: Adults $8 Kids under 10 $3

April 12th

1PM Across From the Crops Unit agcircle

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Glean to Give Story by Diana Melero Photos provided by GleanSLO


iving back to the community is one of the most appreciated and rewarding feelings a citizen can have. Think about the last time you helped someone out, or even helped put food on someone’s table. The gesture of caring and giving, knowing you are doing something for the greater good, is exactly what GleanSLO represents. GleanSLO is a San Luis Obispo (SLO) volunteer-based program that began in February of 2010. The idea started with a small group from SLO Grown Kids, a non-profit that educates the community about local agriculture and gives produce to those in need. At the time, what is now GleanSLO was called Backyard Harvest. When it first began, kids were given the opportunity to volunteer and help harvest leftover crops from local backyard growers. This is the very nature of gleaning, which according to Merriam Webster means, “to gather or collect something in a gradual way.” The volunteers would gather various produce from these backyards and further disperse them to local food banks in Paso 20 | Spring 2014

Robles and Oceano. From there, parents of the children began to volunteer and it became a community-oriented event. It was the idea of harvesting the leftover crop and helping those in need that engaged community members to continue this good deed, and expand the idea even further. As the vision grew and more local organizations joined the cause, GleanSLO was established. “Gleaning soon became a national movement and was rapidly implemented all over the country as different chapters were formed,” explained Jen Miller, Program Manager of GleanSLO. The idea behind this was that not all growers, small or large, are able to pick their entire crop during the season. “This is due to several factors, including a lack of labor force, produce being non-marketable or business becoming too unprofitable for the growers to pay employees to pick and sell their produce,” Miller shared. Here is where the idea of gleaning came about and the program began to develop. The mission of GleanSLO is to help fight against hunger, which they are

accomplishing one picking at a time. GleanSLO aims to help people who do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables because of monetary limitations or other conditions. In 2011, the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County adopted the idea of gleaning and officially made GleanSLO part of their program. Miller and

TRENDING NOW Jeanine Lacore, the GleanSLO Program coordinator since 2010, have a passion for gleaning and truly care about involving the community in contributing to those in need. GleanSLO has numerous volunteers, ranging in age from toddlers to retirees, depending on the glean event. “People love to glean in the community. Not only do they make great connections between themselves, but it’s also like our own little community and family,” Miller shared. The number of volunteers in this community allows GleanSLO to give back on a regular basis. “In harvest season, gleans can occur five to 10 times a week,” Lacore said. It is because of larger commercial growers, like the Ikeda Brothers, and the

support of smaller backyard growers, that GleanSLO is able to contribute to the food banks. “We’re fortunate enough to live in an area where produce is being grown all year long, and we’re given the opportunity to glean all year long,” Miller said. In 2013 alone, GleanSLO collected over 212,000 pounds of produce. This included 50,000 pounds of apples, 900 pounds of strawberries, and 30,000 pounds of produce collected at the local farmer’s market recoveries on Thursday nights in SLO and Saturdays in Templeton. Over the years, GleanSLO has developed into a large-scale, community involved group that demonstrates what giving back is all about. Since they already doubled in poundage for every year they have been in

existence, Miller hopes to hit the goal of 300,000 to 400,000 pounds of produce in the coming year. This goal will be obtained with contributions from additional small backyard growers and commercial operations. Of course, it will also be met with the helpful support of local volunteers hoping to build stronger social ties and sharing the wonderful experience gleaning has to offer. GleanSLO is about creating sustainable solutions to fight hunger and doing something that causes lasting change. Thanks to GleanSLO, community members are helping to give back and are working to make a positive difference.


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A California Winter

Freezing Temperatures Pose a Threat to California Agriculture Story by Sonja Eschenburg Photos by Mackenzie Gomes


n one month of California agriculture, farmers could be dealing with frozen crops one day and praying for rain the next day. This shift in weather is a testament to how farmers adapt and persevere through any challenges. With a frost that swept in early last December, the freezing temperatures affected local crops in different ways. Regardless of the outcome, most growers throughout all of California scrambled to protect their crops from the winter frost. According to Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen, “There is no doubt that damage has occurred across the belt. For some, the damage is major. For others, the damage is manageable. It just depends upon location and variety.” Frost damage presents a problem to the grower who must develop and maintain high production to have a profitable business. And it is only normal for growers to go to great lengths to protect their crops. Morro Bay, Calif., located just north of Cal Poly’s campus, is home to some of California’s best avocados. It acts as a gateway to local avocado orchards through the annual Morro Bay Avocado and Margarita Festival. Recent Cal Poly graduate Chase Marsalisi currently manages Flavan Farms, an avocado farm in Morro Bay just off of Highway 41, and shared some details about crop freeze. Marsalisi explained how the effect of the freeze on the trees themselves depends on multiple factors, including the severity of the freeze, as well as the age and health of the trees. “Trees are very susceptible to

the freeze in their first three years - a bad freeze during these years could easily kill them,” Chase explained. “Once a tree is past this stage and is healthy with a lot of foliage, they can hold up a little better; they may still get burned from the freeze, but should be more liable to successfully recover.” The fruit, on the other hand, may fall off the tree if damaged by a cold enough freeze, especially if it is exposed and not covered by leaves. Due to harsh temperatures, the stem that connects the avocado to the tree is easily burned, ultimately causing the fruit to detach and result in crop loss. Fortunately, Flavan Farms made it through this year’s freeze with minor losses. Morro Bay does get cold enough to freeze most years, but it is rare for it to freeze for a week straight - usually there are one or two nights in a row, if that. By keeping the irrigation running and using orchard fans to circulate air, Flavan Farms’ trees had minimal damage. Whatever steps they could take to counteract these factors would hopefully lower their frost damages or loss. Although they were fortunate to have avoided major damage, not all growers faired so well. Some growers lost anywhere from 10 to 100 percent of this season’s fruit crop. The state’s oranges were not immune to the frost either. Oranges will not grow

“ For some, damage is major. For others, damage is manageable.

22 | Spring 2014

everywhere in Northern California, but there is a certain thermal belt in the foothills where growing oranges is highly practical. Esparto, a small town in Yolo County, Calif., is just one part of that thermal belt. In the Sacramento Valley, where Esparto is located, it may freeze at night throughout winter, but normally these temperatures do not last long enough to significantly harm the crop. Brandon Kuehn, a junior agricultural business student, grew up in Esparto farming eight acres of Yellow Gold Navel Oranges. According to Kuehn, although the Navel crop is known to be slightly more cold tolerant, citrus farmers are no stranger to the chill. Using frost-protection measures such as irrigation and wind machines to propel warm air through the fields can gain a grower three to four degrees of protection. However, farmers stay on the lookout once temperatures drop to 28 degrees, as anything in the low 20s is critical. A freeze affects the oranges more than it affects the trees. The oranges themselves will not fully ripen, nor will they retain the juiciness that otherwise would be there. The juice vesicles inside the fruit rupture as ice crystals expand, ruining the body of the fruit. In one aspect, oranges are actually quite similar to humans in that the younger they are, the higher the chance of them getting cold. This in turn stresses them out and makes oranges more susceptible to pests and disease. In regards to profit, the freeze had a significant effect on this year’s harvest. Along with other factors, it took away nearly 80 percent of Kuehn’s entire fruit set. Unlike most growers in California,


almond farmers in the Central Valley are pleased with the winter chill, as it enhances the almond crop. Almond trees need about 500-600 hours of cold weather between the months of November and mid-January. The cold weather puts them into dormancy, or a sleeping state, to prepare for the next year’s spring bloom. Don Davis, a DelanoMcFarland almond grower, said, “If we don’t put them to sleep, it’s kind of like kids that do an all nighter – they are no good the next day.” As if the freeze was not difficult enough for farmers to endure, they are now facing new dilemmas. With this season being the driest on record, farmers are

now switching gears to preserve resources through a drought. Wayne Zipser, Executive Director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, said, “The weather is just one thing we can’t predict. It is something that farmers deal with all of the time. Farming is [simply] risky.”


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A Fusion of Two Forces San Luis Obispo High School FFA Teams Up With Cal Poly Students

Story by Kenna Lewis Photos by Kenna Lewis, Anna Bates and Jordan Dunn


ver the past couple of years, budget cuts have been impacting high school programs more than ever. With limited resources and smaller teaching staffs, organizations such as the National FFA Organization (FFA) have been forced to pick and choose which programs to focus on, and which will be sent to the chopping block. For the San Luis Obispo (SLO) High School Agriculture Department, this scenario is all too familiar. Due to budget cuts, SLO FFA had to say goodbye to an agriculture teacher who doubled as the primary agriculture mechanics instructor. They were forced to get creative when it came to meeting the teaching needs of the growing student population. “Although enrollment was still high and we had classes available for an additional teacher to teach, we had to cut our classes and make decisions on what to keep,” explained agriculture teacher and Department Head Jodi Evans. “We really wanted to keep the agriculture mechanics program to help keep the boys involved, 24 | Spring 2014

and in order to do that, we knew we needed help.” Realizing the importance of continuing this hands-on program, the SLO FFA Advisory Committee sprung into action by proposing a mutually beneficial partnership between the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences (CAFES) and the SLO High School Agriculture Department. This partnership began the implementation of a multi-trimester program where CAFES students were responsible for designing and teaching the curriculum for the SLO High School agriculture mechanics courses. This included everything from writing the lesson plans, to reorganizing the shop and ensuring all equipment was up to date and in safe, working order. “Ben Swan, [Cal Poly agriculture education professor], and I met several times before class started to kind of get the schedule down to see how many units there were going to be and how it would all kind of align,” explained Anna Bates, a SLO High School agriculture teacher. “Ben has been an integral part of teaching and

getting the Cal Poly students to develop curriculum. He’s the one that coordinated the entire instructional calendar.” For many CAFES students, this was their first time writing lesson plans and trying them out in a live classroom. “One of the biggest things student teachers say is that they wish they would have had more hands-on experience with [students] before they jumped right into student teaching,” Bates said. “So it has been a perfect time for us to have them work on developing curriculum and then actively implementing it in our shop with our students.” For Morgan Perry, a fifth-year Agricultural Science major with a focus in agriculture mechanics, trying out a lesson plan for the first time was one of the most challenging parts of the overall process. “Managing a classroom when you have little to no experience in doing so is hard enough, let alone in a shop setting,” explained Perry. “An agriculture mechanics shop can be very dangerous, so it is very important to ensure that your students know what is expected of them


and are on task at all times.” Although the experience presented challenges to the CAFES students, the benefits far outweighed the initial struggles. “My favorite part of helping in this class is when you see one of your students finally ‘get it,’” Perry said. “It is a bummer when you see a student putting in all this time and effort and still struggling, but it is an amazing experience when you see that spark in [their] eye and that smile on their face when it finally clicks.” One of the more unique aspects of the program is that every week is different, with a variety of in-depth lessons and alternating teachers. “The [students] are excited that the class is taught in chunks where they are constantly getting new people to work with,” Bates said. “The whole first week was four female Cal Poly students who are now student teaching, and they did an entire safety unit. Then came the ropes unit with Dr. Robert Flores and Dr. Joe Sabol. It was awesome!” With a diverse range of teachers, the high school students are learning about more than just mechanics, but also the

extensive opportunities Cal Poly holds for them. “I’ll hear them asking during small talk, ‘what do you do in the BRAE Department?’ Or ‘what do you do in agriculture education?’” Bates said. “It is just cool because they are getting to meet all these awesome people, and they are getting to learn about all the majors at Cal Poly.” Although the program was successful largely in part to the hard work of the Cal Poly students, faculty and SLO FFA advisors, it would not have been possible without the support of individuals and companies from around the area. “The community has been really involved,” Bates said. “Thoma Electric donated a ton of supplies for us to do electricity projects. C&N Tractors let us borrow two brand new tractors for a week with the farm power coach Aaron Flores. The students really loved that unit.” The partnership between Cal Poly and SLO High has embodied the Learn by Doing motto in its purest form. CAFES students have been given an invaluable opportunity to gain hands-on practice in

their soon-to-be career fields, and SLO FFA members have been able to explore a new side of agriculture, while creating projects that can be entered in numerous county fair contests. “I am very lucky that I get to have this experience prior to going out and student teaching,” Perry said. “Getting out into the field while still having a safety net of teachers and colleagues has been an invaluable experience and has really opened my eyes to the fact that I am making the right career choice.” Through the implementation of this program, and due to the generosity of community members, students, and Cal Poly faculty, the San Luis Obispo agriculture mechanics program has truly begun to take off. “We have a record number of [students] showing up for the welding team and farm power,” Bates said. “Now, more than ever, we realize that agriculture mechanics is a vital part to the program that we must continue to support.”


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B e t t e r Yi e l d s , B e t t e r Q u a l i t y, Better for the


w w w. a g r o l i q u i d . c o m 26 | Spring 2014


Reppin’ Agriculture How Poly Reps Communicate About Cal Poly’s Connection to the Agriculture Industry


f you have ever spent a day on Cal Poly’s campus, then there is a good chance you have been on a tour led by a student walking backwards, wearing a green polo, or have at least seen one of these tours in action. These multi-talented students are not your average tour guides. They go far beyond the guide you may have on a museum tour, the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, or even the tour guide giving a glimpse into the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus. These outgoing, enthusiastic Cal Poly fanatics who lead official campus tours are Poly Reps. Poly Reps is a voluntary organization made up of 33 students from all different majors and backgrounds who share one thing in common: they are insanely passionate about Cal Poly. Poly Reps promote the university through planning special events for students and alumni, building leadership on campus, and giving campus tours. As official university ambassadors, these students define what it means to be a Mustang.

Story by Katie Roberti Photos by Taylor Pires and Katie Roberti “We represent the university on a local and national level, reach out to prospective students, alumni and families, and serve as the voice of the students. We give a lot of tours and try to snapshot Cal Poly to everyone who is not here,” Poly Rep Gannon Depetris said. Beyond the general characterization of what it means to be a Poly Rep and what they do, every Poly Rep advocates for agriculture whether they realize it or not. Each time they share about classes such as beekeeping, or point out an agriculture facility on campus, they are representing agriculture. While some Poly Reps may purposely shine more light on agriculture during their tours than others, they all potentially have an opportunity to influence and teach tour attendees about an industry many people know little about. Agricultural Communication major Amanda Meneses is one ambassador who always takes time during her tours to briefly advocate for agriculture. agcircle

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“People don’t usually put university and agriculture together, so I’m glad that I even get to express to them that agriculture is at a university level and that students are coming to get a higher level education in agriculture,” Meneses shared. Although showcasing agriculture on tours may be easier for the Poly Reps who study in the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences, nonagriculture students also find sharing Cal Poly agriculture with others can be an approach to make their tours interesting and memorable. Many Poly Reps point out that the agriculture programs are a definite plus at this university. “Not being an agriculture student, I like to talk about what it’s like being at an agriculture focused school and all the cool opportunities you have. People on the tours that are not necessarily involved in agriculture can get really excited about it, and what you can learn from being at a school with a lot of agricultur[ists] in it,” Poly Rep Simone Teitelbaum shared. With that thought in mind, Depetris added, “No matter what major or where you come from or what you do throughout your four years here, you are going to be influenced by agriculture at some point while you are at Cal Poly and it’s awesome.” People on tours come from all different backgrounds and have different ideas about what agriculture is. While some may have plenty of knowledge about the subject, it is common to have many who are not aware that agriculture is studied in higher education, let alone the importance of it. With groups

like these, it is often a process to excite them about agriculture. Although the group may have no interest in agriculture at the beginning of the tour, it is common that this is not the case by the end. “It’s cool to show prospective students that not only are these experiences open to ag students at Cal Poly, but we’re also letting other students understand what agriculture is. [They] get that first-hand experience by being in some of those unique ag classes that aren’t offered in other schools,” Poly Rep Jenna Forster said. Bringing up unique agriculture classes and running through the impressive list of Cal Poly agriculture products such as beef jerky, ice cream and poinsettias, are just a few ways of getting tours excited. Sharing the passion agricultural students have for what they study is an additional way to bring up agriculture in a tour. “Everyone at Cal Poly is really passionate about what they do, but I feel like students in agriculture tend to be really passionate about what they do,” Teitelbaum said. “That passion comes through in everything they do and it makes you grateful to be at an ag school.” While tours are a large part of what Poly Reps do, promoting agriculture to prospective students and parents is not where the advocating ends. Through the different networks in which Poly Reps are involved, they have the chance to share their knowledge of agriculture throughout the

“Everyone at Cal Poly

is really passionate about what they do...

28 | Spring 2014

campus. This makes an impact on current Cal Poly students who are unaware of the agriculture opportunities available to all majors. “Through Poly Reps, my influence on Cal Poly students in my network has been pretty impactful. Our knowledge and understanding of agriculture on our campus influences other current Cal Poly students in a positive way,” Depetris said. Some may ask, why does it matter that Poly Reps talk about agriculture? The importance of passionate agriculture communicators is needed more today than ever before. With increases in land and water wars, animal rights issues and new government regulations facing farmers and ranchers, the future of the agriculture industry may depend on people who are passionate enough to fight for it. Although not all Poly Reps are passionate about agriculture, behind every green polo shirt is a student who loves Cal Poly. The passion these 33 individuals share is contagious and is making a difference for agriculture. Poly Reps is a group that should be celebrated, appreciated and recognized as a great example of the impact a passion can have. Their experiences show just how far a little “ag-vocating” can go.


Family ,Farming and Fellowship How the Alexandre Kids Have Redefined Family Business

Story byTaylor Pires Photos provided by the Alexandre Family and Taylor Pires


our out of the five Alexandre siblings attend Cal Poly and each brings a uniqueness to campus. Joseph is the alwayshumble, eldest brother. Christian, the middle brother, is known for his lively personality. Vanessa is the outgoing oldest sister. And the youngest brother, Dalton, can be recognized for his sweet nature. The qualities and values they share connect them at home, on the farm, at school and in business. The differences they bring to the table are what contribute to their successes. Four individuals become one prosperous business, Alexandre Kids Eggs, with each person contributing their skills and passions, while remaining a close-knit family unit.

A Project Turned Business Christian and Joseph began Alexandre Kids Eggs as an FFA project. “It started as a project after visiting some small farms in Virginia and Pennsylvania. We came home and started with 150 birds,” Christian shared. Their project allowed the brothers, and soon their younger siblings as well, to branch into a niche market. In staying true to their family values, they began raising their chickens on organic pasture, where the chickens graze alongside the family’s organic dairy cows.

The Alexandre kids’ journey may have begun as a project, but the momentum it gained turned the operation into a full-fledged business. Soon the family was selling eggs in their onsite farm store, to local retailers in Crescent City, Calif., and then to stores outside of their county; including establishments just over the California border in Oregon. As the demand for their eggs grew, so did their operation, to the size of about 1,500 chickens. It was not long before the big dogs were knocking on the Alexandres’ door. “Whole Foods contacted us. They called my dad and said ‘Hey, we heard you’ve got some amazing eggs and we want them in our stores,’” Christian said. Since that call in 2010, Alexandre Kids Eggs has grown to about 3,000 birds and sells their eggs to 56 different retailers, including 26 Whole Foods stores. Their newly released six-pack egg carton will be exclusive to all Whole Foods stores in California. “What’s exciting is that we have a very loyal customer base, and now instead of just reaching out to families, we’ll reach out to individuals,” Christian shared about the newest venture. The Alexandres are confident their six-pack (branded as 6 PAK) carton will fare well. “The demand is definitely there,” Vanessa said.


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modified. “We had already been meeting the Non-GMO certification, but now its official [with the label],” Dalton said.

What Sets Them Apart There are few operations that can offer what Alexandre Kids Eggs can to consumers. The organic pasture they graze their hens on secures a unique spot for their eggs in the marketplace. “It’s the highest mark-up product from conventional to organic because of that pasture. We believe that the pasture adds value to the eggs and the milk,” Christian explained. “We end up with more nutritiously dense eggs and hardier yolks,” Dalton added. In addition to offering a distinct product, the Alexandres set themselves apart by owning and managing a recognizable brand while attending college. “We do everything from day-old chicks to delivered cases of eggs,” Joseph said of the family business. Managing the day-to-day tasks is left to their parents, younger sister, Savanna, and a couple 30 | Spring 2014

of employees while the four siblings are away at school. Yet, they remain directly involved with their business. For example, Christian shared that in January he had a meeting with Whole Foods to discuss their standards for egg producers. Also, Vanessa is currently working on a newsletter to put in the egg cartons, which will serve as a quarterly status update for their customers. The siblings use their combined talents to promote their brand and tell their story. According to Dalton, “The eggs sell themselves.” While the eggs already have a strong reputation, the Alexandre siblings do listen to what their customers want. They recently became Non-GMO (genetically modified organism) certified to meet the requests of their customers, Joseph said. Non-GMO certification demands that the business meet feeding requirements that prove their feed is not genetically

What Lies Ahead “Since I was two-years-old I wanted to be just like my dad,” Christian said. He plans to head back to the farm once he graduates in June. Going back to the family farm is something that will always be an option for the Alexandre siblings if they so choose. “The opportunity is there for all of us to go back. That’s the blessing of what [our parents] have built,” Vanessa shared. The Alexandre siblings look forward to a bright future for their egg business as well. They plan to continue growing and make room for future generations, just as their parents have done for them. “We all hope to contribute to the future of Alexandre Kids Eggs with our own kids,” Christian said. No matter what the future holds though, one can be certain that the Alexandre siblings will continue to stay true to themselves and their family values.


Partnering For Sustainable Solutions

A Multi-Disciplinary Approach To Sustainable International Ag


pportunity, innovation and commitment – these ingredients have enabled American agriculture to thrive and meet the growing demand for safe and affordable food products worldwide. American agriculturalists continue to go above and beyond to stand out, with an undeniable passion for helping others. Last spring, a member of Cal Poly’s community stepped outside of the box to take a broader look at the effects of an agribusiness on a community in Zambia, Africa. As a Comparative Ethnic Studies major with an Agricultural Communication minor, Kate O’Leary had a desire to research the impacts of the partnership between her grandfather’s international agricultural business and a nonprofit organization. For her senior project, O’Leary analyzed the sustainability and outcomes of the collaboration between her grandfather’s business, Plant Sciences, Inc. (PSI), and an international nonprofit, Lifesong for Orphans (Lifesong). O’Leary was motivated by the combination of her background in the family agribusiness and her passion gained through an education in comparative ethnic studies at Cal Poly. “I saw my project as a bridge between these two fields – an agricultural business and a nonprofit organization – and how the mindset of an ag business can support a nonprofit, and how a nonprofit can support an ag business in interesting ways,” O’Leary explained. The spark that ignited this opportunity for O’Leary began with the partnership of PSI with Lifesong in 2007. Richard Nelson, O’Leary’s grandfather, founded PSI in 1985 to pursue excellence in agricultural research and consultation. As described on the company website, PSI started from humble beginnings in a home office and

Story by Maddison Easley Photo provided by Kate O’Leary lab, but has since grown to a distinguished multinational agricultural research business based out of Watsonville, Calif. With a desire to donate funds toward a worthy cause, PSI connected with Lifesong to enable great achievements in needy communities throughout the world. Lifesong is a Christian-based nonprofit that works to ensure joy and purpose in the lives of orphaned children and those helping them on a daily basis. Through donations and sustainable business development, they create jobs and self-worth for orphan caregivers, and provide future employment opportunities for orphans as they grow into adults. Through their partnership, PSI and Lifesong have created sustainable strawberry farms that provide orphan caregivers employment and skills to ensure a positive long-term future for these disadvantaged communities. In addition, the produce grown and harvested at the farm directly benefits the health of orphans and other members of the community. The first farm was established in Zambia, Africa, where O’Leary focused her project studies. “PSI saw that they could support [Lifesong] in more ways than just financially. They started small microbusiness systems for them. They now have jobs to support the orphans and orphanages,” O’Leary shared. To uncover the benefits and challenges of this cooperative effort, O’Leary studied literature and conducted surveys. She

surveyed both PSI and Lifesong employees asking for opinions on the impact of cross-cultural relations, life-enhancement for those living in Africa, improved technologies, and overall outcomes of the partnership. When analyzing the results for her senior project, O’Leary found the impacts of this partnership extended beyond the surface relationship. Multiple surveys and sources explained how cross-cultural relations had developed and grown with the establishment of the sustainable farms. The food being grown was sold to grocery stores and other South African stores, bringing together other businesses and industries. With the success of the initial farm in Zambia, PSI and Lifesong are continuing their partnership to establish similar farms in Honduras and Ukraine. Thinking about how this study influenced her future aspirations, O’Leary said, “[I am] inspired to move forward and do something like this in the future. When people ask what I will do after graduation, I often tell them I am interested in community development and supporting communities through sustainability.” Opportunity, innovation and commitment are three ingredients that enabled Kate O’Leary to utilize her background and unique education gained at Cal Poly. She will continue to explore the far-reaching impacts an agricultural business in California can have with the right motivation and collaboration.


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