AgCircle Winter 2020

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cal poly in san luis obispo winter 2020 cal poly in san luis obispo winter 2020



Volume 38, Issue 1, Winter 2020


Felipe Vallejo Karen Cannon, Ph. D


Megan Silcott


Breanna Barker Haley Boyajian Taylor Chalstrom McKenna Marchetti Caleigh Martella Molly Morris Madison Somerday


Felipe Vallejo



Haley Boyajian Hannah Kondratko Ignacio Mata-Garcia Janeen Moore Molly Morris Haley Olson Camille Silvera Felipe Vallejo Ellie Ann Vander Dussen Breanna Barker, Phil Doyle, Hannah Kondratko, Molly Morris, Megan Silcott Madison Bellah, Emily Brower, Lauren Brown, Aaron Capinpin, Sofia Clark, Rachel Granger, Jazmyn Gray, Ashley Holly, Miranda Knight, Lauryn Luescher, Maya MacGregor, Emily Mahoney, Sophia McDevitt, Kiana Meagner, Hailey Nagma, Cameryn Oakes, Sierra Parr, Emma Roellig, Sydney Sherman, Ivy Yahnke

PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE All material in this issue may be reproduced with the expressed written permission of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication. The content of agcircle is generated by students and does not reflect the opinions of California Polytechnic State University, its administration or faculty. Printed by Poor Richard’s Press Cos. Published by the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication. CALIFORNIA POLYTECHNIC STATE UNIVERSITY Brock Center for Agricultural Communication 1 Grand Avenue, Building 10, Room 234 San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 #agcirclemagazine @brockcenter

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Letter from the staff Welcome to the winter 2020 issue of AgCircle. The Brock Center team has been working hard to curate topics highlighting the history and trends influencing agriculture, the future of family farms, and popular California commodities. Our goal while creating AgCircle is to showcase student work, including writing, photography and design in a modern way, all while telling the story of agriculture. We hope you enjoy the work from our team and talented student volunteers. Happy reading! Felipe, Haley, Caleigh, Breanna, McKenna, Taylor, Madison and Molly














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Keeping it in the family HANDING DOWN THE CHALLENGES OF FAMILY FARMS Story by Janeen Moore


amily farms form the backbone of the agricultural industry’s history and successes. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Census of Agriculture, almost 96% of farms in the United States are family owned. These family farmers put their livelihoods on the line to produce food for the global economy. Farmers have dealt with regulations, long droughts, and public scrutiny, but one challenge is inevitable to every family farm: passing the reins from one generation to the next. For centuries, families have continued to pass their farming legacies to younger family members in hopes they will continue to farm the land. In San Luis Obispo County, generational agriculture is built on the foundation of beef cattle and growing alfalfa, vegetable crops, and beans. Some of these farmers formed the 40 Japanese American families who created the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange (P.O.V.E) Co-op in 1922. These 40 families, which made up the first generation, joined together to expand their selling power and variety of crops. The P.O.V.E Co-op experienced success until World War II, when all 40 families were sent to relocation camps. At the end of the war, many of these families had no land to come back to. They left the Central Coast to find farmland to lease because of the California Alien Land Law Act of 1913, also known as the Webb-Honey Act, which stated 6 | Winter 2020

“noncitizens were unable to buy and own land.” Tom Ikeda is one of the current operators of P.O.V.E and oversees his family’s farming business, Ikeda Bros. “After the war, we were one of about 10 families from P.O.V.E. that were able to come back because we owned land and had someone watch out for our land,” he said. Ikeda explained that bouncing back after the war was extremely challenging for the farmers. Some had children who were citizens and were old enough to purchase land prior to being placed in relocation camps. Most did not have the credit or capital to re-establish themselves when they came back. Despite the obstacles placed before them, Ikeda’s family history of farming continued. Ikeda said resuming farming on the Central Coast would have been impossible without the support from neighboring farming families. “During World War II, my family was sent away, but we had land here that my uncle owned, and the Loomis family watched over it for us,” Ikeda said. It took years of hard work and long hours for the families to re-establish P.O.V.E in 1946. The farming successfully resumed, and the second generation began running the business and continued rebuilding despite the aftermath of war. Once the families had the ability to obtain more capital and

Photo by Breanna Barker



Photo by Megan Silcott

resources, they expanded their variety of crops to include Napa cabbage and other Asian vegetables. They also started the process of updating P.O.V.E equipment and technology to increase efficiency and output of the packing house. Ikeda said around the mid-1970s his older cousins, the first members of the third generation, came back to the family business. Over the course of the next 10 years, Ikeda and many other children from these families graduated from college and started working for P.O.V.E. After years of their parents rebuilding the company and finding a profitable niche in growing and selling Asian vegetables, Ikeda said this new generation had enormous shoes to fill. “My father’s generation had to pick themselves up after the war and farm through the Great Depression,” Ikeda said. The greatest challenge his generation had to face was proving themselves to their fathers and demonstrating they were capable running the company in their place. “I had all these great ideas fresh out of college and got the breaks put on. I was told that I may have learned this stuff in college, but that it doesn’t always translate well out in the field.” After about 10 years of working with his father, 8 | Winter 2020

Ikeda said, “He finally decided to trust my decisions.” Since then, the Ikedas, along with members of the Hayashi, Saruwatari, Kobara, and Dohi families, managed the P.O.V.E Co-op. In 2019, fourth-generation family members graduated high school and college. They are slowly coming back to P.O.V.E and the family farms to begin their agricultural careers. Ikeda said while they expect their children to prove themselves and work hard over the coming years, they also expect them to manage the company while complying with increasing water quality regulations, food safety requirements, and trade tariffs. Ikeda explained that while they have always had regulations to meet, the regulations are becoming more stringent, and their children are going to have to acclimate to those conditions to remain successful. Reminiscing about his own decision to return to the family business makes Ikeda think of his son’s decision to return to farming. “It was my choice to come back, as it was my son Brendan’s. He was out here during his freshman year of high school moving sprinkler pipe, pulling weeds, and hating every second of it,” Ikeda said. “I told him that if he didn’t love it, he didn’t have to come back. A year and a half later, he said he

Photo provided by Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange

wanted to study agriculture. I don’t think Brendan has regretted it yet,” Ikeda said. Ikeda’s nephew, Brycen Ikeda, joined the family farming business after he graduated from Cal Poly in 2009 with a degree in agribusiness. Brycen had a job offer with a company he interned with but he turned it down to come back to the family business right out of college.

companies with his family. “I’m significantly older than my cousins who just graduated college within the last couple of years. But as they start coming back to the farm, I am looking forward to working with them,” he said. While there is excitement in the air about this new era of management, there is still a level of uncertainty. Brycen Ikeda said that like many other farming families, there is a fear that farming will end if their children don’t choose a career in agriculture. “I’m always wondering if I am doing a good enough job. I do have the fear that after four generations, it could end with me,” he said.

“I always had an idea that I wanted to work in agriculture, but I didn’t always want to come back,” Brycen Ikeda said. In high school he had the same experience as his cousin — pulling weeds, moving sprinklers, and worked up to driving the tractors. “If you force kids to come back, they are not going to “Working on the succeed. It’s the ones who want to come back and are family farm as a going to put the effort and time into it that are going to teenager made me be successful and carry things on.” realize I wanted a Brycen Ikeda career in agriculture.” Brycen explained the most difficult part of coming back to the family farming business was that there hadn’t been an established position for him. “Because I was the first of my generation, which is the fourth generation to come back, I was kind of the guinea pig,” he said. He spent the first couple years at Ikeda Bros. working various jobs and filling in where they needed him. Throughout the years, Brycen Ikeda said he’s proved worthy of managing his family’s company and now serves as the president of P.O.V.E.

As the average age of the farmer increases and more families start passing ownership to younger family members, many family farms will face similar challenges as the P.O.V.E families. Tom Ikeda emphasized the importance of incoming generations to have the desire and passion to keep the farm going. “A big part of the success of our succession is that we were never forced to come back. If you force kids to come back, they are not going to succeed. It’s the ones who want to come back and are going to put the effort and time into it that are going to be successful and carry things on,” he explained.

Looking to the future of P.O.V.E. and Ikeda Bros., Brycen Ikeda said he’s excited to manage both agcircle


Photos by Hannah Kondratko 10 | Winter 2020

Kandarian Farms for The Futuire



eople often recycle old ideas and add a modern twist. As the well-known phrase suggests, “Sooner or later, everything old is new again.” Human nutrition and eating habits are no exception.

grows about 200 crops, including ancient grains, legumes and herbs on 130-acres. Kandarian said he loves a good challenge and plans to increase from 200 crops into thousands of varietals in the near future.

Research shows consumers want to eat simpler, more sustainably and local. Kandarian Organic Farms in Los Osos, California, checks the box for all these food trends. This small farm, with sustainability in mind, is bringing back ancient grains -- the original superfoods. The crops are Department of Agriculture-certified organic and 100% GMO free.

“I’m crazy. I do crazy things,” he says.

Larry Kandarian is the owner and operator of Kandarian Organic farms. He graduated as a mechanical engineer and worked on the development of the first space shuttle, as well as the team that created the USB port. In 1970, he shifted gears to work in a flower seed company, where he used his engineering expertise to design harvest equipment. About six years later, Kandarian became a dad and moved to Fresno. He grew a wide variety of seed crops, pumpkins and carrots on the 17 farms he either owned or leased. After 40 years in Fresno, Kandarian was ready for something new again. “I was looking for something to do that would feed people,” Kandarian said. His passion to nourish those around him led him to buy property in Los Osos, where he

Kandarian said the history of cultivating ancient grains is deeply rooted within him. He’s half Armenian, which means Kandarian’s ancestors lived along the Fertile Crescent, known as the birthplace of agriculture. About 75,000 years ago, the first farmers transitioned from hunters and gatherers and started cultivating crops such as einkorn and emmer, wheat’s earliest ancestors. Kandarian said he feels connected to this part of history and claims it “just makes sense” to grow these ancient foods. According to the Whole Grains Council (WGC), for a grain to be considered “ancient,” it must be largely unchanged over the last several hundred years. The WGC also notes ancient grains prove to be more nutritious than refined grain products and thrive with lower levels of pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation. This holds true to Kandarian’s methods of farming. His management practices are organic and regenerative. He enlists intercropping, or polyculture, which was the primary method of growing food in previous generations. agcircle

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conventional farmer. By planting his crops in low spots, he can then drag a ripsaw over the field when weeds begin to emerge. At first glance, it looks as if the crops will be destroyed, but they stand right back up while the weeds are drug off from the top. But he points out that his practice is, “way atypical” and exclusive of anyone else’s.

and enrich soil health. Currently residing on Kandarian’s farm is a mule foot pig named Roscoe and a duck named Lenard. These animals contribute to the farm’s uniqueness and are the start of the new direction this small operation is moving toward. Kandarian has plans to bring in more animals, such as two bred Tamworth pigs, French naked neck chickens, St. Croix hair sheep and a burro to protect the lot of them.

He also wants to implement holistic management practices through regenerative farming, which may include utilizing livestock for rotational grazing. As animals graze in intentional areas, manure and plant matter are pressed back into the earth

information about Kandarian Organic Farms, visit or follow @kandarianorganicfarms on Instagram.

“We have a lot to learn, but we The diversity of multi-crop are going to make it work,” systems provide benefits such he said. as enhancied soil health, lower Kandarian is a farmer who not fertilizer requirements and pest only loves what he does but resistance. Kandarian plants loves to share it as well. He is a two to four different crops “Many doubt this method, teacher to anyone willing to learn together, mixing legumes, herbs but with my background in and ask questions. He also said and grains or rotates them. By engineering, I am able to do this that his favorite part of the job is doing this, his grains absorb all in a way that doesn’t pinch the being in nature, bird watching the fertilizer they need from the crops,” Kandarian said. and riding his equipment. legumes grown before them. “I like to drive the With this method “We have a lot to learn, but we are going to make it work.” tractor. It’s my of farming there is therapy.” no need Larry Kandarian for pesticides. For more “We never use any chemicals, and we don’t have to because we have such a variety of crops harboring so many good bugs that eat the bad bugs,” Kandarian said. Kandarian’s weed management strategy differs from a

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The rise of avocados


Photos by Molly Morris agcircle

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ver the past few decades, avocados have become one of the more popular crops in the United States. While some food trends come and go, years of dedicated marketing efforts have paid dividends for avocado growers, packers and shippers. From 2000 to 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported avocado consumption increased from 543 million pounds to 2.4 billion pounds. How did this fruit increase to such a peak in popularity? “The popularity of (avocados)

become very popular in the United States, particularly around events such as the Super Bowl and summer holidays, including the Fourth of July. Marketing and exposure contributed to the avocado’s Hollywood-like fame.” Golden trade agreements helped push avocados into “primetime.” Professor Lauren Garner leads the citrus and avocado production course at Cal Poly. She said growers became nervous when the North American Free Trade Agreement

The popularity of (avocados) is the result of consumers knowing more about them. Avocados can now be used for so much more, and millennials have latched onto them. Jenna Rose Lee

is the result of consumers knowing more about them,” said Jenna Rose Lee (agricultural aommunication, ‘18), marketing coordinator for Mission Produce. “Avocados can now be used for so much more, and millennials have latched onto them.” Mission Produce, headquartered in Oxnard, California, owns and operates avocado packing facilities in multiple global locations.

(NAFTA) was being negotiated a few years ago.

Lee said the fruit has become more versatile because today’s consumers have greater knowledge of the health and nutritional values of avocados.

Trade improvements and tracking made market data available from the dollars set aside to monitor avocado trading. The California Avocado Commission tracks acreage and trade data for the state. The commission reported that California produces about 80% of the avocados grown in the United States. The commission also noted that avocado growers see an abundant yield in one season followed by a sparse season the next, known as alternate bearing.

From fast-food restaurants to grocery stores and social media, this fruit’s popularity has grown dramatically. Avocados gained traction as add-ons to sandwiches, burgers and salads, which became more popular across the country. Zac Benedict, online marketing director for the California Avocado Commission, said “Avocado consumption has 14 | Winter 2020

“The growers were scared of how the trade agreement would affect them and placed money aside for a large marketing effort,” Garner said. She added, “NAFTA had a smaller impact than expected and the avocado industry flourished with the new trade options, which enabled the fruit to play out in consumers’ everyday lives.”

“My Ph.D. research on avocados

really [was] about trying to determine different factors that could help to improve yield,” Garner said. Her research goal was “to use those [factors] to influence more flowers to become fruits.” Avocados produce many flowers, but only a minuscule percentage of those flowers eventually develop into fruit. The United States simply cannot rely on California’s growers to produce fruit at the growing rate of demand, so the U.S. imports avocados from many different countries, including Chile, Mexico and Peru. Hass avocados are native to California and mass produced in Michoacán, Mexico. Mexico is the world’s largest avocado producer, with approximately 106,000 hectares, or 206,000 acres. Therefore, Mexico is also the largest provider of avocados to the U.S., with exports reaching 1.04 million metric tons. However, it’s only been since 2007 that updated trade agreements allowed Mexican avocado imports to all 50 states. The availability of a higher quantity of avocados yearround has impacted the fruit’s popularity, and the global supply is now available during all seasons. With more fruit available worldwide, consumers’ choice moved from grabbing any fruit available at the store to being able to select avocados based on ripeness. “Mission Produce is the first in North America to have a ripening team in the distribution center,” Lee said. The ripening team ensures Mission Produce avocados are sent off at select stages within the ripening process, enabling consumers to purchase higher

volumes of perfectly ripened avocados. Buying “perfectly ripened” avocados helps with retaining consumers, according to Lee.

specific purpose in a timely fashion. Think Amazon Prime kind of shopping selection. Lee said all the marketing efforts and work from growers prove the avocado has made drastic leaps forward in being an

Benedict said, “Avocado toast has been a very popular trend online, undoubtedly leading to increased consumption of avocados around the world. The California Avocado Commission Similar to the ripening allocates resources to engage team that Mission Produce with the target incorporated, there California avocado are also technological “Avocados have a great presence on social media; they consumer through advances for growers have an iconic shape that is unmistakable.” various online to help guarantee channels, including Zac Benedict the perfect pick an e-newsletter with time. “Growers can more than 200,000 use technology to everyday commodity. subscribers, Facebook, Twitter, recognize when fruit is close to Instagram and YouTube.” ripe so that it can be sold at Benedict said, “Social media its perfect state of ripeness,” Garner said.

gives avocado lovers around the world a platform to connect, share recipes, facts or fun creations. Avocados have a great presence on social media; they have an iconic shape that is unmistakable.”

The ability to incorporate a ripening team and the use of technology to check the readiness of a fruit increases the likelihood that consumers can choose a product for their

They even have their own emoji.

Avocados surface each year as a superfood on lists including Teen Vogue and WebMD. However it’s sliced, diced, scooped or folded into a recipe, the green goddess will most likely continue to increase in demand and production and on social media.


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Leading the competition PUTTING THE PASO ROBLES HORSE PARK ON THE MAP Story by Molly Morris


he Paso Robles Horse Park began just five years ago in 2015. In that short time, the facility and staff have expanded the Central Coast’s relevance within the equestrian community. The park’s growing recognition embodies the work and effort of a well-groomed teams’ desire. For owner Linda Starkman, all the pieces came together when starting the new facility. It was built on childhood memories of visiting California’s scenic coast and a vision for a place to hold professional-level show jumping competitions in the area.

berm and have a great view of the arenas. Park Director Amanda Diefenderfer began at the park in early 2015, six months before opening the gates. As a lifelong equestrian, Diefenderfer’s connection to the show jumping world married perfectly with her industry expertise in marketing and event consulting. With six sand arenas and a large turf field, the Park is well equipped to handle high-caliber hunterjumper shows, making her work a dream. “This year was particularly exciting. We hit the calendar of events that we want to continue to grow on with 11 shows, four of which were at a top national caliber. Our last show had 350 stalls and 250 horses on property,” Diefenderfer reflected.

Capitalizing on the need for high-level show facilities on the where showing was a sort of Central Coast, Starkman sought vacation, and I don’t think that out the property and spent years should be lost,” Collins said. on logistics before physically Top-quality facilities with a staff establishing the park. In the willing to invest their efforts initial moments of seeing the With a prominent, highly ranked to make showing at the Paso property, Starkman remembers season this past calendar year, Robles Horse Park a unique “walking in and sitting on the the Park staff expects to grow experience, truly more than berm, I knew it was just a competition the place,” she said. “It grounds. “Horses are fun, our shows have got to reflect that. turned out exactly how If it’s not fun, we’re not doing it!” Collins’ focus as the I pictured it in 2009.” Facility Manager is Linda Starkman From its roots, to position the many Starkman fostered moving elements of an environment the Park to allow the attention focused on bringing joy and next year to about 500 stalls. The to detail at this venue to shine entertainment back into focus increase requires even more of in a way that truly differentiates within the horse show world. Facility Manager Kathy Collins. its ability to host top-level Simply put, Starkman said the Diefenderfer said Collins is competitors and serve goal of the park is to remember, known for her show jumping. their needs. “Horses are fun, our shows have “Her horse experience brings The park’s staff consists of got to reflect that. If it’s not fun, a fantastic perspective of current and former riders, we’re not doing it!” meeting competitors’ needs,” creating a dynamic team with Starkman said creating a show Diefenderfer explained. genuine understanding of space with unique features like Collins noted their goal from the events, riders and horses; all the signature Adirondack chairs show perspective is to make it essential characteristics in an provide some flexibility so that family fun. unpredictable and you can sit anywhere on the fast-paced industry. “We grew up in a generation 16 | Winter 2020

Photos by Molly Morris


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“We do it all,” Starkman said of the female-led team. “It’s just us girls, and we do everything in house.” The depth and caliber of competitors riding at the park is another impressive aspect the show staff said has elevated shows, particularly at the last two November shows, the Fall Classic and Oak Tree Classic. Both shows saw nationally and globally ranked riders participate. Winning the $40,000 Fall Classic Grand Prix was rider Andrew Jayne of Maplewood Stables from Reno, Nevada. The fall shows also attracted International Federation for Equestrian Sports trainer and rider Hillary Ridland. Ridland followed Jayne with the second-place ribbon. The following week’s Oak Tree Classic Grand Prix was won by rider Bjorn Ikast of BBB Show Jumpers located in Tiburon, California. 18 | Winter 2020

Among the prestigious trainers and riders competing were Olympic rider Guy Thomas in the Fall Classic Series, and former Olympic gold medalist Will Simpson competed in shows earlier this season. Diefenderfer said, “Simpson has been influential and supportive as a competitor and educator, coming to local community educational events and sharing his insight on making a career out of riding.” Aside from the 11 primary shows, the Paso Robles Horse Park Foundation also hosts auxiliary activities for nonprofit organization Jack’s Helping Hands, with a landmark ‘Jack’s House’ near the Show Office on the park grounds. Here, kids from the program and community come and get to watch horses and do some interactive crafts. Starkman said, “The high-caliber facilities and dedicated staff at the Paso Robles Horse Park

will foster competition and exceptional horsemanship for years to come.” Expanding beyond the equine world, the park is also hosting the USDAA (United States Dog Agility Associaton) Dog Agility World Games in November 2020. This is the only World Games Show on the West Coast and one of four worldwide. As the Paso Robles Horse Park continues to host world-class competitions, the facility is quickly meeting and exceeding all expectations of the initial vision from 2009. Starkman knew it was the right place to build her dreams.

Photos provided by Bobby Boyajian and Frank Ratto

rooted in the bay SAN FRANCISCO BAY’S AGRICULTURE HISTORY Story by Haley Boyajian


sk anyone what they know about the San Francisco Bay Area and usually the response is related to the area’s technology, commerce, business and its bustling cities. Rarely do people mention agriculture. Yet the Bay Area has a rich agricultural history, with food production as a cornerstone. Frank Ratto is the vice president of marketing at Ratto Bros. located in Modesto, California. The Ratto family began farming in 1905 on Bay Farm Island in Oakland, California. The family’s 25-acre farm is located near the Oakland Airport and the Oakland Coliseum. In addition to the Ratto family, many other farms got their start near Oakland. “Bay Farm Island was an incredible lush island of produce with rich fertile soil,” Ratto said. “Oakland’s Bay Farm Island,

South San Francisco, San Jose, had great orchards and beautiful fruit trees and vegetable gardens,” Ratto said. “Urban sprawl forced all those growers to different parts of California or, in some cases, to cash in and take up other lifestyles.” The Ratto Bros. moved their operation to another part of California beginning in 1957. They stopped farming in Oakland about 15 years ago. Their former property is a shopping center, a common conversion for farmland in areas of the country with high land values. Deborah Olson is a fourthgeneration cherry and apricot producer for C.J. Olson Cherries in Sunnyvale, California. C.J. Olson Cherries is in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and despite rapid change, is still operating. The Olsons started with 30 acres of cherry and apricot trees in the

1930s and farmed that original acreage through the 1960s. When companies such as NASA and Hewlett Packard moved into the Bay Area, the landscape started to change. More people came in and swapped properties. “We didn’t put all of our eggs in one basket,” Olson explained. “Some of the farmland was transitioned into commercial property to have a backup in case a crop failed.” Today, Olson’s father tends 10 acres of apricots and 3 acres of cherries on land owned by the city of Sunnyvale. The city deemed the orchards a heritage park to remain as they are for future generations. Despite a changing landscape, issues with government agencies, and labor challenges, Olson said continuing the farming lifestyle is important. “We all enjoy what we agcircle

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do, and we try to make it work. Farming is a lifestyle,” Olson added. That’s a benefit. That’s why I stay in it.” She said she loves working with growers. “It’s earthbound, real people who really care about what they are doing. It’s gratifying and satisfying work because you are giving people something that is good for them,” she said. Just a stone’s throw from Oakland and the Ratto’s operation is Bobby Boyajian, a wholesale produce distributor in South San Francisco. He is the owner and founder of Integrated Trade Services (ITS), which began in 1999. Years prior, Boyajian said, the produce terminals in the South San Francsco area were high-end places to shop. When Boyajian first began with produce, everything was sourced locally. He explained certain commodities were unavailable 20 | Winter 2020

until the seasons came back around. “The season follows the sun,” Boyajian said. He has seen distribution change and the big production places shift into California’s Salinas Valley, Coachella Valley and Imperial Valley. “Products are always in season somewhere,” he said.

all his clients’ needs with a trip to the produce terminal, where farmers brought their quality goods to the mass market. With the rapid rise in the Bay Area’s population and the increase in competitors, Boyajian is now navigating a changing landscape. “There was time when I could pick from specific trees in

said many immigrants came from farming communities in their countries of origin and found the Bay Area climate and rich soil allowed them to go back to the earth. Today, Olson said agriculture still exists in the Bay Area. It just looks different.

“There are pockets This shift [of agriculture], “It’s earthbound, real people who really care about what they away from like what we do,” are doing. It’s gratifying and satisfying work because you are predominantly Olson said. “There giving people something that is good for them.” local sourcing are community Deborah Olson to other regions gardens sprinkled of California throughout the coincides with Bay Area.” Some orchards that produced the best the growth of Silicon Valley and of these gardens provide food peaches for my clients,” its increased property values. for the homeless and people Boyajian said. Boyajian said new generations in need. “These operations get Ratto echoed seeing a shift in the of Bay Area farmers all wanted children and people involved Bay Area produce market and to cash out. It was the older with where their food is coming farming business. “I think people generation, the generation from,” she added. lose sight of what a melting pot present before the rapid the Bay Area was. Everybody growth of the Bay Area, who came. Immigrants came to our stood their ground. country for opportunity.” Ratto He remembers being able to fill agcircle

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Garlic Goodness A LOOK INTO THE GARLIC INDUSTRY Story by Camille Silvera

Photo by Breanna Barker 22 | Winter 2020

Garlic ice cream. Garlic dipping sauce. Garlic seasonings and garlic infused olive oil. Throughout history and around the world, garlic is a simple ingredient used to add flavor in a variety of food products. Although China produces most of the world’s garlic, California leads the United States’ garlic production. In 2017, California garlic exports were valued at $38 million, according to the California Agricultural Statistics Review. “Before 1994 there were 12 commercial garlic growers in the United States,” said Executive Vice President Ken Christopher of Christopher Ranch located in Gilroy, California. “In 1994, Chinese exporters began selling their garlic below production cost with the intent of gaining market share. Since that time, nine American garlic growers have been driven out of business,” Christopher said. The three largest companies still in operation are Christopher Ranch, The Garlic Co. based in Bakersfield, California, and Spice World headquartered in Orlando, Florida. John Layous is the co-founder and partner of The Garlic Co. He said, “In the U.S., we really have two garlic industries: the fresh industry and the dehydrated industry. Both are basically located in California.” Layous explained that being a main producer in California can have its challenges. “We are a very highly regulated state. As regulations related to labor and water tighten, it makes business more challenging.” Stateside production competes with imports from Argentina, China, Mexico and Spain. “All the producers from these

Photo provided by Christopher Ranch countries have labor and regulation advantages over a California producer,” Layous said. “However, most of them don’t have enough advantage to counter the efficient and progressive methods we have developed over the years.” In order to compete with outside threats, U.S. companies are making changes to help market American-grown garlic. “We are doing everything we can to update our packaging to emphasize the American presence and make our product more prestigious,” Christopher said. By using traditional and social media, Christopher Ranch hopes its brand is memorable and encourages consumers to reach for American-produced garlic. To guarantee garlic is available yearround, American producers use cold room storage. “When we harvest garlic, we store about 2 million pounds in a cold room. We have about 20 cold rooms on our campus,” Christopher said of his company’s production site in Gilroy. “We lower the temperature to just below freezing, then remove all the oxygen from the room. This puts the garlic to sleep and keeps it as

fresh as when it was harvested.” After leaving cold storage, garlic is transported in refrigerated trucks and delivered to satellite distribution facilities across the country to ensure freshness. Christopher said maintaining that cold chain is one of the most important aspects of garlic production and transportation. According to Christopher, Christopher Ranch was the first innovator of peeled garlic back in the 1980’s. “There was a crew cleaning out our production area with compressed air. They realized there were some cloves of garlic at the bottom of the bucket,” said Christopher. “When firing the air into the bucket, the cloves whipped around and almost like magic the skin fell right off.” Within a year, Christopher Ranch had the nation’s first industrial garlic peeler, and to this day they have the most advanced garlic peeler technology in the nation. People often ask if the company uses acid to peel the garlic, but it all happens with streams of air. The perfectly peeled garlic bulbs then make their way into roasted, pickled, jarred and pureed food products. Fresh and processed garlic is a agcircle

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popularity, traditional garlic is celebrated in California. The Gilroy Garlic Festival, known for being a fun fair at which to try different garlic foods, was established in 1979. Founded by Don Christopher and friends in the industry, the Christopher family has been involved since the beginning. “Every year we have around 4,000 volunteers, and we have raised $40 million that goes back to our community,” said Christopher. “It’s a wonderful celebration for all things garlic, but it’s also about family, community, volunteerism, philanthropy–everything that makes the best of us.”

Photo provided by Christopher Ranch versatile ingredient for many types of cooking. Regardless of the dish, garlic typically constitutes just 1-3% of ingredients. “But a little goes a long way, as garlic packs a punch of flavor and adds depth that can transform foods in all cultures,” said Jeff Crace, vice president of sales and marketing for Garlic King in Temecula, California. “Garlic is used in many different kinds of cuisines, including Asian, Indian and Italian,” Crace said. From smoky to sweet to pungent, garlic can be used in many ways. Recent trends combine garlic with sweeter ingredients. Crace said, “We’ve made foods such as garlic Mexican hot chocolate and black garlic chocolate cupcakes.” Another increasing use of garlic involves some science. The intense garlic smell most are familiar with comes from allicin. Allicin is the enzyme in garlic that makes the strong smell and taste when it is peeled and cut. When given time to humidify 24 | Winter 2020

and ferment, garlic goes from white to black in color. Crace said black garlic is becoming a popular product in the industry and can be used in many dishes.

As for what to expect from the California garlic industry in the future, organic garlic is trending and Christopher noted a 25% increase in demand in the last 15 years.

“Organics is the wave of the future” said Christopher. “In order to compete with cheap “Black garlic is regular garlic that foreign competition, we will need has gone through a humidity to ensure that we offer the safest premium garlic options. We are aggressively “Organics is the wave of the future.” expanding our organic Ken Christopher garlic production.” process for four weeks,” said Crace. “In this fermentation process, there is a conversion of sugar molecules that changes the garlic into a sweet, caramelized flavor.” Black garlic is less pungent than traditional garlic and is used in a variety of dishes, including desserts. “The pungency is caused from the allicin in the garlic and that is broken down during the fermentation process,” Crace said. Although black garlic is gaining

California and U.S. garlic industries are working diligently to secure their markets. Garlic producers face import and export challenges in an everchanging political environment. With new trends and uses of garlic, the demand for garlic is expected to grow.

Beyond rodeo


Photo by Kaus Photography


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he Cal Poly Rodeo team has been a force to be reckoned with since its start in 1939. With more than 44 national titles, including College Rodeo of the Year for the West Coast Region for 2016 and 2017, the team continues to add accolades and impressive alumni to its roster. Stories of the team are shared on various news platforms as well as social media, and some members pursue their careers at the professional level after college. For those who don’t make it professionally, they are able to make their impact elsewhere. Shannon Jones rodeoed during her time at Cal Poly, competing in all the women’s events, including goat tying, barrel racing, breakaway roping and team roping. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2010, she continued to compete in roping events and later earned her MBA from Tarleton State University in Texas. Jones went on to pursue a law degree at UCLA and has since worked as a real estate attorney in San Luis Obispo to be close to her hometown of Morro Bay. While working in San Luis Obispo, Jones met her fiancée, and they moved to Dallas, Texas, where he works for Stetson and Resistol and she is a real estate attorney. Jones said she truly believes her involvement on the Cal Poly Rodeo team was tremendously beneficial. “I always talked about it in my interviews in law school and how it really teaches you discipline and responsibility and what hard work is,” Jones said. 26 | Winter 2020

Fellow Cal Poly graduate Katie Rice spoke of the same experience. She started her career on the Central Coast with Solterra Strategies and now works for Cactus Ropes. “You just learn a ton about time management and responsibility,” Rice said. “The rodeo team isn’t just about practicing and going

During college, Rice competed in every woman’s event. Her time was filled with rodeo and classwork. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural communication in 2017 and her master’s degree in agricultural education in 2018. Rice is the marketing coordinator for Cactus Ropes, Cactus

“Honestly years from graduating you don’t remember who won what, you just remember how much fun you had and all the people that were there. It was such an amazing experience that I will have forever.” Shannon Jones

to the rodeo. There is a produced event, you understand the sponsorship side of things and how it all works, and that has really helped me in my job.”

Saddlery, and Cactus Gear. She said her work changes every day and includes creating advertisements for events, helping with sponsorship of

members to go above and beyond in the work they do in order to maintain connections and stand out to future employers. “When you go out and rodeo, try your hardest. Pitch in wherever there needs help. That goes farther than people realize. You never know who is watching. That was a big deal when I was going through college, Rice said. “I didn’t realize that my now boss was paying attention to the things that I did and how I handled situations, so keep that in perspective. You just never know.” Multiple members of the team have looked back on their time with Cal Poly rodeo and expressed gratitude for the friends and shared experiences. They said they’d do it all over again if they could. Jones said she would encourage current team members “to enjoy their time while they have it and focus on the memories made.”

Photos by Phil Doyle athletes and events, print ads for publications, running every social media platform for all three brands, and more. On top of this, Rice said she still competes in breakaway roping and team roping, both on her own and with Cactus, which encourages her to keep practicing the sport. Rice said she would not be where she is today if it were not for her team, her coach, the Agricultural Education and Communication Department, as well as all of the connections she made throughout college. The connections made while on the Cal Poly Rodeo team also helped recent graduate Wade Brown in earning his job at Maino Construction. “I got the job originally through

Ben Londo, the rodeo coach,” Brown said. “Tom Maino is kind of friends with Ben, and they do work out there together. He mentioned needing a guy or two and I expressed my interest. That’s how things got kicked off.”

“Honestly, years after graduating you don’t remember who won what,” Jones said. “You just remember how much fun you had and all the people that were there. It was such an amazing experience that I will have forever.”

Brown is mainly responsible for oversight of jobsites and ensures everything is running smoothly with the projects. In addition to working, he continues to compete in saddle bronc riding on the California Circuit, including competing in bareback riding and team roping. He graduated from Cal Poly in 2018 with his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and packaging. Cal Poly Rodeo team members work hard both in the arena and out of it — even after graduation. Rice encouraged current agcircle

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Career Pathways Program MAKING THE MOST OF THE CENTER FOR GROWING TALENT BY PMA Story by Felipe Vallejo


he produce and floral industries are searching for the next generation of leaders, and with the help of the Center for Growing Talent’s 1,200 past undergraduate participants, that need will likely be met. The Center for Growing Talent (CGT) is part of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), the world’s leading trade organization for fresh produce and floral supplies. An ambitious vision of “bringing together the global produce and floral community to grow a healthier world” is the driving force behind this search for new talent. In order to bring that vision to fruition, the association created the CGT to develop and implement unique and successful programs. “The mission of the Center for Growing Talent is to provide industry-specific solutions 28 | Winter 2020

to attract, develop and retain talent for the fresh produce and floral industry,” says Barbara Hochman, one of two program managers. Hochman, who has been with the CGT for nearly a decade, says her primary focus is the “attract” initiatives of the center’s mission, which includes the Career Pathways Program. The program aims to recruit a strong talented workforce for the fresh produce and floral industry through its different programs. Since the program’s inception in 2004, 1,200 program alumni have participated in Career Pathways’ nine programs that introduce students to internship and career opportunities within the industry. Cal Poly agribusiness senior Eugene Binunsky participated in the Career Pathways program at PMA’s 2019 Fresh Summit. “The Center for Growing Talent

was an amazing organization that helped pair me with a career ambassador and allowed me to attend workshops on how to maximize my experience at PMA,” Binunsky said. Hochman and her team carefully match program student participants with industry leaders to serve as mentors. These mentors, known as Career Ambassadors, serve as industry advisers, answer questions, introduce students to the mentors’ network, and help students embrace the endless opportunities the produce and floral industry has to offer. California Avocado Commission’s Vice President of Marketing Jan DeLyser served as a career ambassador for the past few years. “Strong talent ensures a viable future for the fresh produce and floral industries,” DeLyser

stated. “I think everyone wants to find the right place to hone their skills, develop and make a difference. It is amazing to see the level of talent that exists in students coming out of college, and it’s rewarding to see their interest in our industry.” Career Pathways programs are designed to give students insight into how the industry works throughout the supply chain. Hochman says students are better able to understand career opportunities. She said the programs, just like the industry, are “exciting and dynamic, no two days are the same, and as the industry provides delicious and healthy products, it continues to expand and so do the career opportunities within it.” Binunsky added, “After attending Fresh Summit, I now see produce as a complex and constantly evolving industry that is never repetitive. I never fully understood the importance of the whole supply chain being involved in the produce and floral industry, but after attending, I now see many opportunities for the future.” Binunsky said he learned how valuable students are to the success of the industry. “Many companies were also looking for graduates with data analysis skills that could be used for anything from sales to supply chain management,” he said.

of careers, including human resources, quality control, management and everything in between, the produce and floral industries tout “Strong talent ensures a viable future for the that people are healthier fresh produce and floral industries.” and happier when they consume more of Jan DeLyser its products.

The Center for Growing Talent reports 78% of Career Pathway participants remain in the industry today. Hochman reported 67% of program alumni interned or started their first job within the produce or floral industry. “It is very important to attract and retain strong talent for

all facets of our industry from marketing and sales to technology and production,

as well as other areas to ensure our ability to continue feeding America and the world wholesome fresh fruits and vegetables as well as providing floral products,” DeLyser said.

“PMA was an incredible opportunity to network with people from diverse companies,” said Binunsky. “Every person I spoke with was ecstatic about the industry and their role in it.”

Industry professionals are quick to point out to students the fast pace and global demand surrounding their work. From diverse products to all types agcircle

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Photos provided by Young Cattlemen’s Association

Cattle ranching with a twist THE NEXT GENERATION OF BEEF ENTHUSIASTS Story by Haley Boyajian and Felipe Vallejo


xcitement surrounding the Young Cattlemen’s Association at Cal Poly is on the rise. Some of these young leaders will return home to carry on family legacies in their own way. Others will be blazing new trails. Together they will shape the future of the beef industry.

Cal Poly’s long-running Bull Test each year with McFarlane serving as the advisor. Together, Lazanoff and McFarlane provide leadership and learning opportunities to YCA with hands-on cattle interactions and industry connections.

Zachary McFarlane, professor in the Animal Science Department, co-advises YCA with Cal Poly Beef Center Manager Aaron Lazanoff. The pair also host

“YCA provides its members with the opportunity to attend both the California’s Cattlemen Association and the National Cattlemen Beef Association

conventions. The gatherings pair student members with industry leaders at workshops, dinner exchanges, and educational sessions, along with cattle producers and breed organizations all doing their part to preserve and advance the cattle industry,” said McFarlane.

McFarlane has a specific focus Cal Poly’s Young Cattlemen’s on industry and academia, He is especially proud of is Association this year’s YCA (YCA) is a student officer team. “The “Having passion for cattle and for the people who organization focused officer team is very are involved within the industry is something that on advancing the passionate about I just can’t get away from.” beef industry. The sharing opportunities club provides its for members.” Mahlon Owens members with McFarlane pointed out access to educational the ranching legacies materials, conferences and setting up students with many of the YCA students networking events that can help opportunities in postgraduate are continuing. students find careers in the beef education, internships and Grace Guthrie, a senior cattle industry. The group is career opportunities in the agribusiness major, is focused on involving members beef industry. Lazanoff brings Cal Poly’s YCA president. Guthrie with beef cattle projects, classes, personal ranching experiences, is a seventh-generation cattle and other hands-on learning herd management, and practical rancher and formerly served opportunities on campus. industry applications to students. as YCA secretary. She began

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attending YCA meetings her freshman year and hasn’t missed a meeting since then. “One of the reasons I wanted

to come to Cal Poly is because of its strong club organizations where you can meet people with similar interests,” Guthrie said. “I love going to school with a high concentration of ranchers and people interested in the same field.”  Much like McFarlane, Guthrie thinks this year’s officer team is one of the organization’s strongest assets. “We have a really stellar officer team,” Guthrie said.  “Everyone is passionate, everyone wants to make the club grow.” This interest in growing club membership is reflected in the meeting attendance. When Guthrie joined YCA, she noted there were about 15 to 20 people at each meeting. This year, attendance has averaged between 50 to 60 students at each meeting. Mahlon Owens is a junior agricultural communication major at Cal Poly and the vice president of YCA. She also has deep roots in the cattle ranching

industry and is a fifth-generation cattle rancher. “I was born and bred into ranching,” she said. “It was just a natural step continuing in the Young Cattlrmen’s Association in college.”  Owens said the club has stepped up its community service outreach and is connecting students with members of the San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen’s Association and the SLO Cattlewoman’s Association to improve industry connections. “This officer team has made a major effort in working with cattlemen and cattlewomen within our community,” Owens explained. Owens credits the group’s advisors with much of YCA’s new-found success. “One thing I really appreciate is our advisors are encouraging.” She added, “They want us to go to conventions to meet people, and they make a point to introduce us to their networks so we can make personal connections.” Owens said her interest in cattle ranching runs deep, and she is proud to be a part of YCA.

“Having passion for cattle and for the people who are involved within the industry is something that I just can’t get away from,” Owens said. McFarlane said YCA is a bit different from most groups on Cal Poly’s campus because of its diverse membership. “I think YCA is unique because we open it to students at Cal Poly, Cuesta and Allan Hancock College,” he said. “We want to build those relationships with multiple students from different backgrounds. YCA strives to provide experience for those who don’t necessarily have a background in the beef cattle industry,” McFarlane said. According to the California Cattlemen’s Association, the beef cattle industry in California encompasses more than 100 million acres of land, including both privately owned and public rangeland managed by ranchers. The size and depth of California’s beef industry makes it the fifth largest in the nation. As the industry continues to grow, members of YCA will be well equipped with the tools, networks and knowledge for industry success.


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Niche Dairy Products GOAT MILK PRODUCTS GROW IN POPULARITY Story by Ellie Ann Vander Dussen

Photos provided by Summerhill Goat Dairy 32 | Winter 2020


rom ice cream to cheese, goat dairy products are finding their niche. Even in skincare, goat milk-based products are among a noticeable increase in demand for unique and handcrafted items.

exports a majority of the cheese the U.S. population consumes.” As of January 2019, the largest population of milk goats in the United States lives in Wisconsin, with 72,000 milk goats and their babies, known as kids. California comes in second, with 42,000 milk goats and kids. In the past 10 years, milk goats in the U.S. increased by nearly 100,000,

and milking around 100-200 head, according to the 2009 U.S. Department of Agriculture goat industry overview. Summerhill Dairy, owned by Johnny and Anneke De Jong, is located in Hanford, California. Anneke said their goat dairy operations begin with farm to fork in mind.

Dairy nutritionist and management consultant Dr. Butch Cargile of Progressive Dairy Solutions said there is “We began with an old foura growing market bottle filler from the for goat milk. 1950s. Currently we “Our milk is most appealing to those looking for an He attributes pasteurize and bottle all-natural alternative to cow milk, especially those this increase in all the milk that we who have difficulty digesting cow milk but want to demand to the sell for retail right on country’s changing keep a milk protein in their diet.” the dairy, in our statedemographics, Anneke De Jong of-the-art creamery,” increased exposure to Anneke De Jong said. goat products, a more “The overall operation cultivated palette, and product according to the U.S. of a goat dairy is similar to that of education. And Cargile should Dairy Association. a cow dairy, except everything is know. He expanded his own While the number of head on a much, much smaller scale. businesses to include sheep and increased over time, the dairy This makes it somewhat easier to goat dairies in Twin Falls, Idaho. goat industry does not have manage, but also adds “There is increasing shelf space for goat products,” Cargile said. “The U.S. is critically short of millions of pounds of goat cheese. The European Union

many large-scale operations. Many of the goat dairies in the U.S. remain relatively small-scale farms producing, processing and distributing their own products

unique challenges.” Like cows, goats feed on alfalfa, haylage, corn silage and concentrate, but only 6-10% of agcircle

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the dry matter. Dry matter (DM) is what remains when water (moisture) is removed from a feed. “We feed goats in a very similar manner as commercial dairy [cattle] operations,” Cargile said. Cow and goat milks are similar in many ways. However, the difference in the genetic makeup causes a substantial difference in the end product. Both goat and cow milk measure high in protein. The two types of proteins milk contain include 20% whey and 80% casein. The casein protein consists of A1 and A2 beta casein, which differ only by one amino acid. Cargile said, “Goat milk has consistently been tested to be mostly homozygous with the A2 beta casein, rather than the A1 beta casein.” While some may overlook the discussion of proteins in goat milk, consumers with lactose intolerance issues often take great care in selecting dairy products. Most people who experience issues with lactose have an intolerance to the A1 beta casein present in most cow’s milk. Goat milk has the A2 beta casein, which makes it a suitable choice for those with lactose intolerance. De Jong said, “Our milk is most appealing to those looking for an all-natural alternative to cow milk, especially those who have difficulty digesting cow milk but want to keep a milk protein in their diet.” As the public learns about the health benefits of goat milk, demand seems to be rising. De Jong said although they are noticing a growth in the market, one of their greatest challenges is the small niche market for goat milk. An uptick in product could cause a flooded market. The couple works hard to monitor

all aspects of cleanliness and transparency on their facility in order to meet consumer desires. Summerhill Dairy is a Certified Humane dairy and milk plant, ensuring goats are healthy and well cared for. As with commercial dairies, handling the milk with necessary precautions is vital to success and consumer health. Anneke De Jong said, “The milk barn and creamery are all under one roof. This minimizes the movement of our milk and ensures that the milk sent out is as fresh as possible.” Beth A. Miller of the University of Arkansas co-authored a 2019 study on the global dairy goat industry with Christopher D. Lu of the University of Hawaii. According to their findings, the

U.S. dairy goat industry is similar to the U.S. dairy cow industry 15 years ago in terms of consumer awareness and government oversight. Miller and Lu cited the increasing popularity of goat products may be due to different factors such as growing consumer knowledge of unique health benefits, change in demographics, and enhanced familiarity with the products. They acknowledged that careful partnership with producers and governments can help level the playing field for both large- and small-scale goat milk producers. There is room for improvements and further development within the goat industry. “We love our goats and look forward to what the future holds,” Anneke De Jong said. agcircle

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agcircle magazine Brock Center for Agricultural Communication 1 Grand Avenue San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 @brockcenter