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8 STRENGTh IN UNITY. One year. A full year ago, our lives changed dramatically, seemingly in an instant. We dug deep to continue to provide the Learn by Doing education that we know our students thrive from. We pivoted resources, shifted from what we were accustomed to accepted the challenge, and grew stronger. In this issue, you’ll read stories about the brilliant accomplishments that our faculty, staff and students continue to make in the face of adversity. You’ll also read about the future. A $5 million donation made to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences by Grimmway Farms will change the landscape of organic agriculture. This is a direct investment in our students, our future. With this gift we will prepare students to address the global challenges we know lie ahead. Just as we came together at the start of the pandemic to overcome the obstacles that awaited, it is essential that we continue to collaborate to advance the future of our food supplies, environmental health, and a better future overall. We’ve learned a lot this last year, and I’ve been reminded of the strength in unity. Looking forward, I’m confident we can do anything we set our minds to, as long as we all continue to work together. To a better future,




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Q&A ————





CULTIVATE is published for alumni and friends by the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES). Dean’s Office 805-756-2161 Communications Team Haley Marconett hmarcone@calpoly.edu 805-756-2933 AnnMarie Cornejo ancornej@calpoly.edu 805-756-2427

Publication Designer Julia Jackson-Clark, Graphic Communication, '19 juliajackson-clark.com Printer Lithographix, Los Angeles, California Staff Photographers Sofia Ilic (Architecture, '21)

Felipe Vallejo

(Agricultural Communication, '21)

Andrew J. Thulin , Ph.D. | Dean

Shelby Watts

(Agricultural Science, '21)

cafes.calpoly.edu Stay connected on:


CAL POLY HELPS FORMULATE HEALTHY NO-ALCOHOL WINE REFRESHMENT WITH H2O SONOMA SOFT SELTZER Happy hour has taken on an all-new meaning with a new sparkling beverage that not only tastes like premium California wines but contains zero alcohol and has added nutritional benefits. Sound too good to be true? Once it was, but thanks to a collaborative effort between the Cal Poly Food Science and Nutrition Department and a California winemaker, the wait is over.


H2O Sonoma Soft Seltzer, the first wine-infused no-alcohol sparkling refreshment of its kind, hit the market in July 2020, after a lengthy collaboration with Associate Professor Angelos Sikalidis, who among other things works in designing functional products and foods that provide enhanced nutritional value, and Georgos Zanganas, founder of H2O Sonoma Soft Seltzer. Adeline Maykish, a Cal Poly graduate student in the Department of Agriculture National Needs Fellowship program, also assisted with the research leading up to the beverage’s launch. “While pouring thousands of taste-tests of our exceptional wines at Whole Foods Market over the years, many customers expressed their desire for a wine-themed no-alcohol refreshment — something truly interesting they could drink anytime, anywhere,” Zanganas said. “Wine grapes are packed with antioxidants, which have some incredible health benefits.” Cal Poly’s Food Science and Nutrition Department supported research on identifying nutritional enhancements to the beverage, including electrolytes and antioxidants, for even better hydration that could benefit the customers’ health and immune system, Zanganas said. One of the benefits of the beverage, said Sikalidis, is that it gives greater access to the pleasure of partaking in wine without the




ANGELOS SIKALIDIS potential health detriments associated with alcohol. “People who drink this beverage can gain benefits in terms of hydration, antioxidant support and possibly, immune function,” he said. Second-year graduate student Maykish assisted with reviewing the health benefits and the marketability of the non-alcoholic beverage. “I am interested in the alcohol industry as a whole, but particularly the wine industry,” Maykish said. She contributed to a research paper published by Sikalidis focused on young consumers’ growing interest in and willingness to purchase a wine grapebased no-alcohol beverage with enhanced nutritional properties. Additional publications investigating the health benefits of various beverage types were also produced. “The benefits of this collaboration extend beyond the partnership between the college and industry, to aiding students and the California wine industry as a whole by doing pertinent applied research aiming at practical issues,” Sikalidis said. Three of H2O’s eight planned varietals — pinot noir, rosé and sauvignon blanc — ­­­ are available now. The remaining, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, moscato, and zinfandel, will be available in the coming year. The H2O soft seltzer beverage is currently available at www.H2Oseltzer.com and on Amazon and will soon be available internationally. CAFES.CALPOLY.EDU




AWARD OF HONOR Karen Watts (Ornamental Horticulture, ’79) was named the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences’ 2020 Honored Alumna. Watts has served on the Dean’s Advisory Council since 1999 and as its chair since 2018. In this capacity, she provides frequent guidance and counsel to the dean and other college leadership and serves as a mentor and resource for students. She is the market manager for Nutrien Ag Solutions, the world's largest provider of crop inputs, services and solutions. She started there in 1985, serving in a variety of sales and management positions. As a member of the company’s Women’s Leadership Group, she is involved with mentoring female employees — as well as college students — on their leadership journeys. In 2019 she facilitated a donation from her company to Cal Poly to help host the first annual Aspire to Grow Conference, at which invited speakers discussed innovation in the food and agriculture sectors and the role diversity of thought and experience plays in achieving that. The conference was held for the third consecutive year in February. Watts frequently visits campus to interact with students and discuss potential career paths with them and has co-hosted numerous events throughout the state to ensure that CAFES and Cal Poly maintain strong connections to its alumni.



H. Joey Gray became head of the Experience Industry Management Department in March. She was selected for the position following a national recruitment after former Department Head Bill Hendricks moved to an associate dean role. Prior to Cal Poly, Gray spent 14 years at Middle Tennessee State University as a professor in leisure, sport and tourism studies. While there, she founded and led the Sports Analytics Institute Project. She also was the program director for leisure, sport and tourism studies for eight years. Gray earned a bachelor’s degree in sport management from Averett University; a master’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management: sport management from North Carolina State University; and a doctorate in leisure behavior: sport management from Indiana University.



2021 ASPIRE TO GROW CONFERENCE The college hosted the third annual Aspire to Grow Conference, exploring innovation in food and agriculture on Feb. 18. The student-planned virtual symposium focused on new technologies and developments and the role diversity of thought and experience plays in achieving these. Speakers included Michael Frank, executive vice president and CEO of retail at Nutrien; Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Justin Trabue, alumna and assistant winemaker at Lumen Wines; Patricia Carillo, executive director of ALBA Organics; Surendra Dara, cooperative extension advisor with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Fadzayi Mashiri, Mariposa County director/farm advisor. The Aspire to Grow Conference aims to inform and empower students from across campus about the many and varied career opportunities in these industries and create a forum for students to learn from and network with companies for which diversity and inclusion are an essential part of their visions.




AREA OF SPECIALTY: Digital media and marketing EDUCATION: Ph.D. in agricultural communication,

FOOD SCIENCE AND NUTRITION PROFESSOR EARNS PRESTIGIOUS CSU AWARD Aydin Nazmi, a professor in Cal Poly’s Food Science and Nutrition Department and a leader of Cal Poly’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is one of four faculty members from across the California State University (CSU) system to earn the Wang Family Excellence Award. Nazmi earned the award in the Outstanding Faculty Service category in recognition of his achievements and contributions to the CSU. “I’m humbled to have received this honor,” said Nazmi. “I’m fortunate to have had the support of so many colleagues and students over the last year and throughout my time at Cal Poly. I am looking forward to continuing the work in service to our students throughout this public health crisis and to continue to advocate and work toward addressing our students’ and community’s basic needs in the years to come.” Since early 2020, Nazmi has served as the Cal Poly Presidential Faculty Fellow for COVID-19 Response and Preparedness. In this role, Nazmi has been a leading on-campus voice on how to safely house students on campus; how to safely offer in-person courses; how to educate and test thousands of students living off-campus in the San Luis Obispo area; and how to expand both campus testing and surveillance capacity using faculty expertise and on-campus resources.

University of Florida HOMETOWN: Trinidad and Tobago CURRENTLY READING: "The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham," by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks FUN FACT:  "I had a show on television once … and I’ll do it again."

YIMING FENG DEPARTMENT: Food Science and Nutrition AREA OF SPECIALTY: Food engineering EDUCATION: Ph.D. in food science and human nutri-

tion, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign HOMETOWN: Ningbo, China CURRENTLY READING: “The Billion-Dollar Molecule: The Quest for the Perfect Drug,” by Barry Werth FUN FACT: "I am a food scientist but terrible at cooking."

LILLI KAARAKKA DEPARTMENT: Natural Resources Management and

Congratulations to Steve McShane (Soil Science, '98) who was honored with the Cal Poly Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award.

Environmental Sciences AREA OF SPECIALTY:  Forest management and silviculture EDUCATION: D.Sc. in forestry, University of Helsinki, Finland HOMETOWN: Helsinki and Los Angeles CURRENTLY READING: “The Overstory,” by Richard Powers FUN FACT: "I have lived on three continents and can speak three languages but have a really hard time with direction (left/right)." CAFES.CALPOLY.EDU






A partnership between the Cal Poly Creamery and the second largest school district in San Luis Obispo County is providing farm-to-table staples, such as cheese and eggs, to families who may be struggling in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each week the San Luis Coastal Unified School District provides a free meal kit to more than 1,800 students, filling a needed void for many families who have encountered unforeseen challenges since the onset of the pandemic. The school district shifted its weekly meal kit from prepared meals to a pantry box, with Cal Poly student-produced foods front and center. The partnership is a win for both Cal Poly and the school district, aiding student success by providing more campus jobs for Cal Poly students interested in dairy production, food science and nutrition. Students gain real-world experience while providing needed, nutritious foods to thousands of families living in San Luis Obispo County. Craig Russell, who oversees Cal Poly’s dairy operations, said the partnership is also rewarding in unconventional ways, allowing college students to contribute to the greater good of society while demonstrating their commitment to furthering their education. The Cal Poly Creamery also recently donated more than 240 packages of cheese to the Cal Poly 4


Food Pantry. “These students are now putting their products out to younger people from kindergarten through high school and showing them the potential of what they too can learn in college if they choose to," Russell said.

CREATING A PATH FORWARD The journey from the onset of the pandemic to now has involved continual pivoting to adjust and continue operations. For Russell that meant ensuring that daily operations of the Cal Poly Dairy continued with fewer students and that Learn by Doing opportunities remained available. For Erin Primer, director of food and nutrition services at San Luis Coastal Unified School District, it meant rethinking how school-aged children were fed. “I will forever remember March 13, 2020, as the day that K-12 schools shut down,” said Primer. “We knew that we needed to find a way to continue to feed kids, and it has been interesting to learn how to do the same types of things we had done in the past in a very new way." The monthslong process has reinforced Primer’s ultimate goal of building a healthy meal plan that incorporates plant-forward foods with an emphasis on farm-to-table education. Primer has partnered with more than a dozen local producers to provide key ingredients, such as locally sourced grains and produce.



dozen Cal Poly eggs provided each week

2,000 pounds of Cal Poly cheese provided each month

The new partnership with Cal Poly will add cheese, eggs and ultimately, milk to the list. “We are abundantly lucky to have people who produce incredible products and who are willing to partner with schools,” Primer said. “If we expose children to good, high-quality, delicious foods, they will learn to seek those out. These kids are the consumers of tomorrow, and as they grow to value local food systems, they will eventually go out and buy those products themselves.”


students recieve meal kits weekly


total meals have been provided to the community since 2020

The school lunch boxes, subsidized by the Department of Agriculture, are provided free to any student who is 18 years or younger, regardless of the school they attend. An assortment of items have been provided, including cooked entrées, fruit, juice, milk and snacks such as sunflower seeds, cereal bars and crackers. Since March, more than 500,000 meals have been provided to the community. Primer said it was kismet that brought Cal Poly and the school district together. During a virtual cooking class held over the summer, a student asked where the district sourced its milk. That student was Russell’s daughter. Primer and Russell connected, and in December, the first shipment of more than 1,500 blocks of cheese and an equal number of eggs was transported from the Cal Poly Creamery to the school district. “We got connected in a way that would not have existed without the pandemic,” said Primer. “We share a vision of what farm-toschool looks like, and we are now making that happen.” The new pantry boxes, which will continue through June, will include staples needed for a week’s worth of meals, such as bread, eggs, cheese and produce. The partnership with Cal Poly will continue beyond that. “This is really more than what is for lunch today,” said Primer. “This is about how we build respect into the food system and how we cultivate food for tomorrow. If we tell the story of how something got to the plate, kids are more inclined to enjoy it.”

To learn more about how you can support these efforts and the Cal Poly Dairy and Creamery, please contact Erica Nordby at 805-305-4567 or nordby@calpoly.edu




THE FUTURE OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE Grimmway Farms Donates $5 Million to Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences to Establish the Center for Organic Production and Research


A $5 million donation made to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences by Grimmway Farms, the global leader in organic produce and the world’s largest producer of carrots, is set to change the landscape of organic agriculture. With this gift, Cal Poly will expand its emphasis on applied research in organic production and soil health by providing a unique, collaborative platform for academia, industry and government from across California and beyond to come together to advance the organic industry.

The partnership will establish a unique learning model that will enable research and innovation across disciplines, focusing on real-world issues that directly impact the state’s $10 billion organic industry. The Grimmway Farms donation will be used to launch the Center for Organic Production and Research on campus, as well as build the Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic Soil Health and Sustainability Laboratories to provide research and teaching opportunities in topics related to healthy soils, water and air.

“This is an amazing gift and investment in the future of California agriculture and a perfect match with Cal Poly’s excellence in applied research and Learn by Doing model that prepares students for collaborative problem-solving in their careers,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “I want to thank Grimmway Farms and the Grimm family for their generosity, leadership and confidence in the future of California agriculture

“Our partnership with Grimmway will facilitate bringing increased

— one that is built on innovation.”

science and technology to the production of organic food,” said

Nationally, consumer demand for organic products continues to

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean Andrew Thulin. “Cal Poly is at the forefront of using the power of collaboration to solve real world problems. This new center will integrate the greatest talents in academia, private industry, government and a wide range of disciplines to benefit the organic industry as a whole.” The need to increase focused efforts on organic research and create pathways for students to enter the industry is clear. The organic industry is one of the fastest growing agricultural segments

$18 billion

in sales of organic fruits and vegetables in the U.S. in 2019

grow; sales of organic fruits and vegetables in the U.S. reached $18 billion in 2019, up nearly 5 percent from the year prior. “We believe that lives are transformed through education, and that certainly applies to agricultural education,” said Barbara Grimm Marshall, co-owner of Grimmway Farms and Cal-Organic. “Everevolving technologies and more sophisticated business practices mean that students who wish to pursue a career in agriculture must spend as much time in the classroom as in the field. We are thrilled to be providing an avenue for these students to work with the best minds in agribusiness and soil sciences today.” “With this commitment, the families and Grimmway Farms/CalOrganic are affirming our belief that agriculture is the economic and cultural cornerstone of our future,” said Brandon Grimm, grower re-

in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture’s

lations manager and co-owner of Grimmway Farms and Cal-Organic.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This emphasis on

“Our company has been a leader in innovative and advanced

organic production and research is of particular importance in

farming practices since my father and uncle founded the company

California, which accounts for 40 percent of all organic production

51 years ago. Today we take the next step to build on that legacy by

in the nation.

investing in vital organic and soil health research.”




Jeff Huckaby, president of Grimmway Farms and Cal-Organic added, “The future of this industry depends solely on the ability to prepare, educate and excite the next generation of growers in organic production. We look forward to partnering with this dynamic educational institution to cultivate those who will ensure we continue to meet the ever-growing demand for healthy and nutritious organic produce.”

Huckaby said the challenges of balancing the role as a global


with unbiased data. We in the industry can then take it to the next

producer of organic produce and incorporating the most efficient production practices will be lessened by partnering with Cal Poly. “There are a lot of new products on the market that we are not able to properly evaluate,” Huckaby said. “Cal Poly will be able to manage the scientific inquiry of these products, such as herbicides and fertilizers, by doing smaller plot trials and informing industry

level. The partnership with Cal Poly will expedite improvements in Cal Poly is uniquely positioned to drive these initiatives forward with its polytechnic educational model and more than 10,000 acres the field.” of land for hands-on research and learning. Cal Poly’s location “Grimmway Farms’ generous support of Cal Poly and its talented on California’s Central Coast, surrounded by a diverse number of students embodies the increasingly vital partnership between the specialty crops that are the foundation of the state’s agriculprivate sector and the California State University,” said tural production, as well as the university’s strong ties “I CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro. “I deeply appreciate with industry, gives students and faculty the opwant to thank Grimmway’s partnership with several CSU campusportunity to work directly with companies such Grimmway Farms es, including Cal Poly SLO, and their strong comas Grimmway Farms and other top producers

and the Grimm family

mitment to supporting and preparing the next in the organic industry through internships, for their generosity, research collaborations and more. leadership and confidence generation of our nation’s agricultural leaders.” “Our partnership will increase opportunities in the future of California Cal Poly’s model for the new Center for Organic for students, faculty and staff to gain firstProduction and Research will emulate its demonagriculture – one hand experience in the organic food industry strated success with the Cal Poly Strawberry that is built on and beyond,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Center, a collaborative partnership focused on innovation.” Armstrong. “This new center for organic production increasing the sustainability of the strawberry industry and research emphasizes our Learn by Doing philosophy through research and education that addresses the needs of the and will give students the tools to lead impactful careers addressindustry. ing the agricultural challenges that face California and the world.” The new Center for Organic Production and Research will serve as a hub for students to work with experts from across the industry to develop solutions to the most pressing issues related to organic production and agriculture. Research of soil structure and biodiversity, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, water quality, composting and organic matter and technology innovation will be at the forefront of the new Center for Organic Production and Research. The new Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic Soil Health and Sustainability Laboratories will be located in Cal Poly’s planned Plant Sciences Complex.

“We have a demonstrated history of working with industry to not

Huckaby said Cal Poly’s Center for Organic Production and Research will be an asset to the industry in two important ways: by preparing skilled graduates to enter the workforce and by providing research in areas such as soil health and automation.

“At the moment it is extremely difficult to find anyone with experi-

only meet current needs but to prepare for future challenges," Thulin said. "We know how to set the model up, as we did with the Strawberry Center five years ago, and now it’s just a matter of determining what is important and moving forward." Students will be directly immersed in the research, working handson in various field and laboratory trials, preparing them to enter the organic industry not only skilled in current practices, but prepared to meet future demands. ence because it is a growing industry,” said Huckaby. “This will be a gamechanger for the entire industry to have students who graduate with hands-on experience, poised and ready."



Q & Q&A

Seeta Sistla

Seeta Sistla, assistant professor in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, specializes in soil ecology through the lens of global change science. “I work to characterize how factors such as agricultural land use, nutrient enrichment and climate warming affect plant-soil processes in natural and managed settings in a variety of land systems, from the Arctic to the tropics. In addition to combining field, laboratory and modeling approaches to understanding terrestrial systems, I often collaborate with social scientists to more deeply consider the feedbacks between human activities and ecosystems in an era of unprecedented change,” Sistla said.

Why is soil health important?

Soil is the skin of the earth — it is essential for providing a suite of essential ecosystem services ranging from water purification and supporting plant growth to cycle nutrients and carbon storage. Soil is also arguably the most biodiverse habitat on earth. Yet, most people overlook soil as being inert, and most surface soils are deeply impacted by human activities. My most critical job as a professor is to help others to recognize the value of biologically functioning, intact soils systems for ensuring agricultural productivity, potable water availability, and a stable climate system.

You have several active ongoing research projects both locally and in the Arctic. How are they all connected? All of my scientific activities focus on interactions between soils and plants under changing environmental conditions. My research in the Arctic is centered on understanding how tundra carbon and nutrient cycling responds to accelerated warming and novel fire stressors, while my research in California focuses on land use activities and their impacts on plant-soil interactions. While the settings are distinct, the overarching approach to my research is understanding how land systems respond to stressors and the implications of these responses to soil function (and thus the ecosystem services it provides).



The National Science Foundation has awarded more than $1.3 million in funding to study Arctic systems. What is the significance there and how does it impact the larger environment? A major component of my research is centered in the Arctic, where I have worked since 2004. High latitudes are a critical component of the global carbon cycle because they store nearly half of the world’s soil carbon and are experiencing unprecedented rates of warming and increasing fire frequency. In addition to significant release of carbon dioxide with increasingly large and frequent tundra fires, climate warming can accelerate carbon release from tundra soils by stimulating microbial decomposer activity. Beyond the extraordinary rate of change that Arctic systems are undergoing that directly affects Arctic residents, who are being forced to change their ways of life now in response to climate destabilization, Arctic terrestrial responses to warming are of grave concern for the climate system.

What is the Polaris Project and how is it connected? The Polaris Project is a National Science Foundationfunded project that supports arctic biogeoscience research


Soil is the skin of the earth — it is essential for providing a suite of essential ecosystem services."

(far left) Sistla writing field notes. (left) Sistla taking a soil core sample in the Arctic. projects for undergraduate students from socio-economic groups that are poorly represented in the discipline. Through the Polaris Project, I have begun a new research project in Alaska's YukonKuskokwim Delta, studying the feedbacks between climate warming and fire disturbance, which is increasing in frequency across Arctic systems.

What are some opportunities available to Cal Poly students through these ongoing research efforts? I am always happy to support undergraduate and graduate research through my projects and welcome the new ideas and questions that students bring to the table. The Polaris Project supports students from across the U.S., and my other new Arctic project will include students in both field and lab work. Closer to home, I have a project studying the ecological impacts of large-scale solar array development in fallowed farmland that is currently led by Cal Poly undergraduate students. My favorite part of research is educating students to critically consider how land systems are responding to the myriad of human-driven changes they are experiencing and become reflective, inclusive scientists. It's also extremely satisfying to be working on research that can inform policy and improve resource decision-making, although that process is much slower and less tangible than the joys of working with students!

How can the research being done be used in decision-making and conservation efforts in agriculture? In general, my research seeks to increase the resilience of land systems to human-caused stressors and reduce environmental impacts. I'm excited to have a suite of research projects at the interface of environmental science and agriculture because there is so much potential for innovation at this juncture, and I love that students can so easily develop projects within these themes. CAFES.CALPOLY.EDU



QUARTER HORSE ENTERPRISE Students in the Quarter Horse Enterprise Project train Cal Poly-bred quarter horses in performance, general riding and ranch work. The goal of the enterprise is to produce a versatile, quiet and talented horse and a well-rounded, hard-working and knowledgeable student trainer. Each spring, at the culmination of the project, the horses are sold at the Cal Poly Performance Horse Sale. The proceeds support equine educational programs. The 2021 Cal Poly Performance Horse sale will be held June 19 with an online auction and limited in-person event, dependent upon local health conditions. For more information, email Lou MooreJacobsen at hmooreja@calpoly.edu.






As the fields begin to green and sprouts of new life continue to peek through the devastation at Swanton Pacific Ranch following the August 2020 fire, staff remain busy overseeing recovery efforts and shepherding an increasing number of research projects. With the revisioning of Swanton Pacific Ranch underway, critical research projects related to fire recovery and regenerative land management forge ahead as well. Because the evacuated cattle have not yet been returned to the ranch to to allow for fences to be mended and watering systems to be repaired, Cal Poly Professor Stewart Wilson, a soil scientist, is working with Aaron Lee, an agriculture management specialist at Swanton Pacific Ranch and graduate student in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, to set up a research project in the ranch’s expansive rangeland. The undertaking is intended to determine how spreading various densities of compost can help to restore grazing lands such as those at the ranch, with the dual goal of restoring productivity and sequestering carbon — ultimately reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere. The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Healthy Soils Initiative is funding the $249,000 study, which will take place over the next three years, providing hands-on opportunities for undergraduate students in soil analysis. “Swanton Pacific Ranch is already positioned as a demonstration rangeland with an extensive network in California,” said Stewart. “Though we currently don’t have the infrastructure to host meetings and bring people to site demonstrations, the connection between everyone involved, from ecosystem restoration and beef production to soil health, remains intact.” Lee, who lives and works at the ranch, spread nearly 200 tons of compost in 24 treatment plots over 12 acres. While California recommends that compost is applied to grazing lands to improve soil health and mitigate climate change, it is not yet known exactly how much compost should be applied to provide peak benefits. Wilson and Lee hope to find the answer. In late November, Lee spent more than a month spreading 10-, 20- and 30-ton increments of compost per acre. Initial soil samples were taken prior to compost application and will continue to be sampled throughout the duration of the project. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions are measured twice monthly. Lee, who had only worked at the ranch for about eight months before the fire, decided to remain there, alongside his wife, despite losing everything. He jokes that he once envisioned himself, “tootling around the orchard with a happy, simple life.” Now, he works long days attending to a never-ending list of chores. “If I were anywhere else, it would have been a different story. I fell in love with Swanton and instantly found value in the work. The future of Swanton is bright.”

(Above) Aaron Lee using a tractor to spread nearly 200 tons of compost at Swanton Pacific Ranch.






The JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture, a completely donor-funded project, is set to be complete in summer 2021. The two-building complex includes a teaching, research and production winery and a building with a large events hall and labs for enology, viticulture and sensory analysis. Cal Poly has the largest undergraduate wine and viticulture program in the country, with nearly 300 students. This new facility will increase hands-on teaching opportunities and expand research partnerships with the industry. Final touches are underway, including the installation of the fermentation tanks. In the E. & J. Gallo Winery and Family Building, several of the labs are complete, while the Swanson Center of Effort Conference Hall, the Keith Patterson Learning Lab, and the Richard K. Sauret Student Offices are under construction. A campaign to name each tank in the winery before the grand opening was recently launched, with a goal to raise $1.28 million to support enhanced Learn by Doing opportunities for students. Students will gain hands-on experience using the fermentation tanks to make Cal Poly’s branded wines and their own experimental varietals and blends. Donors who name a tank will be recognized with a plaque affixed to the tank. We are grateful to those who have already donated, including Coastal Vineyard Care Associates, Wente Family Estates, and the Hill Family. There are three types of tanks available to be named. All gifts are payable over five years.







$50,000 $35,000 $25,000

For more information, contact Allyson Dela Cruz, director of development, at 805-305-5268 or at adelac20@calpoly.edu.

12 12

SPRING FALL 2020 2021

View the construction livestream at cafesbuilds.calpoly.edu to see the finished exteriors and newly installed landscaping.





The Cal Poly Creamery is one of the oldest operations of the university, serving as a teaching and research laboratory for Cal Poly students for more than a century. When the California Polytechnic School opened for classes in 1903, a temporary creamery was located in the basement of the Administration and Recitation Building to support students taking butter-making courses. The first creamery building was built in 1905, but the needs of the students quickly outgrew its capacity. In 1909 a spacious new creamery was completed at the east end of campus (approximately where the Dexter Building stands today). The facility was equipped with “modern apparatuses” for butter and cheese making, refrigerator rooms, an ice machine, classrooms, a laboratory and a reading room. Students produced milk and cheese for the campus cafeteria while gaining practical experience in creamery work. In the early 1920s, the school partnered with the Harmony Valley Creamery Association to manufacture butter in the creamery.

Students packaging butter in the creamery, circa 1910. Photo attributed to Frank Aston. Courtesy University Archives.

Increases in enrollment and budget shortfalls forced the campus to convert the creamery to dormitories in 1925, and in 1928, the equipment was sold to a Los Angeles dairy. Students in upper-division courses continued to manage the school dairy. After World War II, skyrocketing enrollment brought increased interest in the dairy manufacturing program.

Increases in enrollment and budget shortfalls forced the campus to convert the creamery to dormitories in 1925, and in 1928, the equipment was sold to a Los Angeles dairy. Students in upper-division courses continued to manage the school dairy. After World War II, skyrocketing enrollment brought increased interest in the dairy manufacturing program. In 1949 the school converted the kitchens of the National Youth Administration Building (located at the east end of campus near the site of the present Administration Building) into the creamery and invested in new manufacturing equipment, including rollerless butter churns, a homogenizer, batch and continuous ice cream freezers, and cheese vats. Students once again began producing milk, ice cream, cottage cheese and cheese, which they sold to the campus community. Creamery managers repeatedly wrote in the campus newspaper, pleading with readers to return milk bottles for reuse, and it was a breaking news story when “prices soared” from 8 cents to a dime for a pint of milk in 1951.

Exterior view of the creamery, circa 1910. The 40-by-60-foot building was located approximately where the Dexter Building stands today. Photo by Frank Aston. Courtesy University Archives.

In 1953 the Dairy Production Unit was moved to the northwest area of campus. In 1962 the creamery moved to the Food Processing Building, adjacent to the Campus Store, which students helped manage and supplied with milk, ice cream and cheese. In 1996 the creamery joined the Dairy Cattle Instruction Center at the Dairy Production Unit (known as the Dairy Unit), where it continues to operate today as the Cal Poly Creamery, with award-winning student-made products sold on campus and at dozens of stores.

To learn more about how you can support the Cal Poly Creamery and our students, please contact Erica Nordby at nordby@calpoly.edu or 805-305-4567. CAFES.CALPOLY.EDU







In 2009 11 innovative industry leaders and philanthropists, recognizing the distinct advantage of the hands-on education offered at Cal Poly, came together to form the Learn by Doing Endowment to support the college’s renowned tradition of excellence.

Each founding member donated $100,000 to create a fund of $1.1. million, which was used throughout the last 10 years to create matching endowments and multiply the impact for students. In that time, 40 new donors have also pledged their support, with donations ranging from $12,500 to $240,000. These donations were matched with the founders’ original investment. A decade later, the endowment has grown to $2 million.

Original funds invested


New donors


While the program has reached its maturity, the legacy of these generous philanthropists will continue to fuel student success in perpetuity. Annual payouts from the endowment are used to fund identified needs throughout the college’s nine departments. It has funded new and upgraded equipment and has provided opportunities for students to attend conferences and competitions.

Total size of completed endowment

Just recently, eight drones capable of high-definition photo imaging were purchased to provide hands-on experiences for students enrolled in a new aerial surveying course offered by the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department. The drones will be used by students to acquire real-time views of the environment and information about the height and position of nearby obstacles to create 3D maps. These will be used in conjunction with a classroom software package for drone-based surveying that was donated by Topcon this past fall.


“The generosity of these founding individuals has inspired more than a decade of giving,” said Russ Kabaker, assistant dean of Advancement and External Relations. “Their vison has provided better equipped classrooms, fueled student success, and reinforced the college’s commitment to ensuring that graduates are prepared to meet current and future challenges the moment they graduate.”

Research-grade dissecting microscope



60-L tank fermentors

Handheld video cameras

Wine and Viticulture Department

Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department

Agricultural Education and Communication Department

is produced per year in perpetuity to sustain student success.

200x Chocolate molds

Food Science and Nutrition Department

Executive in Residence Program Experience Industry Management Department

10x Hydrogen generator

Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department


i-Stat handheld blood analyzer

Animal Science Department


Student travel to national AFA Conference All Departments

Digital physiological modeling equipment for excercise labs Food Science and Nutrition Department

TopCon digital level for surveying

BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department


DEFINITION OF SUCCESS Megan Campbell, a fourth-year bioresource and agricultural engineering major, is one of five recipients of the Outstanding Women in Engineering Award. The award ceremony was hosted by the Women in Engineering Program and the Society of Women Engineers. Graduating engineering students were nominated by faculty members. Out of 20 nominees, five were selected to receive the award. Campbell plans to pursue a career in wetland and riparian restoration engineering.


Hannah Heath, a fourth-year nutrition major, received the 2021 Doris A. Howell Foundation - CSUPERB Research Scholar Award and a $3,500 scholarship for her research titled “Impact of Pre-pregnancy Lifestyle Intervention on Gestational Diabetes Prevention via Improvement of Metabolic Markers.” She is mentored by Assistant Professor Michael La Frano. The award is given to California State University students to fund promising undergraduate student research projects in topics related to women's health that are biotechnology related.


The Cal Poly Dairy Judging Team earned fourth place overall, fourth place in oral reasons and fourth place in breeds at the virtual national competition held Nov. 14. Cal Poly's team was one of 11 university teams to compete. Contestants judged eight classes of cattle, provided by livestockjudging.com for the first-of-its-kind virtual event, then gave oral reasons on four of the classes to a nationally recognized panel of dairy judges via Zoom. Caroline Lee, a fourth-year dairy science major, ranked as the high individual in the Brown Swiss breed.


Agricultural communication freshman David Lopez-Larios was elected the National FFA western region vice president in October. He is serving alongside five colleagues on the 2020-21 National FFA Officer Team, representing the organization and assisting with virtual leadership workshops across the country.


Lopez-Larios discovered his passion for agriculture while attending high school in his hometown of Holtville, California. He chose Cal Poly because it felt like the “perfect fit” to continue his pursuit of making a positive impact on the agriculture industry. He plans to continue his education after Cal Poly to pursue a law degree. “My hope is to improve the quality of life for all agriculturists. I could potentially help devise solutions that better the quality of life for thousands of farm workers, while also ensuring producers are meeting their bottom lines. It would give me great joy to use my experiences in agricultural education as the foundation for this work, knowing how it would improve the lives of so many,” Lopez-Larios said. He will take a year off from his studies at Cal Poly to fulfill his duties as a National FFA officer. During that time he will meet with CEOs and other company executives who sponsor and support FFA programs. Additionally, he will meet with legislators and members of the presidential cabinet to advocate for agricultural education. “The thing that I am looking forward to the most during this journey is getting to interact with students across the country. Now more than ever we need leaders who will step up and find ways to create opportunities for others. During my time serving on this team, I hope to help move the needle forward toward diversity, inclusion and equity for all members involved in the National FFA Organization,” he said. CAFES.CALPOLY.EDU











Funded by Cal Poly Strategic Research Initiative An interdisciplinary group of Cal Poly faculty and staff, partnered with industry and community members, is now closer to establishing a unique institute to research wildfires and risk reduction strategies, after receiving initial funding support from the university’s Strategic Research Initiatives (SRI) program. The Cal Poly Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) FIRE Institute is focused on the area known as the wildland-urban interface, where the natural environment meets the built environment. Fires in the wildland-urban interface make up the most frequent source of declared disasters in California and are becoming increasingly more frequent and damaging. While researchers at Cal Poly have been studying WUI fires, prevention and firefighting strategies for years, support from the university’s Strategic Research Initiatives (SRI) program has allowed for a more concerted effort supported by an interim director and support for student/faculty research. Additional funding is being vigorously sought through grants, contracts and private support. The WUI FIRE Institute is the first of its kind at a California university, and its status as a research institute will open up more opportunities for funding and projects related to WUI fires. “We’ve had faculty across the university doing work in wildland-urban interface fires and wildland fires for decades,” said Chris Dicus, a professor in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department. “Thanks to these cross-disciplinary

relationships at Cal Poly and with local and statewide partners, we have an incredible infrastructure on which to build the WUI FIRE Institute.” Faculty members in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, Mechanical Engineering Department, Fire Protection Engineering program, Animal Science Department, Chemistry Department, and City and Regional Planning Department, and several others are involved in the creation of the institute. The team is led by Interim WUI FIRE Institute Director Dan Turner, a retired CAL FIRE chief and business manager of the San Luis Obispo County Fire Safe Council. “It’s crucial that we have a shared focus, both on helping firefighters address what they’re challenged by in the field and on helping communities understand and mitigate the negative consequences of these fires,” Turner said. “We have to do our part to educate the public and policymakers on how these fires happen and what we can do to make them less destructive.” The project is funded through the Strategic Research Initiatives (SRI) program, a partnership between Academic Affairs; Research, Economic Development; Graduate Education; and University Development. The SRI program identified proposals from Cal Poly faculty and staff that addressed problems facing the Central Coast, California, and the world as a whole and that placed an emphasis on the role of undergraduate and graduate student research experiences.



We have to do our part to educate the public and policymakers on how these fires happen and what we can do to make them less destructive.”





Make Learn by Doing Your Legacy You have the power to keep Cal Poly ahead of the curve in an increasingly scientific and technological world. When you include Cal Poly in your estate plan, you help ensure that our distinctive, hands-on educational experience will be available to students for generations to come.

You can shape the future of Cal Poly while also meeting personal and financial goals. All it takes is vision and a little planning. If you hear “planned giving” and think it’s only for people older or wealthier than you — or that it’s just too confusing — you’re not alone. However, planned giving is for people of all ages and economic statuses, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. Check out these common planned giving misconceptions and get the answers you need.







They don’t have to be. There are many types of planned gifts: most are simple and affordable, like a gift in your will or living trust. You just need to find the one that best meets your needs. We can help you find the best gift for you, just contact Cal Poly's Office of Gift Planning.

Anyone can make a planned gift — no matter if your estate is worth $100 or $1 million. Gifts of all sizes make a difference at Cal Poly. In fact, you may even be able to make a bigger impact than you thought possible when you make a planned gift.

Having a plan for the future is important — no matter your age. An estate plan makes your wishes known and provides your loved ones with peace of mind.

INCLUDE CAL POLY IN YOUR FUTURE PLANS By including a gift to Cal Poly in your estate plans, you create a legacy of support at Cal Poly. We can help you get started. For more information, contact Kelly Owens-Dávalos at 805-756-6235 or kmowens@calpoly.edu for help finding the right gift for you.



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Cultivate Spring 2021  

The Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is globally recognized as a center of excellence in applied sciences th...

Cultivate Spring 2021  

The Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is globally recognized as a center of excellence in applied sciences th...

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