AgCircle Summer 2020

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agcircle |

cal poly in san luis obispo summer 2020


Volume 38, Issue 2, Spring 2020




Felipe Vallejo Karen Cannon, Ph. D. Megan Silcott Haley Boyajian Taylor Chalstrom McKenna Marchetti Caleigh Martella Molly Morris Madison Somerday Jonna Lemstra Andrew Rezendes Felipe Vallejo McKenna Marchetti Abigail Albin Haley Boyajian Taylor Chalstrom Grace Curtis Molly Morris Morgan Nunes April Olvera Dominguez Katelyn Pederson Camille Silvera Madison Somerday Felipe Vallejo Grant Anderson, Shelby Banks, Elise Bodnar, Daytona Clark, Nathan Danielson, Maia Dvoracek, Tony Farias, Erica R. Goynes, Katie Halstead, Sophie Hospodar, Yasel Hurtado, Victoria Lachnit, Lauren Ladrech, Cinthia Leyva, Grace Power Smith, Adrian Rosas, Joey Stephens, Ruby Tincup, Brett Vollrath, Briana Willson

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 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 spring 2020 issue of agcircle, a special edition for a few reasons. Despite the global pandemic, our team has been in full swing working virtually this quarter to showcase work from our talented contributors. This issue’s content features our annual photo contest, a look into the impact made by Department Head Robert Flores, the pollination journey in the bee industry, produce delivery boxes and more. Our team’s goal while developing agcircle is to highlight writing, photography and design from our contributors in an engaging way, while telling the story of agriculture. We hope you enjoy this issue! Happy Reading! Taylor, Professor Karen Cannon, Madison, Caleigh, Haley, Molly, McKenna, Andrew, Felipe, Lecturer Megan Silcott and Jonna












HALEY BOYAJIAN Page 45 agcircle| 3

26 17 06


10 22 13 4 | Summer 2020


CONTENTS 06 Busy Bees


10 Dairy Families


13 The Great Cider Rise



17 Servant Leadership

THE IMPACT OF ROBERT FLORES, PH. D. Felipe Vallejo and April Olvera Dominguez

22 A biochemistry, biology and business major walk onto a farm


26 Learning to Soar



29 Photo contest


34 Educating for safety


37 Locally Owned and Operated


42 Beachtown Ranching



45 Chicken Crossing


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Story and Photos by Katelyn Pedersen


ees are in high demand and are living up to their busy lifestyle. In California, one of the most important jobs a bee has is pollination. Bees are responsible for the health and success of many crops, especially when it comes to California almonds. Since the early 2000s, California has seen a major shift in the almond industry, one that beekeeper and Cal Poly Professor Jeremy Rose observed. He said that in 2005, California almond growers needed twice the number of hives as compared to the year prior in order to fill the growing industry’s pollination needs. This trend has only continued. With such an increase in demand, it now takes more than half of the bees in the United States to pollinate California’s almonds. During the months of February and March, bees are essential to the blossoming of almond trees. For the tree to produce the nut, cross pollination must occur. Cross pollination takes place when a bee lands on the blossom of one tree and carries that pollen to the blossom of another tree. For nut production, this type of pollination cannot happen without bees, making them essential for the success of almonds. But the relationship between bees and almonds is more than just pollination. Almond pollination is the first major event after winter. It acts almost as a reset for bees. It helps boost activity in the hive

and prepares them for their next location and pollination. “Generally it takes about two hives of bees to properly pollinate an almond tree six years or older,” explained Central Valley almond grower Rocky Silveira. “Younger trees take anywhere from a half to a full hive.” Which means, the state’s 1.3 million acres of almonds “need a lot of bees,” Rose added. Over his last 17 years of beekeeping, Rose has found with this increase in demand comes an increase in risk for the bees, beekeepers and almond growers. Like all living things, viruses and disease are a common threat. But for bees, the threat is at its highest when they are in the almond orchards. As Rose explained, “Outside of the month or two that the hives are in the almond orchards, hives are usually not in close contact with one another,” and not usually competing for the same resources. Rose added, “because the hives are in such close proximity to one another during pollination season, disease and viruses have the potential to spread quickly.” Apart from disease and viruses, other potential risks are pesticides and chemical exposure. Rose learned this the hard way when 500 of his hives were impacted by the side effects of the chemicals being applied too close to the hive locations. Apart from the health risks to the bees, there is also an economic risk for the beekeepers, a risk exacerbated by theft and agcircle| 7

vandalism, which has increased since 2005. With the hives ranging from $200-$400 a hive, losing one can be a devastating financial loss.

remain in the industry because they know how essential bees are. For Rose, his passion for bees remains because, “At a point you have to know that you will never know everything about “At a point, you have to know that you will never know them.” everything about [bees].” – Jeremy Rose

When the sun sets, the bees return home to their hives to rest for the next day’s work. This makes moving bees easier, because they are all together and less likely to sting. But for bee thieves, this makes their job all too easy. Unfortunately, this becomes a harsh reality for both beekeepers losing their bees and for growers who are depending on the bees for a successful pollination. Silveira thought he had found a bargain, with a beekeeper offering reasonably priced hives at $175 per hive, with a signed a contract. Silveira began 8 | Summer 2020

pollination on Feb. 1, but only four days later, the Sheriff explained the hives had been stolen from another beekeeper in Texas.

In the time it took the rightful owner to get from Texas to California to claim his bees, it left Silveira vulnerable, not knowing if he would have bees to pollinate his almonds. Working with local law enforcement, Silveira kept the bees on his property. The thief was arrested on Silveira’s property. Ultimately, Silveira was able to find bees to continue his pollination and have a successful crop yield. Although there are many risks in owning and depending on bees, both Silveira and Rose

One thing is for certain: The California almond industry would not be where it is today without the help of busy bees.

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Dairy Families

The Stuyt family owns and operates Stuyt Dairy Farmstead Cheese Co. in Escalon, California



t’s 5:30 a.m. and the alarm goes off. Alfred and Elio Nunes, like most dairy farmers, grab a cup of coffee and start their long day. They will not get home until the sun is down. Dairymen Alfred and Elio Nunes are brothers who run their family dairy in Turlock, California. Their parents came to the U.S. from Terceira, Azores, with a dream to make a living for their family and with a motivation to work. Both men said their work ethic came from watching their father. They are proud to follow in his footsteps. “I feel lucky that my children get to witness firsthand what hard work is all about,” Elio Nunes said. “Who knows, maybe one day they will share the same drive to want to continue our family business.” Dairy farmers work seven days a week and have very few vacations. It is not unusual for them to sacrifice family dinner and their kids’ sports games. 10 | Summer 2020

However, it is essential in order to maintain a successful business, maintain the well-being of the cows and to set an example for their family. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 99 percent of California dairy farms are family owned. This means dairies are run by families that live, shop and work in communities just like yours. Some dairy families choose to take the business risk, while others are born into it and feel obligated to continue a legacy worthy of all the discomforts and joys agriculture offers. Families like the Nuneses say they take pride in their business. They strive for it to be the best. A dairy farmer’s love for what they do goes beyond income. To them it is about the cows, and it’s about keeping a second-, third- or fourth-generation dairy farm alive. It is what their parents and grandparents did before them. Modern dairy farming began in the early 1900s


CHEESEMAKING IS A DAYLONG PROCESS. It requires a few ingredients: milk, culture (good bacteria that, when added to milk, metabolize lactose and produce lactic acid), rennet (important for the coagulation of milk) and spices if making a flavored cheese (cumin, smoked, garlic, etc.). Culture is added when the vat is half full of milk. Rennet is added when the vat is full. It then rests so the rennet can coagulate the milk. Once the proper firmness has been achieved (milk has coagulated), the curds are cut.

but has changed in recent years. Even with those changes, the Nuneses’ passion for cows and family will remain the same. Rick and Ansally Stuyt are the owners of Stuyt Dairy Farmstead Cheese Co., in Escalon, California. Both said their favorite part about owning a family dairy is their love for the cows and animals. The Stuyt’s dairy has nearly 500 Holstein cows, and they milk roughly 440 of them. The Stuyt family continues to do what they do because dairying runs generations deep on both sides of their families. While some families diversify their businesses for niche product marketing, others like the Stuyt Dairy Farmstead, add in family history to enrich current operations.

At this step, the whey is separated from the curds through the cutting process. The whey is removed, and the curds are then rinsed with hot water to wash out the lactose. After this step, the curds are scooped into the molds (plastic round forms the create a wheel of cheese) and placed under the press. Then the wheels of cheese go into a salt brine for a couple of days, and then into the aging room, where they receive their coats of wax and ripen on the shelf for their minimum 60-day aging period. After the 60-day period, cheese is sold in whole wheels, about nine pounds each, or cut and wrapped into smaller pieces.

Rick had a vision for a cheese plant in Escalon. He was inspired during his youth in the Netherlands. He wanted to make Gouda cheese, and several years after moving to California, he started making his own cheese in a five-gallon bucket. agcircle| 11

Caring for the dairy cattle includes the mixing and feeding of a total mixed ration (TMR) to help a dairy cow achieve maximum performance.

Rick’s vision turned into a family business. The Stuyt’s sold their first wedge of cheese on Dec. 10, 2015, and they hoped the cheese plant would stay in the family for years to come. Their daughters, Anastasia and Michelle, are involved in cheesemaking and plan to carry it on to future generations.

business. Alfred Nunes said the hardest part about being a dairy farmer is having a product you work so hard to make but having no say on the price you charge for it. The Stuyt family said fluctuating milk prices are a constant struggle when milk

managing a dairy through financial challenges came from his father. “When times are good, you need to save as much as you can because bad times will always come back,” Alfred Nunes said, quoting his father.

This battle for family-owned dairy farmers The Stuyts’ is not easy, but “When times are good, you need to save as much as you can dream did not the farmers keep because bad times will always come back.” – Alfred Nunes become a reality moving forward. overnight. Each generation Together, the takes their operation’s needs day family worked diligently day in profits determine nearly every by day. They say they are always and day out to get to where they step for a dairy and leave little hopeful that milk prices will be are today. Most families who room for future plans. in their favor and that the next own dairies never have the time “If the milk prices are bad, my generation will benefit from their for a family vacation because parents do not have the money challenges and successes. the cows always need to be fed, to make improvements around milked and cared for. the dairy and they are unable It is no secret some dairy to purchase new equipment if families have been struggling in needed,” Anastasia said. California and across the nation. The greatest takeaway Alfred The many rules and regulations Nunes said he learned about make it difficult to stay in 12 | Summer 2020

Photos provided by Hannah Meisinger

The great cider rise INSIGHTS INTO A GROWING INDUSTRY Story by Camille Silvera


hen thinking of marketing coordinator at Anna’s explained, “When I first came to agritourism on Cider located in Santa Ana, San Luis Obispo County, there California’s Central California. “Whereas beer is a basically wasn’t any cider here.” Coast, wineries or breweries may combination of barley, hops and When most people think of come to mind. Another popular other ingredients combined with cider in the U.S., they think of beverage trend is hard cider. a lot of water.” sparkling apple juice. Apple juice California’s hard cider scene may Cider’s fermentation process is is often sweet, but hard cider was not be like that in Washington much faster than wine’s because intended to be more of a drink to or Europe, but its cider presence of its low sugar content level. sip on like beer. and demand are growing. Cider takes just over one week to “When making cider, you have Among the many wineries and convert the sugar to alcohol, and many decisions to make,” said breweries across California, cider Raven Lukehart, tasting locations owner of Gopher are popping up “There’s this idea that cider needs to be sweet, but traditional Glenn Farms in to offer a variety cider was never sweet.” – Brigid O’Reilly San Luis Obispo, of flavors and California. brewing methods. Lukehart said factors to account Looking at the cider the timing can be adjusted for for in cider making include pH, production process, it’s an easy desired flavor outcomes. acidity, sugar, co-fermenting, comparison to wine making. “There’s this idea that cider carbonating, yeast type, and Wine and cider are both fruit needs to be sweet, but traditional fermentation vessel. products and are fermented in cider was never sweet,” Cider flavor is highly similar ways. O’Reilly said. dependent on the type of yeast “Wine is just pressed grape Neil Collins of Bristols Cider used. Beer yeast can work for juice,” said Brigid O’Reilly, agcircle| 13

cider, but typically cannot handle high alcohol content. Champagne yeast or a white wine yeast are most often chosen for cider production. “Cider is most similar to white wine,� Lukehart said. Just like white wine, it is easy to overpower the flavor; therefore, it is important to use a neutral yeast that will enhance certain characteristics without hiding others. She said it is possible to have an apple that does not contain much flavor after the fermentation process, but the type of yeast chosen can add a certain mouthfeel while enhancing some of the fruit characteristics. If the wrong yeast is used, such as a less competitive one, it can take over the flavors and add an undesirable flavor. “It is important to pick a yeast that 14 | Summer 2020

Brewers and guests enjoy the Central Coast Cider Festival.

will work best for your desired outcome,” said Lukehart.

with different herbs or flowers to add hints of flavor.

“It was originally more for me to drink,” Collins said. “At the time you couldn’t exactly sell it because no one knew what it was.”

There are thousands of cider Neil Collins is considered one apples with a variety of flavor of the very best spirit creators profiles to choose from. Just on the Central Coast. He is a like wine grape varieties create winemaker by trade and is the Because the U.S. government Merlot or Cabernet, hard ciders owner of Lone Madrone Winery considers cider a wine, its can be made from Newtown, and Bristols Cider. regulations and standards are Pippin or Granny Smith apples more in keeping with the wine Collins grew up in the West and everything in between. industry’s. Country of England, which is Ciders also crossover into beerconsidered cider country. “It “This is something we are style drinks by adding hops or was very familiar to my youth,” working on changing so that other flavoring agents such as Collins said about cider. When cider is in its pomegranates or own category,” by aging the cider Collins said. in bourbon barrels. “This is something we are working on changing so that cider is Bristols prefers in its own category.” – Neil Collins During or after to make cider the fermentation more like a beer, to process, the decision can be living in California in 1994, be consumed by the pint rather made to co-ferment or infuse Collins lived up the road from than sipping on it like wine. the cider later. This involves an apple orchard where he was “The Central Coast is definitely fermenting with other fruits or a winemaker. He decided to put getting bigger in cider from herbs to get hints of different the apples to use, and on his when I first moved here,” Collins flavors, such as passionfruit, first attempt, he made two said. There are probably about a basil or cucumber. Cider can be barrels of cider. dozen Central Coast producers. infused at the end of the process agcircle| 15

“It seems like there is a new one popping up every six months, and I think it’s great. “We started a cider association on the Central Coast to help promote local ciders,” Collins continued. The association then created the Central Coast Cider Festival. The Central Coast Cider association is a nonprofit and has a committee that is made up of a few representatives from the cideries on the Central Coast.

CENTRAL COAST CIDER FESTIVAL The Central Coast is coming up on its fifth tasting event, to be held in Atascadero, California. “Neil saw that there were a lot of wine tasting events in the area but not any cider events and thought it would be a fun thing to do,” said Hanna Meisinger from Big Red Marketing based in San Luis Obispo.

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A few of the local cideries got together and decided to create an association for the event. They wanted to bring a focus to Central Coast cideries and to educate the community about the growing local cider industry. “You are getting a more intimate experience tasting from 15 to 17 cideries compared to 30 to 50 wineries,” Meisinger said. “The cider festival’s smaller scale benefits the event. It is nice because you get more time to talk to the pourers and learn more about the ciders.” Meisinger’s and Big Red Marketing’s focus on showcasing the Central Coast Cider Association at the festival. “Although they do bring in ciders from out of the area to increase the variety of cideries and give the attendees more options, the festival’s main focus is to bring attention to the

Central Coast Cider Association,” said Meisinger. In 2019, the festival started a VIP ticket option that gave attendees access to a VIP lounge featuring exclusive association cider pours. There is also a cider shop with merchandise and bottles to purchase. The shop had a two-case limit on out-ofarea cider but no limit on the association’s ciders in an attempt to promote local ciders. In addition to the interaction and tasting, the Central Coast Cider Festival holds an educational seminar for attendees to discuss all aspects of the growing cider industry. Stay tuned via the Cider Fest website for future events.

Photos by Felipe Vallejo


Story by Felipe Vallejo and April Olvera Dominguez


leader, a mentor, a friend. Robert Augustine Flores has made a profound impact during his 37 years at Cal Poly. Most people know him as the man in charge of the Agricultural Education and Communication Department, but he is so much more. As Flores completes his final summer as department head for the Agricultural Education and Communication Department, he’s also retiring as the advisor for Latinos in Agriculture. He will, however, continue to serve as one of the core faculty for the California Agricultural Leadership Program. As a Cal Poly alumnus, Flores is passionate about the department he serves, the students he leads, and the industry leaders he helped shape. “Dr. Flores was the first professor at Cal Poly that truly made me feel important,” said April Olvera (Agribusiness, ’21). “I can always hear Flores before I see him in the halls, and I know that every time I see him, he’ll say ‘hi’ to me with the biggest smile on his face. He always makes sure to ask me how I’m doing, or what he can do to help me.” Since he was in high school, Flores said he had his heart set on being an agricultural educator.

However, it wasn’t until his credential year and time spent with Joe Sabol that Flores realized he wanted to pursue a career in higher education. Sabol convinced Flores to be a “teacher of teachers.” Flores said he realized his breadth of impact would be much larger and he would touch more students if he prepared the teachers that would go on to educate students. Flores calls his birthplace, ‘beautiful’ Bakersfield, California. His mother, Marie Ruth, was an educator for primary grades at various Kern County schools for more than 16 years. Flores’ father, Augie, an Iwo Jima survivor, joined the U.S. Marine Corps in September of 1941, three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Marie Ruth and Augie married June 23, 1951. As the family grew to eight children, the Flores’ moved from an urban area to more rural Bakersfield. The Flores children, six boys and two girls, got involved with Casa Loma 4-H, which Flores said sparked his passion for agriculture. Flores immersed himself into the world of agriculture with various jobs in the industry. He worked harvesting onions, then harvesting peaches and finally, collecting eggs at a laying hen ranch, and milking cows at a dairy. These experiences allowed him to appreciate the value of hard work. agcircle| 17

As an undergraduate animal science major, Flores met agribusiness student Sheryl Athenour in a marketing course. The two later married in December 1979. “He is the most considerate man I know,” Sheryl (Athenour) Flores says. “He is always thinking about other people and their perspectives.” She said she admires how passionate he is working with students, always putting their needs first. Flores taught for five years at San Benito High School in Hollister, California. He joined Cal Poly in 1983, when thenDepartment Head Sabol invited him to apply for a position as a teacher educator. Flores took a leave in 1987 to earn his doctorate degree at Texas A&M University. He returned to his position as an assistant professor in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department. Later, Flores served as department head from 2002 to 2009 before Professor Bill Kellogg took on the role. After seven years, Kellogg retired, passing the position back to Flores in 2016. EARTH UNIVERSITY In 1990, the Flores family included Robert, Sheryl and their first son, Marty. They travelled to Costa Rica, where Flores spent two-and-a-half years as a key player in providing faculty support at EARTH University. EARTH (Escuela de Agricultura de la Región Tropical Húmeda) is a private, nonprofit university aimed at serving students predominantly from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. Flores was the chief of party for this U.S. Agency for International Developmentfunded project. When EARTH University was 18 | Summer 2020

created, its inverted curriculum was modeled after Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy. The university’s education model follows two principles: studentcentered and experiential. This model allows students to explore real challenges in weekly field experiences, business operations, and a third-year international internship. Students are able to take major-related courses first, followed by general education courses in order to apply their knowledge of agriculture to real-world experiences. Flores’ role at EARTH was to assist the educators to become better college professors and help apply the hands-on experience for students, similar to Cal Poly. He was passionate about his time in Costa Rica because he had never been out of the country, and he was

now able to support agricultural literacy for students in the tropics. “It was my first international experience,” Flores said. “I was able to be a pioneer in opening a new institution in a country that I was unfamiliar with.” Flores added that he enjoyed living in another country and contributing to something so important. By the time the Flores family departed Costa Rica, their second son, Aaron, joined the ranks. The Costa Rican journey turned out to be just the beginning of Flores’ incredible global story that continues to expand through his work with the California Agricultural Leadership Program. CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURAL LEADERSHIP PROGRAM The California Agricultural Leadership Program (CALP) provides an opportunity for industry professionals to

Robert, Aaron, Sheryl, Jacob and Marty Flores.

Flores believes in serving others by providing leadership and educational opportunities.

The wedding of Robert’s parents, Marie Ruth and Augustine Flores.

gain leadership training and transformational learning experiences. CALP is considered to be the premier program in the U.S. and in the world. The program works in partnership with four California universities: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; Cal Poly Pomona, California State University, Fresno; and UC Davis.

faculty member upon Sabol’s retirement from Cal Poly in 2002. The program is made up of, “aspiring leaders in the agriculture industry,” Flores said. “It’s for professionals interested in developing their leadership skills.”

situations to better enhance their ability to listen and learn from others and their environments. “You may be involved in agriculture, but you are part of a community. Serve it well,” Flores said.

The prestige of the program continues to grow, and each cohort is carefully selected. CALP has more than 1,300 Flores serves as one of alumni of all ages, backgrounds the program’s core faculty, and agriculture livelihoods. The representing Cal Poly and the current group represents the College of Agriculture, Food and 50th class. Flores’ participation Environmental with CALP is known Sciences. Flores to be valuable, You may be involved in agriculture, but you are part of a began working integral and key to community. Serve it well.” – Professor Robert Flores with the program its long-standing in the 1980s as success. The depth a videographer of this program is seen played before becoming a presenter family. The program challenges out in many ways. One of them is in 1995 and later, the director the fellows to shape their through advising another group, of education in 1999, a partindividual experiences by Cal Poly’s Latinos in Agriculture. time position. He followed in introducing them to unfamiliar LATINOS IN AGRICULTURE Sabol’s footsteps as the core and sometimes uncomfortable The 17-month program introduces the cohort of fellows with an opportunity to assess and deal with the complex challenges affecting their businesses, agricultural associations, community and

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Members of Cal Poly’s Latinos in Agriculture club host the 26 Hours of Science and Technology in Agriculture Program.

After returning from Costa of Science and Technology in serve in national leadership Rica in 1993, the Flores’ third Agriculture program. “It’s a positions for the organization son, Jacob, was born, completing chance for underrepresented and land internships with the family. It was around that high school students to see various companies, including time that Kellogg invited Flores that they have a place in the John Deere, Corteva, and Land to a meeting with the goal of agriculture industry,” Flores said. O’ Lakes. resurrecting the Latinos in The purpose of the annual event “Dr. Flores made all of the Agriculture (LIA) Club at Cal is to engage high school students difference during my time at Poly. The club, which began in from diverse and low-income Cal Poly,” said Angelica Aldana 1975, went dormant when it backgrounds to learn about and (Agricultural Science, ’17). couldn’t find an advisor. Flores pursue career opportunities Aldana served as LIA president met with Kellogg and six Latinx within agriculture. “That’s my in 2015-16 and as students and a national officer jumpstarted “Meeting Dr. Flores helped me finally find that ‘home away from for the MANRRS Latinos in home’ that everyone talked about.” – April Olvera organization. “I Agriculture. Since vividly remember then, the club has attending MANRRS grown from six students to more business.” Flores said. “Helping or on-campus events with Flores, than 60 members in 2020. the future.” and it seemed like everyone Latinos in Agriculture is the LIA is affiliated with a parent knew him,” she added. only cultural organization in the organization, Minorities in For many LIA members, Flores College of Agriculture, Food and Agriculture, Natural Resources has been a source of support and Environmental Sciences at and Related Sciences (MANRRS). a role model. Cal Poly. LIA promotes diversity, Flores, along with co-advisor “Seven years ago, I stepped higher education and agriculture Associate Professor Ann DeLay, onto campus as a first-generation while providing a space to brings students to the MANRRS college student who was underrepresented students. regional cluster and national nervous, scared and out of my conference every year. LIA One LIA event Flores is element. Today I am an engaged members have been able to passionate about is the 26 Hours 20 | Summer 2020

member of society who leads confidently, and I owe so much of that to Dr. Flores, his heart and his leadership,” Aldana said.

live on and to show people how much of an impact he has made at Cal Poly,” she added.

to tackle and some trips he is ready to take on his motorcycle. Or he might be found at the Old Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, ringing the bells or assisting in various other ways.

NEXT STEPS Representation in higher When preparing students for education is important for the future, Flores says he hopes Latinx students. “Being a student His laughter, leadership and he has impacted students’ lives of color in a sincere care for predominantly people of all “He has not only been a great advisor, he has also provided me an walks of life will white college endless amount of opportunities and support.” – Marlen Estrada continue to make can be very intimidating,” an impact. Robert said April Olvera, Augustine Flores positively and hopes he hasn’t (Agribusiness, ’21), “Meeting is a man to be honored, thanked left any student out. “My job is to Dr. Flores helped me finally find and admired for decades to serve all students,” he said. “It’s that home away from home that come, even after a well-deserved difficult to reach all students, but everyone talked about.” retirement. I try my best.” Flores’ impact has Alumna Marlen Estrada been tremendous on the club (Animal Science, ‘20), added, and the lives of students and will “He has not only been a great leave behind a legacy. advisor, he has also provided After retiring, Flores says he me an endless amount of looks forward to having more opportunities and support.” time on his hands, but he still Estrada, who served as 2019-20 aims to be involved within the LIA president, said the club community. Ask him about his is working to establish a first grandchild, and he smiles. scholarship in Flores’ name for He says he has some home low-income minority high school improvement ideas he wants students. “We want his legacy to agcircle| 21

A Biochemistry, biology and Business major walk onto a Farm THE GROWTH OF THE AGRITOURISM INDUSTRY Story by Abigail Albin


mma Eaddy, Jayna Nicholas and Claire Newton decided to visit their friend Abigail Albin one weekend in Fortuna, California. Located in Northern California, Fortuna is surrounded by redwood trees and the experience would be the first time any of them had ever stepped foot on a dairy farm. The three friends come from nonagricultural backgrounds. Eaddy is a freshman biology student at Cal Poly; Nicholas is a junior studying biochemistry. Newton is a junior business administration major, and all three of them have lifestyles that differ drastically from that of a person with agricultural roots. Albin offered to take them to her home and let her friends see, smell, and touch the dairy she grew up on. Eaddy and Newton said they were drawn to all the cows and baby calves. Nicholas, too, loved the baby calves and how they would suck on her fingers in the calf barn. But it was the science that took place behind the farm’s milk processing that Jayna said captivated her the most. “How do you keep so clean and sterile in between each cow?” Nicholas asked Andy Albin, the owner of the farm. Andy looked to where Nicholas gazed, as she took the dairy in. He saw her look at what was the raw milk tank, then the milking 22 | Summer 2020

machines, and scan over all the needed equipment it takes to keep the cows and facility in safe working order. He took a breath and started in on what would be the girls’ first farm tour. “The first thing that happens when a cow steps into the milking stall is all four teats are dipped into the germicidal teat dip, which kills the bad bacteria,” Albin said. “When bacteria get in the udder, infections happen. Then we squeeze a little bit of milk out by hand to make sure that the milk that will be going into the tank is fresh. Then we wipe each teat clean before attaching it to the milking machines.” Abigail Albin watched her father carefully explain the dairy as her friends walked the paths from barn to milk parlor to feed mixing equipment and onward. She knew these paths by heart from her childhood and smiled as her friends continued to ask questions. While agriculturalists can try to educate people about the agricultural experience through posts on social media, word of mouth, and educational classes, nothing comes close to being able to visit and witness the inner workings of a farm in person. Abigail Albin witnessed what her friends were learning about for the first time as they observed the cows laying in the sunshine,

Photos provided by Stemple Creek Ranch agcircle| 23

Loren Poncia giving a farm tour of his property.

chewing cud, and waiting at the milk parlor gate. Abigail Albin saw how the actual farm experience is invaluable and can’t be recreated in a classroom setting.

Farm and ranch tours enable the public to interact with production agriculture.

Stemple Creek Ranch also offers a rustic barn venue where people can host events or stay in one of many Airbnb properties on the ranch. Visitors can take a Loren Poncia is a fourthranch tour walking through the generation agriculturalist who livestock grazing land and enjoy It is quite possible the inowns Stemple Creek Ranch a specially prepared barbecue. person dairy farm experience with his wife, Lisa, in Tomales, If on-site catering does not could change someone’s initial California. Stemple Creek Ranch sound appealing, guests can dine perception of agriculture for raises grass-fed beef and lamb, at one of many local restaurants the better. Being able to visit a as well as pasture-raised pork. in the area that farm and witness serve Stemple firsthand the love “It’s a fun way to connect … to allow consumers to be Creek meats. a farmer has for connected with a family that directly produces this product his animals is infectious and inspiring. Abigail Albin’s friends told her so.

Farms feed families and people of all types across the globe, providing milk, salad mixes, and even steak-and-potato dinners. But due to livelihoods, location and a host of other factors, some consumers never get the chance to visit a local farm or experience agritourism for that firsthand. Albin witnessed herself how 24 | Summer 2020

stepping foot onto a dairy could impact others and help foster a greater appreciation and connection to the food they eat.

for them.” – Aaron McAfee

Poncia said what sets them apart from a traditional ranch, however, is their passion for consumer interaction. “Once we decided we were going be a consumer-facing company, our whole goal was to be honest and transparent and high quality, and in order to do that, we wanted people to come visit us,” Poncia said.

When the Poncias started their business, farm tours were the only way they could spread the word about their products.

“[The visitors] came, learned about us, and about half of them bought something. They then they go home and tell their friends about us,” Poncia said. Stemple Creek goes the extra mile with its “farm and table” dinner. The owners and staff

Stemple Creek’s Farm and Table Dinner provides direct connections to engage the public through agritourism.

create a memorable sit-down experience while guests gather inside a rustic barn and eat a multicourse dinner carefully prepared by a local chef. Being able to sit and experience the same environment where one’s food begins is an enduring trait of agritourism that keeps guests coming back for more, Poncia said. Capitalizing on this same type of hospitality, Aaron McAfee and Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures in Fresno, California, offer free dairy and farm tours to herd in new business. “We do free farm tours on the dairy. It’s very fun for the kids to see and experience and feel what it’s like to be on a dairy”, Aaron McAfee said. McAfee said he believes free tours are important for giving the public a truer picture of what daily life is like on a farm. Organic Pastures enables visitors to see all production work from milking and processing, to packaging and sales, so guests see all parts of a dairy product chain in action. The McAfees said their passion for educating people about the farming process through agritourism has contributed to their enduring success in the dairy industry.

“It’s a fun way to connect, and I think that’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here with Organic Pastures: to allow consumers to be connected with a family that directly produces this product for them.” Today, consumers pay more attention than ever before to what they eat, and they want to make sure they are putting the best possible food into their bodies. Through agritourism, consumers can ask questions about their food and get their answers in person by touring and dining at local farms. Farmers can also benefit from these agritourist initiatives by learning how to better meet the needs of customers. Agritourism gives farmers the opportunity to decide what message the consumers are left with, while demonstrating their passion for livestock, farming and safe production practices — all contributing to a positive narrative about food and the farming process.

Photo by Abigail Albin agcircle| 25

Learning to soar


Maya Higa dedicates herself to conservation efforts and rehabilitates wild birds.

Photos provided by Kasie Craig, SLO Town Studios

26 | Summer 2020


he College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at Cal Poly includes a multitude of students who strive to make a difference in their communities. These students follow the Learn by Doing motto of the university. Maya Higa, a senior agricultural communication student, represents this motto in a unique way. In April 2019, Higa started using Twitch, an online streaming platform mainly used for gaming and lifestyle content. Higa first used Twitch to share her singing with an audience. After establishing a small following, she soon transitioned into sharing her interest in falconry and other animals to her viewers. “They were interested in the rehabilitation I was doing and wanted to see the red-tail hawk I had at the time,” Higa said. “After someone posted one of my hawk clips online, my channel really started to grow. I did a charity stream on my birthday in May to raise money for the homeless in San Luis Obispo, California, and after realizing the difference I could make, I started to talk more about animal conservation.” Higa realized people wanted to support her interests and fundraising efforts for conservation. She rapidly grew an audience that adored her passion for animals, amassing thousands of followers in a matter of months, which put her in the top 1 percent of female streamers on Twitch. “Since the charity stream, I started the Conservation Cast on Twitch, and we’ve raised about $20,000 for different organizations,” Higa said. “It’s a

podcast where I talk to biologists, ecologists and other experts. We’ve had impressive science communicators who have advocated for sharks, big cats and manatees, among other animals.” Higa chose to raise funds for nonprofit organizations. Her efforts so far have benefitted the American Eagle Foundation, Alongside Wildlife Foundation, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), among others. The American Eagle Foundation is dedicated to inspiring people around the world to protect the bald eagle and other birds of prey. The Alongside Wildlife Foundation promotes sciencebased solutions for living alongside wildlife in perpetuity.

The NRDC works to safeguard the earth — its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. Averaging between 1,000 to 4,000 viewers on her podcasts, Higa has found a substantial outlet to express her love for animals and make an impact in an interesting way for viewers. However, her animal conservation efforts stemmed from more than just a liking of animals. “I’ve always been into public outreach and communications,” Higa said. “This spurred my interest in wanting to do outreach with a zoo. I took on an animal volunteering internship with Zoo to You Conservation agcircle| 27

Ambassadors in Paso Robles, California, two years ago and fell in love.” Working as a conservation ambassador for the zoo, Higa honed many skills and had experiences that shaped her future success. During her time at the zoo, Higa developed an interest in birds, specifically birds of prey, a classification for all carnivorous birds. This newfound interest led Higa to rehabilitate birds independent of the zoo and to obtain her California falconry license. There are three classes of licensed falconers in California: apprentice falconer, general falconer, and master falconer. A sponsor is required for at least the first two years in which an apprentice falconry license is held, regardless of the age of the apprentice falconer. Higa’s journey through her licensing ultimately became the reason for her rise on Twitch. Samantha Jackson, the director of community outreach at Zoo to You, spoke of Higa’s ability to learn and be an inspirational character. “Maya listened in the beginning and learned quickly,” Jackson said. “She spent extra time outside of her internship learning even more and building skills. She’s one of those people that makes you want to cry when you realize something you taught caused someone to do the things she’s doing.” Through her rehabilitation efforts and informational livestreams, Higa hopes to accomplish something even bigger than fundraising. She calls it her “life purpose statement” and uses it as a 28 | Summer 2020

motivational goal. “I want to be a part of the comeback of at least five species out of endangerment,” Higa said. “The best way I can do this is by continuing to spread the message about conservation to my audience. Having the platform I do and being able to spread awareness

“Being in this department has made me more confident and competent in my people skills. I’ve also used resumes and cover letters from my agricultural communication classes to get internships.”

As for what the future holds, Higa is optimistic. She graduated in spring 2020 and will continue conservation efforts on and off “Once people care about something, of Twitch. crazy things can happen.” – Maya Higa “My production team and I are is the best thing I can do to reach doing a full rebrand for my my goal. Once people care about channel to make it more focused something, crazy things toward conservation,” Higa said. can happen.” “For now, the podcast is the Higa credits much of big effort. I’m also going to use her success in her animal YouTube to film monthly vlogs conservation efforts to her in places where I can’t take the studies at Cal Poly. Through stream to teach more content the university’s agricultural about conservation.” communication program, To learn more about Higa’s students are taught crucial efforts, follow her on Twitch career-building and social skills, at @Maya. which Higa has found helpful in explaining her work and communicating to her viewers.

FALCONRY IN AGRICULTURE In many agricultural settings, pest or nuisance birds serve as a problem for growers, either with losses in crop revenue or creating health hazards in water sources. Falconry in pest management, otherwise known as falconry-based bird abatement, can be used in these situations to scare off or prevent nuisance birds from being present. Falconry-based bird abatement utilizes the natural predators of nuisance birds, raptors (falcons, hawks and owls), to carry out these tasks. Since nuisance birds are hardwired to fear raptors, they are never able to become acclimated toward them and thus always avoid them. This method of pest management in agriculture has proven to be superior to other nonorganic methods in that it is quiet, discrete, eco-friendly and sustainable. Source:


The Brock Center 2020 photo contest was open to the public, all majors, backgrounds and expertise levels. The winning photo, featured on the cover, was taken by agricultural business senior Sara Theodozio. Cash prizes were awarded to first place (Theodozio), second place (Maureen LaGrande) and third place (Kelly Ogimachi). Photos showcased are winning entries, along with honorable mentions. Thank you to everyone who entered our contest. Check out our Instagram (@brockcenter) to view more entries from this year’s contest! 1 1. Sara Theodozio, On the Cover: Aerial photograph featuring corn harvest in Hilmar, California. 2. Marureen LaGrande, Second Place: Smoke Show branding day for heifers at Salt Creek Ranch. 3. Kellie Ogimachi, Third Place: Two stocker cows at Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch moving across the beautiful ranch and Pacific ocean.



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1. Layne Chamberlin: Two girls on horseback at San Lorenzo seminary. 2. J. Scott Vernon: photo submission from ag communication Professor Scott Vernon. 3. Katie Tanksley: Wildflowers at Carrizo Plain during the super bloom. 4. Olivia Chamberlin: Still of Russell Chamberlin (aka my dad) checking on our cows in one of our pastures at the Chamberlin Ranch. 5. Ejay Brady: Image of a brussels sprout farm located near my hometown Santa Cruz, California.



6. Andrew Rezendes: Taken at Caroden Farms in Madera, California. 7. Lindy Ludwig: Two horses at Return To Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, California. 8. Haley Boyajian: Branding calves in San Luis Obispo. 4


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9. Celeste Roberts: This is an image of the almond bloom in Madera County, California. 10. Jacob Dixon: Picture of Swanton Pacific Ranch taken during the Stocker Enterprise.



11. Soledad Castro: Calving season. 12. Felipe Vallejo: Freshly packed Cal Poly-grown strawberries at the Cal Poly Strawberry Center. 13. Olivia Chamberlin: Sedar Kane at the Cal Poly Escuela Ranch branding event, giving calves copper supplements research project with McFarland, December 2019. 14. Abigail Albin: Jersey heifers at my family’s dairy.

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32 | Summer 2020


19 15. Magdalena Porter: A mandarin tree in the Cal Poly orchards with Bishop’s Peak in the background. 16. Katie Rose: “Perspective,” explores the streams of the magical Eastern Sierra Nevada. 17. Sarah Banapour: Still of a Highland cow, a breed known for its distinctive long coat. 18. Molly Morris: Cal Poly’s 2020 CallmeMitch colt, Cal Poly Equine Unit. 19. Lindy Ludwig: Sunset photo of cattle dog on a ranch in Nebraska. 20


20. Layne Chamberlin: Taken on my family ranch during a rainstorm — my absolute favorite time to shoot. 21. Kate Menefee: Image of my brother, Jacob Menefee, working the ground on my family’s ranch during a branding event in April 2020. 22. Mikaela Jensen: Cal Poly calves at the Escuela Ranch. 23. Katie Tanksley: “Smoke,” a smokey branding in Northern California during winter break.



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Educating For Safety



ractical health and safety education are important needs in the agricultural community. It is a basic duty of any agricultural entity to provide health and safety information to its staff. However, educating the industry and its communities within any given commodity is not an easy task. AgSafe, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Modesto, California, is working hard to provide this much-needed education to the agricultural community.  AgSafe’s mission is to advance the food and farming industry’s commitment to a safe, sustainable workforce and food supply by providing practical education and resources. AgSafe provides education for categories such as worker safety, pesticide safety, food safety and more through online courses or inperson presentations.

Many of AgSafe’s team grew up with farm worker parents. Today, they take their firsthand childhood experiences and apply them to careers as practitioners in safety, human resources and food safety. This diverse group of people and backgrounds helps to bring a variety of ideas to make the trainings more impactful and successful based on each team member’s personal agricultural experiences and expertise.  Amy Wolfe, president and CEO emeritus, said educational tools are often not made apparent or available to farmworkers.  “A key issue in the lack of education among the agricultural community is many [farmworkers] don’t know the education exists,” Wolfe said. AgSafe teaches using imagery training and hands-on learning. Since 1991, Wolfe said, AgSafe has trained more than 90,000 employers, supervisors and farmworkers. And they are seeing the multiplier effect of the training success.

pesticide safety, leadership development and food safety. The conference also provides the opportunity for attendees to receive certifications from various programs.

AgSafe offers multiple types of workshops, seminars and trainings, including the Daniel C. Salas Harvesting Agriculture HR Certificate (DCSH) employees Program, Agriculture have attended the Laws and Regulations “AgSafe isn’t just about safety. It helps the agriculture Activate20 AgSafe for Growers and Farm industry as a whole.” – Daniel Salas conference for the past Labor Contractors, six years. Ashley Salas, Agricultural Safety human resources Certificate Program,Pesticide manager for DCSH, described AgSafe holds its signature Compliance programs, Sexual the knowledge gained through conference once a year, called Harassment Prevention Training, Activate20 as life-giving. Activate20. This two-day and Train the Trainer Courses, conference includes training AgSafe helped employees AgSafe offers multiple types of related to worker safety and at DCSH learn management workshops, seminars health, human resources, techniques, field safety and and trainings. 34 | Summer 2020

Photos provided by Amy Wolfe

leadership skills. “AgSafe isn’t just about safety. It helps the agriculture industry as a whole. We’ve seen a lot of changes in our employees and management skills,” Salas said.  In addition to the courses, certificate programs and speakers, there is a health fair at Activate20. The health fair provides preventative screenings and overall health services for the farmworker population. A wide range of health-related issues are addressed, with employees and employers being taught ways to combat issues in the workforce such as seasonal

AgSafe workshops are taught in Spanish and English.

safety, skin cancer, measuring vital signs, and substance abuse, among others.  AgSafe staff aim to spur transformations in their clients through unique teaching approaches, from conferences to custom workshops. Its hands-on learning and imagery techniques ensure information sticks, and it works.  Each year, AgSafe provides the AllWays Safe Award to individuals or companies. The Company Recognition Program honors two companies (one with fewer than 50 employees and one with over 50 employees), and the Individual Recognition

Program honors two employees: A safety professional and an operations/production supervisor. These awards acknowledge the steps taken toward safer and healthier food through well-trained industry employees. Nominations for the AllWays Safe Award can be submitted on AgSafe’s website. Juan Zalvidar, the 2017 winner for the Outstanding Safety Professional Award, said he began attending AgSafe in 2010. “Every year I imagined myself receiving the award and how awesome it must feel to be recognized for the achievements and dedication we as ‘Safety agcircle| 35

Guys/Gals’ give on a daily basis.”

the entire agriculture industry.

He said receiving the award was more than he imagined.

Jake Duffin works for Agricare Inc. and won the Outstanding Operations/Production Supervisor Award in 2018.

precautions and protocols for our employees who continue working in the field.”

AgSafe hopes to continue “To stand in front of my peers spreading awareness of the and know that I could even importance of safety compare to those in the agriculture great professionals “AgSafe trainings are good experiences because they keep industry and training in the audience us focused and sharp on safety topics.” – Jake Duffin as many professionals was very humbling, as they can. to say the least,” “It was an honor to receive that Zalvidar said. “Safety is almost To learn more about AgSafe, award. AgSafe trainings are good always the ‘because we have visit  experiences because they keep to’ resource, and I feel it needs us focused and sharp on safety all the recognition it can get. I topics,” he said. believe this award does just that!” Duffin said he is fortunate his company values safety Wolfe said, “There are so training and a team learning many job opportunities in this environment. “And I’m especially industry, and our peers need to grateful during this COVID know that leadership and safety situation, that we have our training are a huge part.” She said safety team and AgSafe to help what AgSafe accomplishes with support us and provide extra clients and attendees improves 36 | Summer 2020

Locally Owned and Operated THE VALUE OF COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE Story and Photos by Molly Morris

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s the general product delivery network has continually strengthened through services such as Amazon Prime, extending such opportunities into the agriculture industry brings growing potential. Operations such as Talley Farm’s Fresh Harvest and Montana’s High Five Meats helped spearhead this transition by offering subscription options for their deliverable products. Traditionally, California agriculture has been comprised primarily of family farms either selling locally or as a commodity operation through a larger distributor. On the local side, customers consist of community buyers in small scale, such as restaurants, farm stands, and farmers markets. On the larger side, some family farms gain market share through forming cooperatives with greater selling power and a more sizeable market share.

Employees packing subscription boxes for delivery.

Farms produce, and they had no Chavez explained. way to do that except to come out While these sales practices Talley Farms partners with a and pay cash for a whole box of continue to fuel fresh and range of local businesses to serve bell peppers or Napa cabbage,” frozen products, the expanding as pick-up locations for its boxes, Chavez said. agricultural market is changing including Farm Supply Co. stores platforms for brands and The produce boxes change and Lemos Feed and Pet Supply, products nationally. The depending on seasonal and in turn, those companies changes are a purchase products mix of grassroots for their farm companies making “When the trends change, as they always do, you need to have and personal something special and unique to offer.” – Sara Hollenbeck their mark on the needs, creating subscription-style a communal delivery service modeled by availability and local production relationship with other small large, global companies. rate but are primarily sent to businesses in the community. TALLEY FARMS Beginning in 2012, Talley Farms of Arroyo Grande, California, began selling local Fresh Harvest produce delivery boxes, shifting from strictly wholesale distribution. Andrea Chavez, Fresh Harvest manager, saw increased demand. “Local people wanted to buy Talley 38 | Summer 2020

a variety of pick-up locations around the county, with easy access from neighborhoods and work areas, or delivered directly to homes. “Most members get our original size box every other week, and we now offer customization of boxes so members can change out and substitute items,”

For example, Talley customers will find a coupon for Farm Supply or Lemos Feed and Pet Supply that they can visit, or they can sample edible chia seeds that they can order from the same, local farmer who provided the unique peppers in the week’s box. While this system maximizes labor and distribution,

Subscription boxes from Talley Farms.

human error can cause some disruptions. “Sometimes our members take the wrong size box or pick up a box by mistake when they are not on the list. Since we pack to order, this causes us to be short a box at a pick-up location,� Chavez noted. HIGH FIVE MEATS Another subscription-based box can be found states away in Big Sky Country. Montanabased ranchers at High Five Meats operate primarily on a deliverable system with its beef, pork and lamb products. Living in a remote area of Montana made finding quality grocery options a local challenge, so Cal Poly agribusiness alumna Sara Hollenbeck of High Five Meats took on the project of building a business to operate with remote distribution. She agcircle| 39

aims to solve the challenge of produce access for others in a similar situation.

commodity dairy to a valuedriven branded localized production.

High Five Meats offers quality meats for online purchase, while still operating locally through farmers market and local delivery. In a fairly new market, Hollenbeck strives to set her business apart. “When the trends change, as they always do, you need to have something special and unique to offer,” she said. Popular products range from ground beef packages to varied quantities of bacon, steaks and ribs to more niche products like their lamb brats.

In the initial phase of the transition, integrating deliverables was heavily weighed, although they no longer offer the service. Noel Rosa, one of two owners of the dairy, discussed the difficulties of offering their products on a deliverable basis becasue of the geographic realities of nearby Kings and Tulare counties

ROSA BROTHERS DAIRY Back to California’s San Joaquin Valley, a popular dairy manufacturer, Tulare’s Rosa Brothers Dairy, spent the last 10 years transitioning from a sole 40 | Summer 2020

“Deliverable sales work great in certain areas. But with a lower population and lower disposable income, home deliveries aren’t super feasible due to our Central California creamery location,” Rosa said. While a throwback to milk deliveries at the front doorstep of yesteryear, the current

delivery models are still an emerging industry. There are many obstacles to the modern deliverable industry and many business models to adopt, depending on the specific product. MOVING FORWARD For High Five Meats, Hollenbeck said the downside of a family operation was delivering remotely, which requires hiring someone to carry out. Hollenbeck said that too came with a challenge because, “It’s not you — they want to see your face, they want to know how your ranch is doing, how you would cook the meats, and so on.” As new technologies, packaging systems and shipping options develop, the possibilities for small operations to expand to remote delivery may increase,

but at the moment, remain a difficult arena to navigate. One of the difficulties comes from the need for web presence. Hollenbeck shared she has mixed feelings about social media. “Do we need to have a presence,” she asked. “Sure. Do we need to be on every platform? I don’t think so. Facebook is where I get most of my sales, Instagram helps tell my story to the masses.” As farming and ranching are labor intensive and more than a full-time job, the extra hours to maintain a social media presence and interaction may not be possible. As the integration of social media and marketing merges with agriculture, many companies, including Talley Farms, rely on website and email newsletters for members to sign up but are dependent on outside local help for their advertising work.

Chavez said, “Produce is easy to promote with all the colors, flavors and varieties. We have lots of content here at the farm and are rarely lacking pictures and things to talk about and show. It’s our time that gets in the way of more social media exposure.” Branding with social media creates reach and awareness at a much higher frequency than traditional word of mouth or direct mail marketing. As a company focusing on brand value, Rosa Brothers, “started and grew because of social media,” Noel Rosa said, adding, “Especially when we began. It was a much more economical option than paying for standard advertising reach. We wouldn’t have been able to get nearly the same reach and return on our investment without social media’s role.” In the deliverable industry, an online presence can make a

greater impact on an operation’s success simply due to increased awareness and content sharing. Having an accessible interface and appealing presentation, while potentially costly in time and creation, can set a traditional family farming operation apart in emerging production opportunities. Check with your local farmers and ranchers to see if there are other local options for community subscription and deliverable services. Talley Farms: Fresh Harvest (Arroyo Grande, California)

@talleyfarmsfreshharvest High Five Meats, LLC (Molt, Montana) @highfivemeats

Rosa Brothers Milk Company (Tulare, California) @rosabrothers

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Beachtown Ranching



y all accounts, Davenport, California, is a beach town. So how could it also be home to a 3,200acre ranch?  Swanton Pacific Ranch’s location in this coastal city within Santa Cruz County has uniquely rich biodiversity. The land consists of breathtaking redwood forests, river ecosystems and coastal rangelands. Much of the land is connected to the Scotts Creek watershed, a waterway that provides crucial habitats to Coho salmon, steelhead trout and other wildlife. There are countless species of plant life spread all over the property, the most diverse of which are located on the grass rangelands.

Doing philosophy,” said Riley McFarland, a future forestry management apprentice for Swanton Pacific and former student in its summer classes. “That was Al Smith’s vision. He could have easily donated it to UC Santa Cruz, but he knew Cal Poly had the philosophy that allowed students to get directly involved. It’s unparalleled as far as I can tell.”  Along with classes, Swanton Pacific has a variety of 12-week summer internships available to students, from botany and forestry to livestock and rangeland management to meal preparation and sustainable crop production. The interns work together, eat together and even live together in the student bunk house located on site.

that cut,” Newby said. “It’s always hard. It is the worst part of the whole thing.”

For those who become a The uniqueness of Swanton part of the internship program, “The opportunities almost seem Pacific doesn’t end with its however, the experiences endless,” said Courtney Newby, location. In 1993, alumnus Al are invaluable.  who is an administrative support Smith donated the property to assistant at Swanton Pacific. “We Cal Poly, and it is now managed Newby said that being a really encourage our students to by the College of Agriculture, university program, and taking take ownership in the ranch. Al Food and Environmental place on a fully Sciences. Smith operational ranch, recognized that the makes the internship “That’s kind of what the ranch is based on. It’s that opportunities this program a great place Learn by Doing philosophy.” – Riley McFarland ranch had to offer for “big questions to would be an asset be asked.”  Smith said this is for students. to the university, and he had a One example of a big question So, if you are a Cal Poly student, vision to keep Swanton Pacific asked and answered was a Swanton is your ranch.”  and all its resources as a working research project to improve the ranch.  Although the team at Swanton health of the apple orchards at Pacific wishes they could accept Today, Smith’s vision holds Swanton Pacific.   everyone who applies to their true. This ranch has become Grey Hayes, the ranch’s internship, the program is an educational gold mine for education and research director, highly competitive. Newby said students, offering an array of explained how the ranch’s apple when interviewing internship opportunities to gain hands-on trees were showing signs of applicants, they ask them about experience before heading into unhealthy bark and overall tree their future career goals to see if the agriculture industry.  growth. Students hypothesized Swanton is a good fit for them.     “That’s kind of what the ranch the irrigation system could “That’s kind of how we make is based on. It’s that Learn by 42 | Summer 2020

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possibly be to blame.   At the time, the orchards were heavily watered once a week, which seemed to put too much strain on the trees. Swanton and student interns began their research to try and fix the issue and, through trial and error, found the trees did best when watered twice a week, with half as much water each time. The students continued to build from this project to continuously find ways of improving the health of the trees.

hearing what these industry leaders are looking for in new hires.   “The big problem is finding people with any experience — actual experience,” Hayes said. He emphasized how Cal Poly produces graduates with great math, science and theoretical knowledge skills, but those aren’t always what employers look for. “What the industry wants to see from graduates is that they got their hands dirty, trained with equipment, did real research outside of a lab, and connected with the industry on a physical level,” Hayes said.

plenty of other opportunities allowing students to get a taste of daily operations on the property. Some of these include volunteer weekends and class field trips, which are also great for those who want to have a fun and educational experience. These weekend events allow prospective interns the opportunity to see if what Swanton Pacific has to offer is the right kind of program for them. Kara Porterfield, livestock and rangeland manager, loves talking with students who might not have much experience with agriculture.

Hayes reminisced about the brilliance of the problem-solving abilities the students displayed when tackling this issue. It took “Many of them “Many of them don’t come from that background, and now I much work, but don’t come from get to show them a little piece of what I always got to grow up that background, “they literally, over with and just how much I love the industry.” – Kara Porterfield and now I get to three summers, redesigned the show them a little irrigation system piece of what here,” Hayes said. Now, the trees I always got to grow up with Swanton Pacific Ranch are sprouting all kinds of healthy and just how much I love the Director Brian Dietterick said new growth. These kinds of realindustry,” Porterfield said.  that he’s heard from people in life experiences are essential the industry and they know that Porterfield reflected on the for students moving into the those “hands-on experiences are uniqueness of Swanton Pacific. agriculture industry.  what allow our students to hit She loves the interactions she the ground running when they The faculty at Swanton Pacific gets with the students, but she are hired.” It helps them get the are in constant communication also simply loves her job and job and also helps them perform with people in the industry, going out into the field every day.  better once on the job. particularly with Jacob’s She said, “How many people Farm and Del Cabo Inc., the For those who aren’t sure have a ranch on the ocean?”  companies they lease their land about doing a full internship from. Hayes said they are always at Swanton Pacific, there are

44 | Summer 2020

Chicken Crossing


Photos by Andriyko Podilnyk agcircle| 45

and her husband decided to start selling laying hens to people. For families that had expressed an interest in backyard chickens previously, the pandemic has been the push they needed to start their flock. According to Raff, it was so easy to get a dozen eggs cheap, there wasn’t a push for families to pull the trigger. Photo by William Moreland


he popularity of backyard chickens has been on the rise in the last few years, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the backyard chicken industry is seeing a boom unlike anything it has seen in years. For many families, raising chickens is seen as a viable solution to some food shortages they are seeing in grocery stores. Some people fear not being able to find staple items in grocery stores during heightened demand. In other cases, families might be looking for an educational outlet for their families to help 46 | Summer 2020

pass the time at home and to ease the transition to online schooling. Megan Raff started Dare 2 Dream Farms in 2009 in Nipomo, California. In the beginning, Dare 2 Dream Farms had only about 40 chickens, and they sold eggs to a natural food store, New Frontiers in Solvang, California. According to Raff, today’s pandemic is similar to what she faced in the wake of the 2008 fincial crisis. “People were panic buying chickens,” Raff explained. In 2009, they began approaching Dare 2 Dream Farms about buying their own chickens. Raff

It’s easy to see the effect that COVID-19 has had on the backyard chicken industry. Dare 2 Dream Farms has seen a 5,000 percent increase in baby chick sales year over year. Dare 2 Dream Farms orders its chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery. According to Raff, Dare 2 Dream Farms had a standing order for 300 to 500 birds per week. Raff explained that she sold 1,500 birds in under 30 minutes. She estimates that Dare 2 Dream Farms could be selling 8,000 to 10,000 birds per week if they had access to that many. Kristin McCain-Bender is a resident in San Luis Obispo County and owner of her own backyard flock. She recently

invested in two more chicks to add to her backyard flock of five chickens. McCain-Bender purchased her chicks from Atascadero Hay & Feed in Atascadero, California, when they were about two days old. She waited in line between three and four hours. Everybody was spread out in the parking lot, as to uphold social distancing guidelines, and their names were put on a list. Farm Supply Co. in San Luis Obispo saw the same levels of increased demand when it got its chick shipment in. Farm Supply sold out in just over 15 minutes. Some of these customers, like McCain-Bender, are already chicken owners. However, a lot of them are buying chicks for the first time. The long lines did not deter McCain-Bender. She has absolutely loved having chickens as part of her family. “I love them,” She says. “They are so sweet; they give us hugs and kisses.”

McCain-Bender has three children. “I think it’s really good to see them caring for animals,” she explained. “I have loved every second of it.” Raff echoed this sentiment. She explained that chickens are often used as lighthearted and fun education for kids and can help parents keep their kids happy in times of hardship like we are

the size of your family, and the climate you live in. Consider breeds that are going to do well in the weather they will have to live in. Each chicken will need about 10 square feet overall.

Ultimately, Raff encourages people to educate themselves on backyard flocks before taking the plunge. There are a lot of resources, such as books and online forums. Dare 2 Dream Farms “When times get better, it is easy to also offers a lot of forget your farmer.” – Megan Raff information on its website and makes itself available to all of experiencing now. their customers. While backyard flocks are extremely popular right now, Raff says she doesn’t think chicks are for everyone. “They require a lot of work,” she says.

In times like this, when food is not as easy to get as it usually is, people become hyperaware of their food source and the path from farm to table.

Dare 2 Dream Farms also sells coop-ready chickens. According to Raff, coop-ready chickens are off heat lamps, they are generally self-sufficient, and they still are able to bond with their owners.

“As with most things, farmers are very used to populations relying on them when times are tough. When times get better, it is easy to forget your farmer,” Raff says.

Raff says a few things to keep in mind are the amount of space available in your backyard, agcircle| 47

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