Ag Circle Summer 2017

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agcircle |

cal poly, san luis obispo summer 2017

Inside COTTON ROSSER The king of cowboys

AGRITOURISM From workshop to farm stays

BACK COUNTRY TRAILS The art of mule packing


Welcome to the Summer 2017 issue of Ag Circle! In this edition, writers highlight Cal Poly's deeply rooted history, timeless traditions of the western lifestyle and innovative practices in agriculture. Stories include the artistry of mule packing, a Cal Poly rodeo superstar who has been named the “King of Cowboys” and the future of purchasing groceries by shopping online. We believe this edition encompasses the unique and rich nature of the agricultural industry. Our annual photo contest is also included in this issue, with our winning photo on the cover. This year’s winning photo was taken by student Quincie Gourley. She captured the image of a growing lettuce plant before harvest. We have enjoyed putting together this magazine for you and we hope you enjoy reading! Best Wishes,

Mary, Emma, Samantha & Annie


Ag Circle is a student-run magazine published

twice a year. Student volunteers write the articles and contribute photography.

Mady Braught Page 6

Tatum Holdener

Quincie Gourley Page 6

Page 8

ON THE COVER Congratulations Quincie!

James Broaddus

Amy Brown

Page 13

Arielle Dubowe

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Sophomore Quincie Gourley's winning photograph from our photo contest. The photo was shot at a up-close angle of a lettuce head in the Salinas Valley, famously known as "Salad Bowl of the World."

Chloe Fowler

Elise Regusci

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Page 24

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Karah Varner Page 38

See page 30 for more photo entries.

Volume 35, Issue 2, Summer 2017 Published by the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication California Polytechnic State University Brock Center for Agricultural Communication 1 Grand Avenue, Building 10, Room 235 San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 @brockcenter @brockcenter @AgCircleMag Editor-in-Chief Samantha Wallace

Faculty Adviser

Associate Editors Annie Hamilton Emma Morris Mary Allen Writers James Broaddus, Mady Braught, Amy Brown, Arielle Dubowe, Chloe Fowler, Quincie Gourley, Tatum Holdener, Elise Regusci, Karah Varner

Photographers Mary Allen, Mackenzie Bressler, Mady Braught, Marianne Brownfield, Lynne Bryan, California Rice Commission: Steve Becley and Jim Morris, Phil Doyle, Jessica Eise, FARMStead ED, Quincie Gourley, Annie Hamilton, Beth Hay, Tatum Holdener, Jenny Holterman, Diana Melero, Jim Morris, Charlotte Ross, Elise Regusci, Megan Silcott, Caitlin Stanton, JoAnn Wall, Samantha Wallace, Holly Wilson Graphic Designer Annie Hamilton Submissions to agcircle are welcome. Permission to Reproduce All material in this issue may be reproduced with the expressed written permission of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication. The contents of agcircle are generated by students, and do not reflect the opinions of California Polytechnic State University, its administration or faculty. Printed by Poor Richard's Press


Megan Silcott

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Caitlin Stanton


Mady Braught



TRACTOR PULL CLUB Driving for the future

COFFEE The big business of beans







SPRING BABIES Bringing new life to Cal Poly

COTTON ROSSER The king of cowboys

AGRITOURISM From workshops to farm stays

SLO'S LOCAL GRAINS The best thing since sliced bread


RED BLUFF BULL AND GELDING SALE Auctioning the best in the west

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Mackenzie Bressler

Tatum Holdener

Diana Melero


Holly Wilson







STOCK DOGS Ranching with man's best friend

ALMOND GIRL JENNY Sharing stories through social media

ONLINE PRODUCE SHOPPING Groceries just a click away

RURAL LAND APPRAISAL A niche real estate market


HUNTING Conservation through the scope


PHOTO CONTEST Photos of people, landscapes, produce, & animals


BACK COUNTRY TRAILS The art of mule packing agcircle | 5

TRACTOR PULL CLUB Pulling for the future

By Quincie Gourley & Mady Braught Photos by Mady Braught


nown to many as the biggest, baddest and loudest club on Cal Poly’s campus, the Tractor Pull Club has been around since 2004. Tractor Pull’s adviser Mark Zohns said the Tractor Pull Club grew out of the Agricultural Engineering Society (AES). Zohns has watched the Cal Poly Tractor Pull Club grow and excel. While the club is fairly new, there is a rich history with Cal Poly and tractor pulls. The club and team work together but develop with different goals in mind. Cal Poly’s Tractor Pull Team began with the first tractor pull on the West Coast at Poly Royal in 1972. That event was held in the vacant lot across from the Sierra Madre and Yosemite Residence Halls (where the new Student Housing South will be). In the early days, the Tractor Pull Team was really a Tractor Pull “Sled” Team — whose responsibility was to provide a weight transfer

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machine or “sled” service to county fairs throughout the state, so each could host their own competition tractor pulls. As Zohns described, this activity continued for many years with proceeds going to a student scholarship account, housed within the AES. At that time, the Tractor Pull Team was a standing committee within AES. In the early 1980s, Zohns said direct student involvement with the sled diminished but the hosting of Cal Poly’s own Poly Royal tractor pull continued. The proceeds bolstered the same scholarship account housed within AES. In 1998-99, Myles Anderson, Russ Angold and Bobby Pierce decided to build “Mustang Fever”so Cal Poly could become a competitor in these events. “The tractor was designed and constructed as part of BRAE 421 and 422 — where small groups of students would take on projects sponsored by outside entities and

companies,” Zohns said. In April of 1999, the Cal Poly Tractor Pull Team (still a committee within AES) took on a new direction: competing in these events. Early in 2000, the university recognized the Cal Poly Tractor Pull Team as an Instructionally Related Activity (IRA). Since then the Tractor Pull Team has been funded partially as an IRA and supplemented by sponsorship and prize monies — but totally separate from AES accounts. As history goes, Zohns said, in 2004 the CSU Chancellor’s office dictated that all ASI club accounts within the CSU be overseen by state staff. “AES was no longer allowed to handle two accounts (one for general operation, one for scholarships — which had been primarily funded by Poly Royal Truck/Tractor Pulls). So, we were forced to create a new club: The Cal Poly Tractor Pull Club.” When Mustang Fever ran for the first time, Zohns said it became


his most memorable Open House (formerly Poly Royal) to date. “The tractor had been in the making for three months, and it was amazing to see the final outcome in this short period of time,” he said. The Tractor Pull legacy continues today with numerous club members and student presidents dedicating themselves to the club and team. Past club President Arturo Barajas was introduced to truck and tractor pulls in high school, while he showed livestock at the county fair. Barajas said he and his friends would go to the evening truck and tractor pull events every year. Once at Cal Poly, he started right away with helping the Tractor Pull Club, even while attending an abundance of tractor pulls the summer before his freshman year. Students involved with tractor

pull learn the mechanics, maintenance and operation of the tractors. The club president is traditionally one of two pullers or drivers. “Tractor Pull is one of the most unique opportunities Cal Poly has to offer, and one of the many reasons why I chose the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department at Cal Poly,” Barajas said. He graduated in 2015 and works for California Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula at the state Capitol. “A lot of what I learned in Tractor Pull Club involved trying to stay organized, working in large groups, getting sponsorships and planning events,” he said. Rising through the ranks of the club officers is considered an honor. The top honor though, as Barajas and other past presidents agreed, is to drive at the Open House Tractor Pull. Alan Isaacson became involved with the club as a freshman and later served as the 2015-16 Cal Poly Tractor Pull Club president. He wanted to stay involved as much as possible to qualify to drive the tractors. Isaacson described being chosen as a freshman to drive Mustang Fever as a treat and rare occasion. His first time driving was at the second pull of the year, at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California. Isaacson reminisced about the adrenaline rush and what he called his glory days of tractor pulls. “It was special leading up to it. I was super

excited and nervous, and remember breathing hard and fogging up the helmet,” he said. For many members, the Tractor Pull Club offers a positive outlet, and a great way to meet fellow students with similar interests. The club raises close to $20,000 each year, which is used to fund Cal Poly’s annual Tractor Pull event and provide funds for the perpetual scholarship account. Isaacson said his participation with tractor pulls increased his mechanical knowledge, which directly applied to his major. He learned event planning, networking and got to travel California representing the club. Issacson is now a research and development engineer at Orchard Machinery Corporation in Yuba City, California, and attributes his career success to what he learned through the Tractor Pull Club. Zohns has had the privilege of watching many Tractor Pull Club members and presidents grow within the organization. He said seeing their success continue beyond Cal Poly and into industry careers is the end goal. While the 2017 Cal Poly Tractor Pull was cancelled due to rain, the club gathered at Open House to retire Mustang Fever. With proud supporters and fans standing by, Mustang Fever was fired up one last time. Zohns said Mustang Fever’s replacement, “Mustang Legacy” made its debut run in Dixon, California, on May 13. “In front of a sell-out crowd, first place punctuated the occasion!” he said.

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SPRING BABIES Bringing new life to Cal Poly

Story and photos by Tatum Holdener


al Poly has been named one of the top colleges in the country and its agricultural programs are among the most prestigious in the nation according to Business Insider. Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto plays a critical role in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES). Professors encourage students to become involved in livestock programs. “We can take all the help we get,” said Lee Rinker, Cal Poly swine unit supervisor.

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Rinker, in his third year working at Cal Poly, is credited with transforming the swine unit and bringing back the livestock judging team program. “My favorite part is students coming in with an opinion. They form opinions before showing up to class, and by the end of the quarter they have a completely new view of agriculture,” Rinker said. Rinker believes hands-on labs separate Cal Poly from other institutions because it gives students the opportunity to learn and be a part

of something outside the classroom. The swine unit bustles with baby pigs each spring. There are currently 25 sows in production. Logan Johnston, senior agricultural science student, is one of the two student managers at the swine unit. “I love being able to see the excitement that other students have about animal agriculture. If they just want to see baby pigs or they have a genuine passion for livestock, it’s always fun to watch,” Johnston said. Johnston has been working at the Cal Poly Swine Unit for two years. He helps oversee the herd of 40 sows and assists with enterprises and labs. He credits the swine unit for growing his passion for the industry and his drive to be successful after college. “I appreciate the curiosity that the public has. I enjoy being able to explain to them what goes on up here at the swine unit,” Johnston said. “Our gates are always open to prospective students who are willing to learn.” Cal Poly is one of the few schools


in which livestock operations are solely run and managed by students with the guidance of professors. Some students start out without any prior involvement in agriculture. They are taught everything from artificial insemination to birthing techniques and then learn processing and marketing of livestock and animal by-products. One of the many livestock courses available is Swine Production, which provides swine production standards, reproductive efficiency practices, herd health and disease prevention. Students get hands-on experience in checking to see if sows are ready to be bred (heat checking), artificial insemination, pregnancy detection and litter processing. Cal Poly products such as milk and other dairy products are readily available on campus thanks to the Cal Poly Dairy. According to the Animal Science Department, the

Cal Poly Dairy Science Program is one of the top student-run dairies in the nation. The dairy has a herd of 200 milking cows, including Holstein and Jersey milking breeds. Senior dairy science student and herdsman Elizabeth Russell said, “I didn’t grow up on a dairy, so all my

calving is bringing the newest calves into the herd and watching them grow from start to finish,” Russell said. “They’re the best from a genetic standpoint and the new hope for the herd.” The calves born at the dairy will either be kept in the Cal Poly herd to become milking cows or sent to market. Russell added, “I’m learning through a hands-on approach. If there’s a sick cow, I’m learning how to give proper treatments to - Logan Johnston, agricultural science senior her. We want to make sure she is properly taken care of,” she said. experience I’m getting is happening From baby animals to top-quality here at Cal Poly.” Russell said her breeding livestock, Cal Poly’s Learn three years of experience at the dairy by Doing philosophy allows students she is gaining while in college is what to be prominent in the workforce and employers are looking for. helps them develop skills to be future As many as three new calves are leaders in the agriculture industry, born at the dairy unit each week. including animal husbandry. Students are on-hand to monitor and assist as needed — even in the middle of the night. “My favorite part about

“Our gates are always open to prospective students who are willing to learn.”

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Cotton Rosser The King of Cowboys

By Samantha Wallace Photos by Mady Braught, Phil Doyle, Steve Becley & Jim Morris from California Rice Commission


orton Alexander “Cotton” Rosser is a legendary cowboy and showman who has dedicated his entire life to rodeo, ranching and agriculture. As a young boy, Rosser was nicknamed “Cotton” because of his curly blond hair. Rosser’s lifelong passion for being a cowboy ignited early in life while he was growing up in 10 | Summer 2017

Long Beach, California. He spent his childhood reading books about popular western stars such as Roy Rogers, Will James and Gene Autry. When he was 10 years old, Rosser delivered newspapers on the back of a donkey named Jack, cleaned stalls for local cowboys who were fighting in WWII, and worked cattle on Catalina Island so he could

earn enough money to rodeo on the weekends. Rosser fondly remembers one special weekend when he snuck into a rodeo and bronc rider Zack McWiggins told him to watch his saddle. “Boy, I’ll never forget that. That’s why I let little kids pet my horses at every rodeo,” Rosser said.


At age 13 he started riding Herford bulls and by the age of 16 he was riding saddle brocs. In high school, Rosser became a multi-event superstar. He competed in every event but said his favorites were steer wrestling, calf roping and bronc riding. Rosser said he chose to pursue higher education at Cal Poly because he could study animal science while simultaneously competing on the rodeo team. While earning a bachelors’ degree in animal science, he was captain of the Cal Poly Rodeo team. In 1949, he placed second in the all-around at the first Intercollegiate Rodeo Finals, and in 1950 he won the all-around and National Saddle Bronc championship. He was also a licensed pilot, so he flew the team to rodeo competitions around the country. While he was at Cal Poly, the rodeo team won 41 national championships. “I owe everything to Cal Poly. I never wanted to leave. I use the Learn by Doing motto every day of my life,” Rosser said. Three generations of the Rosser family have been proud Cal Poly Mustangs: Lee and Bonnie, Levi, Linsay, and Reno, and most recently, Kathryn Rosser added to the Cal Poly Rosser legacy. As most stories go, Cotton’s includes twists. In 1956, a tragic encounter with a tractor while digging

post-holes left him with two broken legs and shattered dreams. The injury ended his competitive rodeo career. But Rosser said it was one of the defining moments of his life. “That accident was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me,” he said. The accident revealed an opportunity for Rosser to be on the production side of rodeos and he later purchased the Flying U Rodeo Company — known as one of the most successful stock contracting firms in the rodeo industry.

On April 18, 2015, Rosser was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Hall of Great Westerners in Oklahoma City. Others who have received this award are U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt, and western stars and artists Gene Autry and Fredric Remington. “When I look at the men who’ve been honored before me (with the Great Westerner Award) — it is privilege to be recognized amongst them,” Rosser said. Most recently, Rosser received the 2016 Honored Alumni Award, which is the highest honor given to Cal Poly alumni by the university’s Alumni Association. Rosser was a monumental sponsor for this year’s 77th annual Poly Royal Rodeo which moved to Cal Poly’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium. In 1940, the first ever Cal Poly Rodeo was held with 4,000 spectators in attendance. This year, more than 11,000 fans flocked to the sold-out Spanos Stadium. “I think the rodeo being moved to Spanos Stadium is the best thing that’s ever happened to the program and we’re going to make sure everyone gets a great show,” Rosser said. Rosser, who calls Marysville, California, home, understands his

“I owe everything to Cal Poly. I never wanted to leave. I use the Learn by Doing motto every day of my life.”

- Cotton Rosser Awards and Show Business Utilizing his cowboy grit, Rosser received countless accolades for his more than 60 years of dedication to promoting rodeo and its western heritage lifestyle. In 2006, Rosser received the Ben Johnson Memorial Award, which recognizes those who go above and beyond for the sport of professional rodeo. Rosser was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2009.

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rodeo productions compete with other forms of entertainment in today’s world. “People have the option to go to Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Universal Studios,” Rosser said. This stiff competition keeps Rosser’s creative juices flowing. Rosser said he seeks to constantly raise the bar with unique and often thrilling entertainment in between the rodeo events such as Bull Poker, Roman Chariot Races, Bull Teeter-Totter, Flying Cowboys on motorcycles and the “Wild Ride.” Rosser admired Gene Autry’s flare for show business. During the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s stock contractors had a lot of class, silver saddles, matched horses and a flair for showmanship. Rosser said he always tries to bring some of that tradition and patriotism back to rodeo. “People say if you’ve seen one rodeo, you’ve seen ‘em all. I don’t believe that’s true,” Rosser said. “I like to have extravagant opening ceremonies with strong family and patriotic values. If you don’t keep the audience entertained they will go somewhere else.” Rosser is known to capitalize and encourage agricultural education when he can. He explained, “kids these days think milk comes from 7-Eleven in a carton, not a cow. That’s why we bring in 4-H and FFA grand champion steers to the arena to show kids where their hamburgers and steak comes from. The rodeo business can teach them a lot about the real world and life.” Animal Welfare As with any other industry or sport utilizing animals, the sport of rodeo continuously educates the public about the care and respect of the livestock used in rodeos. Critics of rodeo often highlight bucking horses, but Rosser said it is by far the most misunderstood event. “You can’t make a horse buck. As the old saying goes — you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. They’re specifically bred to 12 | Summer 2017

buck and it’s natural for them — it’s in their blood,” Rosser said. One of the greatest indicators of the care and handling of livestock in the sport of rodeo is the animal’s longevity of life and career. Rosser’s famous bucking bull, Reindeer Dippin, lived to be 18 years old, which is unprecedented. Most bulls live between 10 and 12 years. High Tide, a Flying U Rodeo horse featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, went to 18 National Final Rodeos and died at the age of 34. “The quality of life of rodeo livestock is comparable to the world’s

greatest athletes. A bull or bronc only buck eight seconds at time, four to six times a month. Then (they) will be turned out to green pastures and another group of stock will go on the road. This means each animals works an average of only eight minutes a year,” Rosser said. Professional pick-up man for Flying U Rodeo Jeff Shearer has worked closely with Rosser for 25 years. “Cotton is the hardest working man I’ve ever met. Believe me, safety for the animals and the contestants is our top priority. Without healthy animals

or contestants, the show can’t go on. Cotton’s truly the best at what he does — being a world-class showman, cowboy and friend,” Shearer said. Cowboy Code Regardless of one’s involvement in rodeo, Rosser says everyone can live by cowboy values. “Treat others as you would like to be treated, never burn any bridges behind you, surround yourself with the best people possible, remember where you came from, always tell the truth, never take unfair advantage, be a good worker, be a patriot, never go back on your word,” he said. Rosser said he strives to live by those values. Fellow Rodeo Hall of Famer and Cal Poly alumni Jack Roddy has admired Rosser all his life, and he’s not alone. “When I was a kid, Cotton was my idol. I remember being at the State Fair Rodeo in Sacramento. Cotton and I were in the arena together and a bucking bull jumped the fence and took off running down the midway. Cotton roped that bull running down the midway, which was packed with people. If I had to describe Cotton in a few words, it would be 'Great all-around Cowboy,'" Roddy said. For the past five decades, all of Rosser’s rodeos have famously ended with the playing of “Thank you very much” as Rosser greets and thanks the audience. “My favorite part is circling the arena, shaking the fan’s hands and walking out of the arena on horseback with everyone happy, wanting to see more and feeling like they got more entertainment than they paid for,” Rosser said. Today, the Flying U is the oldest continually operating stock contracting company in the United States. “I never got rich but I am the richest man in the world in terms of memories and friends. If I could go back in time, I’d do it all over again — I wouldn’t change a thing,” Rosser said.


The big business of beans

By James Broaddus Photos by Annie Hamilton & Quincie Gourley


he United States may be divided on many levels including politics and sports teams but one beverage unifies half of all American adults each morning. Thomas Jefferson once dubbed it “the favorite drink of the civilized world,” while Johann Sebastian Bach called life a “dried up piece of roast goat without it.” From silent mornings in the open fields to bustling city streets, coffee is the cornerstone of daily life. The Global Coffee Industry The USDA ranks coffee as the world’s most heavily traded product and the largest food import of the United States. Top suppliers include Brazil (27 percent), Colombia (20 percent) and Vietnam (16 percent). Coffee production is a major source of income, especially for developing countries where the commodity is grown. How exactly does this vast industry reach restaurants, offices and homes? Coffee originates from an area of the world known as “the Bean Belt” located between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. This region includes more than 50 countries located in South and Central America and parts of Asia and Africa. Farmers hand-pick red coffee cherries from the tree, separate, and sun-dry them. Dark or blonde,

drip or instant, in 21st century America, there are two distinct styles of coffee: commercial and specialty. Commercial coffee is roasted, perground, and packed in large plants under nationally advertised brand names. Specialty coffee is delivered as whole beans to be freshly ground for the brewing process. Although demand for commercial coffee is on a significant decline, the overall demand for roasted beans is growing by 2 percent annually, according to the National Coffee Association — creating a need for international purchasers. Phil Maloney has worked in the coffee industry for 28 years and serves as Peet’s Coffee and Tea Director of Purchasing. “Peet’s is considered the grandfather of specialty coffee.

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Brett Jones, Owner of The Nautical Bean

Alfred Peet opened his first store in Berkley in 1966. Since then the specialty coffee industry has grown,” Maloney said. The specialty coffee segment has grown so much, Hoover’s reports, the national brands of Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Kreuig Green Mountain, and Dunkin now compete against Peet’s ever-expanding company. About 100 competitors and coffee enthusiasts began gathering and sharing ideas in 1989 at the Specialty Coffee Associations of America (SCAA) first industry conference. The conference now hosts more than 10,000 industry attendees from companies across the nation. SCAA estimates the coffee market to be

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worth over $48 billion, including every step “from tree to cup.” Growing coffee requires high amounts of physical labor and management. Once harvested, farmers transport the dried cherries (beans) to co-operative mills to be sorted, bagged and sold to regional exporters. Exporters act as brokers working with foreign importers and purchasers, like Maloney, moving product into the U.S. and other coffeeconsuming countries. Coffee beans travel in cargo ships to warehouses, and are sampled as a measure of quality assurance before importers transfer the beans to roasting facilities. Peet’s and its national competitors control their own roasting facilities,

while local shops generally source from specialty roasters. San Luis Obispo Coffee Scene The Nautical Bean Coffee House and Bistro has been nestled in San Luis Obispo, California, for 15 years. Owner Brett Jones wanted to give coffee consumers a place to enjoy a cup in a friendly local environment. Jones sources his beans from Cambria Coffee Roasters in Cambria, California, and espresso beans from Daymar Coffee in El Cajon, California. As a local shop, Jones prefers the freshest beans possible for the final cup. “Deliveries come every Tuesday right about the time we run out of the


last week’s beans, each week we order anywhere from 180 to 200 pounds total,” Jones said. At Nautical Bean, Jones uses mostly blended coffee varieties instead of what’s known as single origin. “Single origin is awesome, but it changes over the year,” Jones said, but blended coffees have a greater consistency. Jones thinks that “the most important parts of the coffee business are freshness, correct extraction and customer service.” Compared to local shops, Peet’s has over 200 stand-alone stores, along with official retailers, grocery shelf placement, and additional cafe agreements. According to Maloney, “many, many, factors go into the final

cup. Mess up one, and you're done.” Maloney said the first step is sourcing — trusting the farmers. “The growing process is key,” he said. The majority of coffee growing regions are parts of developing countries. “Coffee is an engine to improve the livelihood of farmers around the world. Helping them improve quality, education and training are key to our company,” Maloney said. Sustaining the Future “It [sustainability] is the focus of all coffee companies to secure the future and raise standards of living for millions of farmers around the world,” Maloney said. Peet’s ensures the quality of

farmers’ lives by tracking where the beans come from. As director of purchasing Maloney understands the complicated social, environmental and cultural aspects of each region while also addressing rising issues like deforestation. “Our ultimate goal is a 100 percent sustainable industry, but we are already on the way there,” Maloney said. Jones sat in his shop with a steaming cup of his passion. “Coffee is a lot harder than it looks,” he said. The impact of the coffee industry extends to communities across the world in dynamic ways, creating jobs, generating tax dollars, and helping farmers grow sustainably for generations to come — good news for coffee lovers everywhere.

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h th g u o h t p e he Moving s

FARMsted ED learning about green houses

AG TOURISM From workshops to farm stays


By Amy Brown Photos provided by FARMsted ED


nvolvement in agriculture extends beyond growing food and fiber to educating the public about how food and fiber is grown. The vast majority of the U.S. population is not directly engaged in agriculture, therefore introducing consumers to farms and ranches for firsthand experiences is a key component of agricultural advocacy. The growing business of agritourism embraces an advocacy tool by pairing educational programs with farm and ranch visits to show the public the marvels of living an agricultural lifestyle. “Getting people to the farm is the best way to educate,” said Lynette

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Sonne, who founded FARMsted ED in 2014. “Letting them have hands-on experiences and providing something for them to take home is what has made FARMsted ED successful.” Agritourists are given the opportunity to meet farmers and food processors and speak directly with them about food production. Whether milking a cow, picking an apple or making cheese, for many visitors the tour is their first exposure to seeing the source of their food. FARMsted ED is an educational program that hosts pop-up events at local farms, ranches and production facilities in San Luis Obispo County. The company offers events April

through November, ranging from beef and wine festivals, to olive oil tastings and pork samplings. All of these gatherings promote locally grown and crafted products. “It started as something I was doing naturally because my friends grew amazing things and I would recommend their products,” Sonne said. “I was surprised by all the people who didn’t know about their own local farms.” Sonne maximizes her clients’ exposure to local agriculture with a multi-faceted event hosting. Guests are given a site tour, participate in a hands-on workshop and mingle with industry experts. Additionally, a


caterer provides on-site lunch from the ingredients guests learned about at the event. As noted by Sarah Rankin of Rankin Ranch in Caliente, California, guest ranches are another popular way of educating people about agriculture — giving visitors a first-hand glimpse of a lifestyle that might otherwise be unfamiliar to them. Rankin Ranch is a 31,000-acre family owned and operated ranch that introduces guests to the everyday life of a cattle rancher. Rankin Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for more than 150 years, with six

Rankin, a fifth-generation family member, graduated from Cal Poly (Animal Science, ’01) and moved back home to help maintain the family ranch. “There is real value in connecting consumers with producers and I want to continue sharing our little corner of agriculture with the guests,” Rankin said. The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Services outlines six essential elements to agritourism sustainability — authenticity, fun, values, relationships, learning and involvement. Many agritourism managers express a desire to educate visitors for community outreach as a key motivating factor behind implementing their touristfocused activities. Christine Maguire and her husband, Jim, owners of the Rinconada Dairy in Santa Margarita, California, offer a farm



FARMstead ED generations calling the property home. In 1965 the family opened their picturesque property to the public and have been welcoming guests from around the world ever since.

nearby wineries and hiking trails. Prior to Santa Margarita, the Maguires lived in rural England for 40 years. They said their time in the English countryside taught them the importance of sustainable agriculture. “We want our guests to get more in touch with how and where their food comes from, as well as learn about sustainability,” Christine Maguires said. At Rinconada Dairy visitors have a choice to stay in the Maguire’s house or in an apartment located in the barn. During the guest’s stay, the couple hosts a cocktail hour to get to know one another. Many families come back year after year. “We become very close friends with our guests and get to watch their kids grow up,” Christine Maguire said. From trail rides and cookouts, to cheese making and farm stays, agritourism is showing the public the wonders of agriculture. To learn more about California’s agriculture tourism, visit

with Blac kberr

stay, giving guests the chance to experience typical day-to-day ranch activities. Guests can work in the organic garden, observe cheese making, feed sheep and goats, and help with lambing or milking. Guests are also encouraged to venture to


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The best thing since sliced bread

By Arielle Dubowe Photos by Mary Allen & Samantha Wallace


t’s no secret California is the leader in the local food movement as the top agriculture producer in the country, according to the USDA. This movement has consumers hungry for food products from farmers and producers in their areas. Consumers are demanding fresh, delicious and local food. As artisan bread bakeries continue to sprout up, the bread industry has been reaping the benefits of the local food movement. Sheila McCann, owner of downtown San Luis Obispo’s House of Bread, said consumers want to meet and develop relationships with the people producing their food. “Part of the local movement is about knowing who makes your food — in this case, who bakes your bread,” McCann said.

San Luis Obispo is home to a few bakeries including two artisan bakeries called House of Bread and Breaking Bread Bakery. These two bakeries are active advocates for promoting the local food movement. Yet there is something challenging for both of them. They do not source their grains locally, and for good reason: local grains are not the ones they need or want. Mark Evans, owner of Breaking Bread Bakery, also located in downtown San Luis Obispo, gets his flour from a 18 | Summer 2017

milling company in Petaluma, California and from another company on the East Coast in North Carolina. “I initially tried to find local grains when we first came here, yet I am still looking for them,” Evans said. Evans said sourcing local grains is not as simple as some may think, especially the grains needed to make high quality artisan bread. “To make good artisan bread — the kind that drives more people to buy local bread, means there must be strong wheat, high protein content, and good flavor,” said Evans. “There are only certain varieties of those kinds of wheat that can be found in this area (Central California) as well as profitable kinds.” McCann found herself in the same position as Evans. She also sources her grains from areas outside of California because of concerns about the nutrition contents of flour. “We get our flour from Montana because the local grains here do not have enough protein,” McCann said. “The heartier grains with more proteins are grown in mountainous regions so growing that kind of wheat in San Luis Obispo would be a difficult process.” The protein found in flour is an important component of bread. It helps bread retain its shape and bakers add it to create a better taste. Protein is much like the glue in bread — binding together all the flavors and ultimately the shape of the bread, McCann said. “Protein is a big part of bread as it’s an indicator of good bread and composure. If there’s not enough protein, the bread falls apart,” McCann said. Another reason these two bakeries do not source local grains is a lack of grain millers in San Luis Obispo. Evans said that because of the local food movement, there are a growing number of local wheat farmers. They have responded to the shift in demand for local heritage grains. Bakers like Evans have a vested interest in these grains because of their distinctive and desirable taste. But another challenge arose.


“We can’t get these grains without a miller and that’s a big part of the problem here,” Evans said. “Yes, the local bread movement is gaining speed, but it’s hard for bakers to catch up without the resurrection of local millers taking place.” However, Evans has found a local wheat farmer who is also a miller named Larry Kandarian of Kandarian Farms near Los Osos. Evans is hoping to introduce some new bread recipes using Kandarian’s flour. There is hope for the future of local grains and the local milling industry as seen with the emergence of Kandarian Farms. The California Grain Campaign, launched by California farmers, is also working to help start the marketing to accompany a boom of local grains. The California Grain Campaign is dedicated to getting bakeries in California to use at least 20 percent of local grains in their products by 2020. The website states the campaign’s goals are “to encourage production and consumption of local, whole grains and to expand market opportunities for small scale grain farmers.” Including grains in the local food movement’s repertoire means further improving the quality of food products and heightening consumers’ levels of awareness. Therefore, there is a great potential for local grains to finally join the local food movement. It will depend on the combined efforts of wheat farmers, millers and bakers taking part in bringing local grains to market. “Yes, working with local grains and millers will be a slow process filled with trial and error. But it’s all so exciting as we can really redefine bread and the local movement as a whole,” Evans said.

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RED BLUFF BULL & GELDING SALE Auctioning the best in the west

By Chloe Fowler Photos provided by Marianne Brownfield


armers and ranchers gathered Jan. 24-28, 2017, in Red Bluff, California, searching for flawless stock to add to their herds. The Annual Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale calls breeders, stockmen, ranchers, vendors and spectators from near and far to the quiet town that bustles once a year with excitement and energy. Attendees boast the sale is one of the best consignment bull sales west of the Rockies. This year marked the 76th Annual Red Bluff Bull Sale, the 55th Annual Gelding Sale and the 39th Annual Stock Dog Sale. The bull sale began in order to increase the amount of quality stock within and surrounding Tehama County. More than 75 years later, people today from multiple states travel to buy and sell livestock and see cowboy history come alive with the stirring of boots, Wranglers, spurs and cowboy hats. Of the three sales, the Stock Dog Sale is live-streamed and bids can be made online. However, both the bull and gelding sale remain an entirely on-site sale, meaning online auctioneering is not part of the sales process. Adam Owens manages the complete event from sales to vendor booths. He said the event “helps bring in foot traffic as well as keeps the small-town feel. It also is beneficial to the local community of Red Bluff to help bring business to town.”

All the bulls sold at the auction are inspected for high-quality standards and not all of them brought to the grounds make it into the sale catalog. Once the bulls arrive, they are analyzed, or sifted, for soundness, strength of structure, and to be free of Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus Persistent Infection (BVD-PI), and trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease prevalent among cattle. They are then sorted by breed. Prior to the day of the sale, the cattle are judged according to their breed and class and designated as halter broke or range

long distance trailer rides can cause cattle to lose weight and change their eating patterns. Condron arrives at the sale before the opening day so his cattle are prepared for judging and the sale. “We come down the Saturday before, so that the bulls have a chance to get acclimated and get used to being around here,” Condron said. The utmost care and concern is given to all animals as the seller wants the animals to bring a respectable price and the bidders want healthy cattle added to their herd. Another aspect of the Red Bluff Sale are the geldings. Geldings are castrated male horses and known to be more manageable in and out of arenas than their female counterparts. This year, the gelding sale hosted 75 geldings which were guided through an inspection and analyzing, or sifting, a - Adam Owens, event manager process similar to the bull examination. Soundness and health are paramount ready. This year 288 bulls passed for the geldings. The sifting process out of about 400. The bulls are then tests the horse’s fitness and agility to meticulously judged and a champion work cattle. This year was the first for each breed is selected. The 2017 implementation of calf branding. The Supreme Bull was a Polled Hereford geldings to be sold were ridden into consigned by Murphy Herefords and the arena and demonstrated their purchased by Gary Silva for $6,000. ability to work in a branding setting. Dave Condron, a Charolais breeder The dog show is similar to the from Powell Butte, Oregon, has gelding show — they are both being brought bulls to the sale for more than judged on their functionality and 20 years. Others come from as far as effectiveness on a cattle ranch. Bidders Nevada, and Washington. However, search for dogs with strength as well

"It also is beneficial to the local community of Red Bluff to help bring business to town.”

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as a willingness to please. Tim Woods from Cottonwood, California, trains dogs and sells them for showing prior to the dogs working on a cattle ranch. “This sale spreads the word of your animals,” Woods said. While he’s newer to the stock dog industry, Woods said his animals are beginning to be recognized because of the exposure gained at Red Bluff. The sale concluded with the 25th Annual Cinch Jeans Red Bluff Bucking Best, an event similar to a rodeo, including bull and bronc riding and ended with a dance. Local FFA chapters entered to compete in the calf scramble, an event where recently

weaned calves are set loose in the ring and teams of two students from each chapter will race to catch and halter a calf. The teams must then lead the calves to a designated spot. The winners received a buckle and the second place team a pair of new boots. The event, which often sells out, kept spectators on the edge of their seats. With its motto, “Where the Best in the West Meet and Compete,” the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale is a historic and important event which continues to attract many from across the country. The nonprofit event supports the agriculture community with items such as the Water for Life

Bull — a high quality bull is donated to the sale, with all the proceeds given to support the protection of ranchers and farmers’ water rights. This year the Water for Life Bull raised $13,000. The sale also provides youth interested in agriculture with scholarships and monetary support — giving a platform for those who want to inspire the next generation of agriculturalists. Adam Owens said the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale and all the events surrounding it are an authentic step back in time; critical to maintaining the history and traditional values of agriculture.

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STOCK DOGS Ranching with man's best friend

By Emma Morris Photos by Jim Morris


ome ranchers would argue their best ranch hands aren’t paid employees, and in fact don’t have hands at all. Many ranchers rely on help from four paws. Livestock or stock dogs have helped ranchers improve the efficiency of their operations for hundreds of years, starting with sheep and cattle operations in Australia and the British Isles. Stock dogs made their first appearance in the United States at the turn of the 19th century. While there is a large variety 22 | Summer 2017

of stock dog breeds, the primary breeds used today are border collie, Australian shepherd, Australian cattle dog or heelers, and kelpie. Some breeds such as heelers have been bred for and are more adept to working with larger animals like cattle. But other breeds are said to be too rough to handle sheep or goats. Others, like border collies, are known to have a softer and more calculated touch and work well with both sheep and cattle. Whatever their specialty, stock dogs are also called herding or working

dogs and differentiated from livestock guard dogs. While guard dogs protect livestock from predators, herding dogs assist in gathering and working with livestock. As with most livestock, breeding and pedigree are critical in the professional stock dog industry. Many of the best stock dog lineages in the United States are imported from other countries, according to longtime dog trainer Bill Honeycutt from Lodi, California. He said showcasing and marketing the dog’s talents at dog


trials is also important. “I’ve imported every dog I’ve ever had, usually from England. If you go to a U.S. dog trial, more than 90 percent of the dogs are imported,” Honeycutt said. Trials are designed to mimic the work a dog would do on a ranch, but with a competitive spin. Linda DeJong of the United States Border Collie Handler’s Association is a frequent dog trial competitor. “Trials are a dance involving two very different types of animals, all with different aims. The dog has the instincts of a predator and wants to control the stock. The stock has the instincts of prey and want to avoid the pressure of the predator,” DeJong said. She said balancing those components can result in success at trials. Many producers attend the trials if they are looking to purchase a new dog for their operation. Jennifer Stewart of Tully Creek Ranch in Napa, California, raises sheep and is a

proponent of dog trials. Even if attendees don’t compete, Stewart said trials enable them “to see how the dogs work, see if there is correlation in bloodlines, and how that compares to what you need in a dog.” Ideally, dog trials should parallel the work a dog would do on a ranch or livestock operation. “In theory there should not be any differences. Generally, on the farm the dog learns tasks needed for that particular farm or ranch. At trial there is more pressure to be precise and a shorter time on the course,” DeJong said. Like people, no two dogs are exactly alike and Honeycutt said this makes the training process more of an art than a science, since not all herding dogs are quality working dogs. “Usually, out of a litter of say 10 pups, you’ll get two or three that just don’t work,” Honeycutt said. But, if trained properly, most stock dogs enjoy the work they’re doing either in trials or on a ranch. “If they don’t love

it, they’re typically not operative,” Honeycutt said. The trainer or handler plays a vital role in the efficacy of a stock dog. Even the best dogs can do more harm than good if they are mishandled or poorly trained. "Most trainers have a profound respect for their dogs and the value the dogs bring to an operation," DeJong said. “It’s one of the most beautiful relationships in the world. The ability to communicate with a different species in a profound way… They’re the best co-worker ever, always eager to go to work,” Stewart said. Rusty Jeffers of the Northern California Sheep Dog Association said his dog’s value is immeasurable. “There are things dogs can do that can’t be done any other way — gathering from large distances, penning, sorting. If you’ve ever tried to do these things without a dog, you will quickly understand their value,” Jeffers said. agcircle | 23



Sharing stories through social media By Elise Regusci Photos provided by Jenny Holtermann


enny Holtermann, a Cal Poly graduate (Agribusiness, ‘09), found her niche advocating for agriculture. In 2013 she launched “Almond Girl Jenny,” a successful blog in conjunction with other social media platforms, to share facts and stories behind one of California’s leading agricultural commodities — almonds. Since the launch of “Almond Girl Jenny” Holtermann has gained thousands of followers. She started by showcasing the happenings of her family’s almond operation and as she gained followers, expanded into 24 | Summer 2017

other areas of the almond industry. She said the purpose behind “Almond Girl Jenny” is to share real-life stories of agriculture and dispel industry misconceptions. “I wanted a means to correct these misconceptions and tell the truth about farming. Telling their story helps put a face to a farmer. I think people really appreciate seeing a face and a family behind the food that they eat,” Holtermann said. Holtermann now resides near her husband’s family almond operation in Wasco, California, in the Central


Valley. In trying to capture all aspects of the almond industry, she covers the harvest, farming, family, drought, recipes, technology and water issues in California. Currently, she is working on a series called “Ask The Expert” with a focus on industry members who are involved in the production process. These stories will provide a complete picture of what it takes for farmers to grow quality almonds. Recipes including almond joy bites, almond granola, and almond coleslaw are featured on the blog and further promote interesting ways to incorporate almonds into cooking. Holtermann documents every aspect of what it takes to grow almonds from using bees to pollinate almond trees and the equipment needed to aid in almond shaking. She accompanies all her posts with photos to further depict the depth of California’s almond industry. California grows 80 percent of the world’s supply of almonds, according to the Almond Board of California. Holtermann explained how California is the only state in the United States that can grow almonds — making it a unique aspect of the state’s agricultural industry. She said the Golden State’s climate and soil composition create ideal growing conditions for almond production. “I think it (California almond production) is unique and intrigues people. People are not familiar with it… unless you grew up in the Central Valley of California,” Holtermann said. Holtermann writes blogs about once a week and tweets

multiple times a day using Twitter. Her Twitter handle, @almondgirljenny, has more than 1,000 followers. Social media platforms enable her to be engaged with her followers, she said. She sees the greatest influence on her audience when she shares the family aspect of farming. Holtermann said writing for both consumers and agriculturalists is key in having a blog appeal to a wide audience base. Carissa Sauer, manager of industry communications at the Almond Board of California, commented on the impact “Almond Girl Jenny” has had on the industry. “She is the epitome of an almond ambassador. She understands what it means to advocate. There is no topic that is too big or too small,” Sauer said. Regarding using social media for both a consumer and producer audience, Sauer added, “Social media offers an opportunity to have the twoway conversation.” Holtermann said she strives to keep posts timely and concise. “I like to switch it up and bring in different aspects. Keeping the material fresh keeps people intrigued so they are not reading the same things every year,” she said. “Blogging is important because it is your own platform and means of communication. It is a way for you to tell your story.” The Almond Board of California gives “Almond Girl Jenny” resources and support for her blog through various avenues. To join Holtermann’s efforts, others are encouraged to use the Almond Board’s Almond Ambassadors — a program that sends out weekly updates and gives tips and ideas to those wanting to share the story of the almond industry.

“She is the epitome of an almond ambassador. She understands what it means to advocate. There is no topic that is too big or too small.”

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Online Produce Shopping Groceries just a click away By Mary Allen Photos by Samantha Wallace


active users of online grocery services, as reported magine searching for the perfect tomatoes or ripe by BMC’s study “How consumers are using online melon. Rather than walking through a farmer’s grocery and what it means for retailers in 2016.” market or grocery aisle, envision a computer Purchasing groceries online can be difficult to screen and there it is — fresh, ripe produce at conceptualize, especially consumers’ fingertips. the thought of someone With one click, it can else selecting each piece be ordered for of produce other than home delivery. the consumer. While Digital interaction some online produce permeates society items have recognizable from recipe searches brands, others products to online grocery do not display a brand shopping. Home label at all. Similar to delivery of groceries storefront shopping, takes just a few hours several factors are where the service known by retailers to is available. This incentivize buying convenient system food online. led to a 10 percent - Carl Jorgensen, director of global thought growth of online “It’s all about the leadership-wellness at Daymon Worldwide grocery purchases right combination of between 2011 and convenience, price 2013, according to 2016 research by Brick Meets and quality,” said Carl Jorgensen, director of global thought leadership-wellness at Daymon Worldwide, Click (BMC), a consulting and retail advisory firm. a global retail strategy and service company. Forty-one percent of consumers have purchased “Produce shopping is a very tactile, hands-on online groceries and one in five U.S. consumers are

“Online produce shopping can only grow. Increasingly, consumers associate fresh produce with wellness. Wellness is the fastestgrowing trend at retail.”

b 26 | Summer 2017


process. It requires care in selection, handling and delivery. The customer must trust an online order will be fulfilled, as well or better than imagined,” Jorgensen said. This type of service doesn’t come cheap and if consumers have one disappointing experience they will quickly abandon online produce buying, said Jorgensen. “Consumers will be willing to pay a premium for outstanding service and quality.” One of the service components of online shopping is the convenience factor of home delivery. In some cases, this method outsources to a third party that fulfills deliveries by using online mediums or applications. For example, Amazon Fresh is an allencompassing cyber marketplace allowing customers to order a variety of produce, not limited to the availability at local supermarkets. Amazon Fresh subscribers receive free, two-day shipping. Meanwhile competitors, like Google Express, offer comparable same-day home delivery to most major metropolitan cities. Applications such as Peapod or Instacart provide customers the option to have home deliveries of local produce by an online “shopping cart” with only 60 to 90 minutes of waiting time. Another strategy to compel online produce purchases is called click-and-collect. This option exists for consumers to select the items

they desire and pick them up at a convenient time at stores such as Kroger, Whole Foods or Walmart. Jorgensen said that click-and-collect figures are particularly compelling in online grocery space. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Boston Consulting Group reported a 30 to 50 percent spike in sales across online and click-andcollect channels versus traditional shopping in 2016. “Click-and-collect is more often handled by the retailers’ own personnel, and has fewer risks of producing unsatisfactory experiences. It is generally less expensive for the customer, but lacks the convenience of home delivery,” Jorgensen said.

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Distribution areas for online purchases are increasing and expanding as demand rises. Amazon has taken the initiative and started building more distribution centers from Sacramento to West Virginia. In January, Amazon announced plans to hire over 100,000 workers in the U.S. With more distribution centers being built in California such as in Tracy, Riverside County, and potentially Fresno, the distribution range for delivery will expand to smaller cities like San Luis Obispo. Millennials willingly lead the way to embrace the convenience of online shopping more than any other generation, according to Matt Lally of Nielsen Fresh, a fresh food consulting and solutions company. “It’s critical that all parties find a way to instill confidence that the produce a consumer receives is of the same quality as if they’d

selected it first-hand themselves,” Lally said. Online produce shopping could make or break several new ventures from eCommerce apps to spinoffs of major companies like Amazon. “The big challenge will be selling premium produce online on a standalone basis. The reason: it costs more to sell high-quality produce right than most people are willing to pay,” said Bill Bishop, chief architect of BMC. As the produce industry can attest, more consumers are becoming health conscience and want healthy deliverables. With this in mind, Jorgensen said, “Online produce shopping can only grow. Increasingly, consumers associate fresh produce with wellness. Wellness is the fastest growing trend at retail.”

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BACK COUNTRY TRAILS The art of mule packing

By Emma Morris Photos by Lynne Bryan


ransportation and cargo movement was different in the United States before cars, trucks, trains and paved roads were commonplace. People relied on their own backs and the backs of animals to carry their possessions. Perhaps the most efficient of those “pack animals” were mules, which is a hybrid cross of a donkey and a horse. They are relatively large compared to an average horse, sure-footed and can carry the weight of a pack or passenger for long distances through rough country. Pack mules played a role in Western expansion in the early 19th century by carrying settlers’ luggage across the country. They also aided during the Civil War and both World Wars by carrying artillery, supplies and men to areas otherwise inaccessible. Mules were instrumental in construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, the

Panama Canal, and countless other roads, trails, dams and buildings throughout the country. While new equipment and technologies mostly eliminated the need for mule power on a large scale, there are still corners of the world which cannot be reached any other way than by foot or on horseback. In the event supplies need to be packed to remote areas, pack mules are preferred. Packing was once common knowledge — but today, only a select few have mastered this skill. Some of these “master packers” shared their advice and offered stories from the trail. At 80 years old, Mike Bryan of Bryan-Morris Ranch in Etna, California, remembers learning to pack mules for hunting and cattle drives when he was 12. In 1987, Bryan and his business partner Steve “Bink” Sherman and their wives, Lynne

and Karen, respectively, started a commercial mule packing business called Bryan & Sherman Packing, LLC. They mostly packed in the Marble Mountains, Russian Wilderness, and Trinity Alps in northern California. Bryan’s slogan is “40 years a packer and never broke an egg.” Bobbie Jo Silcott’s family ranched in Tehachapi, California, and she grew up spending summers learning about moving cattle and the importance of caring for the land. The family spent many summers camping in the Eastern Sierra Mountains and developed a love for the steep, rugged terrain only mules could get you through. Silcott and her husband, Steve, moved to Bishop Creek in their retirement where Bobbie Jo Silcott helped out with local packers getting tourists, animals, supplies and photo groups in and out of the mountains safely.

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Packing Stories Silcott: In 2013, my packing partner and I took four guests on a 10-day trip. This was my partner's first trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon wilderness. We got a late start (8 a.m.) as we were to make 24 miles that day. After about 14 miles of trail, the mustang I was riding, Mo, threw a shoe. About an hour later, he threw another shoe. Each time this happened, we had to take time to re-shoe. We finally arrived in Goddard Canyon where we met up with our guests. We tied up our riding animals and started to unload. My partner was leading four mules with our supplies and I was leading two mules with with our guests' gear. We tied up our riding animals while he went to unload my two mules and I watched the other four. As I expected, General, the whip mule thought we were done and tried to lay down fully loaded, which could have injured him and broken up the loads. I kept General up and then Tibb, the mule in front of General tried to roll. That was it. I yelled over to my partner that I was taking off up the hill, as we had three more miles of switchbacks and a creek crossing to get to our camp. And we were losing daylight. He eventually caught up to us. Mo and I had been to the stock camp many times, so with my head lamp we arrived just fine. Each evening the stock animals are let loose to graze nearby camp. They generally stay close, especially in the dark. I woke Mitchell up the next morning at 5 a.m. since we needed to locate our stock before the light broke or they would be on the move. The first problem was my partner arrived in the dark and did not know what the terrain was like. I told him to go all the way to the drift fence, and listen for the bells. At about 7 a.m. he came back into camp looking like a lost boy and said he couldn’t find them. I asked if he had gone all the way to the drift fence and he said no. I told him to get moving and go all the way to the drift fence because we needed those animals back in order to move our guests up to the new camp in Evolution Meadow. I was getting really nervous. And then I heard bells! In comes my partner riding Mo bareback with all the mules following. Thinking about turning the stock out each night to graze, my partner said as we rode back to our camp “it’s the most ridiculous, stupid thing in the world, to turn eight animals loose like that in the night.” We held over for two more nights with no problems. A couple nights later, I woke up to a ruckus in the wee hours. There was yelling and crashing with my partner, who was sleeping over by the grain. Turns out he was trying to get his hat back from Quigley the mule! Not knowing what he was up to at the time, I thought a bear had run through camp. As I got closer I saw the chairs were stomped on, my rollup table was turned over and lying down in the rocks. The bear bin was down by the creek and Quigley, the mule, was now trying to carry the ice chest off by the handle. Our camp looked like a bomb went off. Luckily, Quigley couldn’t get into the ice chest because it was duct taped. The funniest thing was when I woke up later in the morning to start our day, I looked over and there was Quigley lying next to my partner’s bed roll and they both were sound asleep like nothing had happened! The next five days were pretty calm compared to our first five!

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Bryan: Gosh, there’s about a trillion stories I could tell. I once packed a man’s ashes out so his family could spread them in the mountains. I’ll never forget that one. Bryan’s wife, Lynne, who was a business partner and often cooked on the trail, added another tale. Lynne: Sometime in the ‘90s, a woman from Berkeley hired us to do a gourmet 50th birthday dinner at a mountain lake on a full moon. She had this dream that she would spend her 50th birthday in the mountains so we took her and seven of her friends (all lawyers) to Paradise Lake in the Marble Mountains. Most of them had never been on a horse before. Usually when we do a fully-guided trip, we provide the food and all the cooking. But in this case, they said they would do the dinner and we could do the rest. One of the lawyers got a San Francisco butcher free from a murder charge, and as thanks the butcher gave him free meat for life. So, they brought expensive porterhouse steaks for the main dish. They also brought San Francisco sourdough bread and fresh produce from their gardens. They had the best quality wine, and chocolate cake, Cuban cigars, and port for after dinner. One of the women sat by the lake and hand-whipped whipping cream to top the cake. They had a white tablecloth and we packed in tables (which we would never usually do). They set the whole thing up out by the lake at the full moon. It was unusual but they were very gracious and invited us to eat with them.


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The Best Mule Most packers have a favorite or hardest-working mule. Mules have a reputation for being fairly temperamental, so the good ones usually stand out. “My best mule was named Bud,” Bryan said. “He could pack anything. When I would start to pack him, he wouldn’t move, so I always had to make sure I had him where I wanted him when I started.” One sign of a good mule is their willingness to pack anything they’re given. “Once I packed a floating dredger on Bud for a miner on what’s called a 'top pack,' and it stuck right out over his ears. He couldn’t raise his head so he walked the whole time with his head down,” Bryan said. A testament to quality care, Bud is still alive today at more than 30 years old. Silcott’s favorite mule is named Snickers. “She is a beautiful paint mule with so much heart and energy. She can climb like a mountain goat, she’s very sure footed and is an independent soul,” Silcott said. She added that Snickers was always

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willing to stick to the trail, even in times of apparent danger. “The winter of 2011 was pretty big so we were riding over heavy snow that spring and summer on Piute Pass. The mules had to jump up more than two feet onto a snow bridge with water running under it. Some of the mules balked, especially the loaded ones. Snickers jumped up but would not take the route where the snow was thinning. She wanted to be on the high side which was much deeper with snow. I trusted her instincts because she always kept me safe," Silcott said. Snickers’ value did not go unnoticed in the packing community. She won World Grand Champion Gymkhana Mule at Mule Days 2012 in Bishop, California. Advice for Beginners Mule packing is certainly not an easy task to learn and planning a packing trip can be daunting — especially for beginners. “The first consideration is the mules — their personalities, and their size

have to be taken into account,” Silcott said. “Heavy items have to be on the inside or the bottom and padded well with packing pads. Items next to the animals hide should be soft as possible. Through the whole process, you are continuously thinking about what mule you are putting which loads on.” The client’s needs and wants also need to be considered in the process. “You can always count on something odd that people can’t live without. Guitars and fishing rods seem to be prone to getting broken. On a travel trip, you get to know the loads really well because you pack and unpack them so many times. That’s a good time to learn,” Silcott said. “The most common mistake by far is not balancing the load,” Bryan said. “Also, trying to pack too much on one mule. We’ve found that the average load weight is 150 pounds, so 75 on each side. They can carry much more weight than that, but not very far. If you want them to work for a long time, 150 pounds is a good weight.”


Favorite Places Packers get to see a lot of country, but they typically have a favorite place that never gets old. The master packers shared that one of the best perks of the packing business is the scenery. Almost all packing is done in high-mountain territory, which can provide beautiful views. “My favorite place to pack is Red Rocks in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. The wildflowers grow as high as the horses. It’s beautiful,” said Lynne Bryan. “My favorite place was Sequoia and Kings Canyon Wilderness, which is the trip of a lifetime and one of the most beautiful places on earth,” Silcott said. “I have been blessed to make the trip many times and have such good memories. I really love the travel trips. I always said they were therapy for me.”

Finger-licking Good Food and cooking are also a highlight of the packing business. Many commercial packers offer meal services to their clients. Mules’ ability to carry large amounts of weight makes it easy for packers to bring more food than just jerky and trail mix. Most packers have a favorite meal, or a traditional “first night” meal. “My favorite meal is a seven-course Irish dinner. That’s a joke,” Bryan said. “I would do anything — all the wrangling, all the packing, all the saddling, and take care of all the stock — in order to avoid cooking. Bink or Lynne were the cooks. But my favorite meal was barbeque steak, corn on the cob and salad.” “It is tradition for us, on a travel trip, to have steak on the first night,” Silcott said. “We cook the steaks right over the open fire on a little grill that I pack in. I bring fresh salad loaded

with our last fresh veggies for a while, ranch dressing and my homemade cowpuncher beans.” Packing at Cal Poly Cal Poly recently developed a packing enterprise on campus, taught by Lou Moore-Jacobsen, who has more than 40 years of experience training and showing both horses and mules. The course teaches students how to pack mules and horses and how to competitively pack and compete in the annual packing competition in Bishop. While the competition is done with live mules, students in the enterprise practice on a dummy mule made of metal and wood. The dummy was crafted by Cal Poly lecturer Sherri Freeman and her son Billy Freeman for the team. In the spring quarter, 22 students enrolled in the enterprise and three teams of four students competed at the 2017 Mule Days. Visit www. to see the results.


agcircle | 39

RURAL LAND APPRAISAL A niche real estate market

By Karah Varner & Brock Center Staff Photos provided by Samantha Wallace & JoAnn Wall


roperty appraisal is the process of developing an evaluation of value for a specific property. Rural and agricultural real estate appraisal is a specialized market segment with a wide range of land and property diversity. Accredited Rural Land Appraisers have expertise in ranchland, farmland, feed yards, dairies, vineyards, gins, poultry, timber operations and other specialized agribusinesses. Appraisal reports form the basis for many transactions such as mortgage loans, settling estates, taxation and establishing a sale price for a property. Cal Poly alumna JoAnn Wall (Agribusiness, ’98) of Templeton, California, is one of five Accredited Rural Appraisers in the San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Monterey counties. Accredited Rural Appraiser is the highest level of property appraisal certification that can be earned through the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA.) The ASFMRA is the organization charged with providing quality education for those interested in farm management or appraising rural and agricultural land. Wall said, “The difference between commercial and residential real estate is fairly significant and multi-

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layered.” She said residential real estate is exchanged more frequently and appraisals can be performed in a matter of hours. “Agricultural real estate require an appraiser who is familiar with the underlying economics that drive those specific markets, and in some cases, sub markets such as citrus, cattle or vineyards. Those appraisals generally take much longer to complete because the appraiser has to collect, analyze and report a much wider array of data that influences value,” Wall said. For Accredited Rural Appraisers, however, Wall said the certification is not the only training required. “Recent legislation passed requiring appraisers to be licensed through the government before considered official,” she said. Through the government, there are four levels of licensing attainable — the highest being the certified general license, which Wall holds. This licensing is necessary for rural appraisers, along with a recommended bachelor’s degree and certification with the ASFMRA. “One of the most rewarding, yet frustrating, aspects of agricultural real estate is that each property is unique. It’s


rare for me to appraise two similar properties in a row,” agribusiness program, agreed. With a focus in marketing, Wall said. She might be analyzing an avocado grove in Couchman took AGB 326 Rural Property Appraisal Ventura County and the next week evaluating a cattle offered at Cal Poly as an elective. Though she had no prior ranch in Monterey County. knowledge of the subject before the class, she felt it was “Agricultural real estate, unlike residential properties, “invaluable to learn about that in a formal setting.” rarely sell, so that makes my work challenging. How do She described the subject as being both applicable you value something that is not frequently exchanged in and down-to-earth. the market?” Wall said. For Couchman, this class was a prime example of Though the process to becoming a rural land appraiser Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto as part of the classwork is rigorous, including separate licensing and accreditation was researching and appraising an actual property. processes and a few Couchman said the class years of on the job encouraged her to think training, Wall feels it more critically about the was all worth it. After aspects of agriculture graduating from which some may take Cal Poly she accepted for granted. “This course an internship with is supposed to make American AgCredit, you ask questions,” which provided her Couchman said. initial appraisal training. Wayne Howard, “I gained perspective property appraisal on my future and credit professor at Cal Poly, seizes my aspirations to luck,” the opportunity to connect Wall said. She made his years of experience as - JoAnn Wall, Accredited Rural Appraiser an agricultural economist connections within the agricultural industry to property appraisal. through this experience Before his time at and began her life-long career Cal Poly, Howard worked as an economist all over the as an accredited rural appraiser. world including Canada and the Philippines. For Wall, the work became more personal when she “I see the class as an opportunity to learn about the developed her specialization, which includes a focus in the fundamental aspects of property appraisal and how it wine industry and land used for viticulture practices. applies to our lives, whether students are gaining a degree “The reality of this field is that if you can stick it out, in agribusiness or not,” Howard said. To best prepare his you will be in a career with a high demand and level of students for a career in land appraisal, he supplements his potential,” Wall said. teachings with speakers from the industry to highlight their Bethany Couchman, a recent graduate of Cal Poly’s unique careers.

“The reality of this field is that if you can stick it out, you will be in a career with a high demand and level of potential.”

Alumna JoAnn Wall agcircle | 41

The Communication Scarcity in

AGRICULTURE A new book by Jessica Eise

By Annie Hamilton Photos provided by Jessica Eise


essica Eise, communications director at Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, admits she didn’t know much about the food and agriculture industries before taking her current post. She said her expertise and skill came from working internationally as a media production specialist. Her international experience combined with working in media and broadcast in Washington, D.C., on policy issues gave her vital insights into the ways people communicate with one another, Eise said. She had the opportunity to meet presidents, politicians and international business leaders. With Eise's communication skills sharpened, she noticed the lack of communication between agriculture producers and their consumers as she transitioned herself into the world of agriculture at Purdue about three years ago. That’s when she realized the need for a publication on the topic. The result was her book, The Communication Scarcity

in Agriculture, which she co-authored with Whitney Hodde. She hopes to educate agriculture producers and consumers regarding the importance of communicating with each other. Cal Poly’s agricultural communication senior Tyler Menane has noticed what Eise describes as a lot of confusion between consumers and the agricultural industry, especially throughout food marketing. “In today’s society, with so many different food blogs and opinions, consumers have a hard time knowing who to believe when trying to make healthy decisions,” Menane said. “As a college student feel overly influenced by - Jessica Eise Ivarious marking campaigns and never know if I am being properly informed.” Eise’s idea for the book stemmed from both personal and professional realizations. "Personally, I was stunned at my own ignorance of these critical issues and admittedly appalled at how misinformed I was in many areas. ‘How could this happen?’ I asked myself," Eise said.

"If I hadn’t come from a non-agricultural background, it would have been very hard for me to see the picture clearly."

42 | Summer 2017


Eise considers herself media savvy and educated. She knew how to question sources. Yet, as she was learning about agricultural issues, she said, "I became more and more worried about all my other peers around the world who weren’t getting the same exposure I was. How could we help them gain the knowledge that I was?” Professionally, Eise observed that the gap between agriculture and consumers wasn’t garnering a lot of indepth literary coverage even though there was interest present among the vast majority of stakeholders. Thomas Raycraft, a fourth generation farmer from the Sacramento Valley, believes it is vital the agricultural industry finds a voice and communicates to consumers better. “I have seen my family members grow and change our farming operation to best meet the needs of consumers,” Raycraft said. However, Raycraft said the main problem is consumers are still disconnected from where their food is coming from. The lack of knowledge has led to what the industry considers drastic regulations and policies. “These regulations and policies are often expensive for farmers and ranchers to adapt and can result in family farms being sold to make ends meet,” Raycraft said. While agriculturalists often struggle to help consumers

understand the path their food follows, Eise said her consumer background uniquely helped her to compose the book. "If I hadn’t come from a non-agricultural background, it would have been very hard for me to see the picture clearly,” she said, “I would not have been able to see both sides so easily, to empathize and understand all groups." “Also, I was ready to challenge — challenge my own beliefs and those of others, and challenge us all to look at things in a new way,” Eise added. Eise said her book "emphasizes how changing demographics, cultural shifts, technological advances and agriculture’s silence all combined to create the perfect storm — a great chasm between those who know, and those who don’t know, agriculture." In Eise’s book, she uses detailed examples including Chipotle marketing, paid celebrity bloggers, media frenzies, and genetically modified organism (GMOs), to highlight the ramifications of a poorly-informed consumer base. Eise said analyzing policy debates and consumerdriven business decisions today makes a strong case for thoughtful, meaningful agricultural communication.

agcircle | 43

HUNTING Conservation through the scope

Story and photos by Samantha Wallace


rchaeological evidence suggests early human ancestors have been hunting animals for at least 2 million years. In the pre-civilization era, humans were dependent on complex hunting skills for survival. Today’s premise of hunting remains the same, but with a heightened emphasis of wildlife management and land conservation. Hunting is a large part of America’s rich cultural heritage and an

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important component of the national economy. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly $200 million in hunters' federal excise taxes from the sale of hunting licenses, tags and stamps are distributed annually to state agencies supporting wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands open to hunters, and hunter education and safety classes. “Hunting efforts contribute to a sound habitat for all game and non-

game species. Without hunters, the environment would lack financial drive to maintain resources and overpopulation would cause unnecessary overpopulation and suffering among species,” said Jeff Smith, hunt program coordinator for California Waterfowl Association. The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action reported that about 15 million Americans hunt, contributing more


than $38.3 billion to the economy each year and supporting more than 680,000 jobs. International, federal and state hunting regulations are strict to ensure hunting activities are controlled and performed in an ethical way. Regulations determine which animals can be hunted in specific seasons. There are typically two types of hunting: big game and small game. Examples of species hunted range from white-tailed deer, moose, elk, and bear, to rabbits, coyotes and waterfowl. Guided hunting tours for all species are a niche market. While avid hunters keep secret their favorite sporting locations, hunting guides can make

and experienced guide with the right attitude and mission, has led to a 99 percent kill-rate on our property,” he said. “Having a high success rate for my clients is something I am proud of.” According to the California Department of Fish and Game, each state has the authority and responsibility to govern the season dates and species allowed to be hunted. Seasons and limits for species such as deer are usually determined by state game commissions, which are comprised of wildlife biologists, researchers and various interest groups.

weekend across the state. In 2014, he placed third in California for Specklebelly Goose Calling and acts as a guide for some of the most elite businessmen in the country. “My grandpa took me hunting at his duck clubs when I was 6 years old. When we went into his blinds, my role was to sit quietly and watch for ducks. I learned a lot about patience and how to appreciate and respect nature,” Wallace said. Waterfowl hunting is the practice of hunting ducks, geese or any other waterfowl for food or sport. In the fall, the ducks and geese are finished raising their young and begin migrating to warmer areas to

a profit when it comes to hosting clients looking for ideal game to hunt. Professional hunting guides are used for people who do not know a local area. They are paid to take clients hunting on leased, private or public designated hunting lands. Guides study migratory patterns of game, how to precisely call in the prey and strategically set up decoys in the field. Clay Avila of Avila Guided Hunts in Bradley, California, said he takes pride in providing honest, memorable and successful hunts. “Being a licensed

“As a fourth generation cattle rancher I know how important it is to manage the land correctly," Avila said. "We have had wild pigs on our place for as long as my dad can remember. Hunting the land ensures that it is being managed properly and is coexisting with all the other ecosystems on the property." While most people don’t have the opportunity to hunt at high-end duck clubs in their lifetime, Anthony Wallace, owner of American Heritage Guide Service, does so nearly every

feed. During duck hunting season, which typically lasts from October through January, Wallace spends every weekend guiding hunts — some of which are booked months in advance. “There is an art to duck hunting that most people don’t understand. From the placement of decoys in the water to the amount of fur on their feathers. The details it takes to make the decoys look real-life is unbelievable but it makes all the difference in the world,” Wallace said. Waterfowl hunters position agcircle | 45

themselves in blinds near rivers, wetlands acres. Buttner added, lakes, ponds or in agricultural fields "Preserving both rice lands and planted with rice, corn, barley or wetlands in the Valley will serve to wheat. Hunters build blinds to cover keep the waterfowl population healthy themselves from the prey. Waterfowl for years to come.” have sharp eyes and can see colors Many hunters enjoy local spots but — hence the reason hunters use some set their sights on international camouflage. Hunting at elite duck experiences. Nick Passaglia, an avid clubs has its perks but Wallace said hunter from Yuba City, California, his true passion is guiding junior recently went hunting in Africa with hunts for kids and their parents. He his father for cape buffalo, impala, said he enjoys spreading his wealth of kudu, warthog, waterbucks and zebra. knowledge to the next generation, as “I definitely never thought I would go his grandpa did for him. to Africa to hunt. It was surreal being “I’m always striving for my there," Passaglia said. "What most next most memorable hunt. It’s an people don’t understand is a hunt incredible feeling like that costs to see the smile between $15,000 on the faces of a and $50,000 child and their and that money parents after they goes back to the shoot their first conservation duck or turkey,” efforts in Wallace said. Africa. All the By respecting meat hunted seasons and is donated to limits, purchasing local tribes all required and they eat licenses, and well for weeks paying federal — nothing excise taxes is wasted,” on hunting Passaglia said. equipment and James Stone, ammunition, CEO of Elite individual Sportsman hunters make a Guide Services big contribution said, “We need toward ensuring conservationists the future of to preserve many species species and of wildlife and control haywire - Anthony Wallace, owner of habitat for the populations. American Heritage Guide Service future. “When Hunting helps done under the balance wildlife rules of good sportsmanship, hunting populations with what the land can is a combination of art, skill and support, limits crop damage and scientific strategy,” Wallace said. curtails disease outbreaks." Paul Buttner, manager of Regardless of the location Environmental Affairs for California or species, hunters develop an Rice Commission said, “Rice fields appreciation for the land. “As and wetlands combine to provide society loses its ties to wildlife and world-class water bird habitat for the conservation, the bonds with nature Central Valley, which is known to formed by hunting are the greatest have some of the highest densities of hope for creating the next generation wintering waterfowl in the world." of true conservationists," Wallace said. Buttner said while a viable rice "It’s clear hunting is much more than industry supports the majority of a sport. It’s even more than a lifestyle these habitat acres, investments by or means for food. Hunting keeps our waterfowl hunters play an important country's land beautiful, intact and role in helping to maintain productive ensures the future of its wildlife."

“When done under the rules of good sportsmanship, hunting is a combination of art, skill and scientific strategy.”

46 | Summer 2017

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