Cultivate Spring 2022

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Cal Poly RODEO

From riding on windswept beaches to packed arenas, the Cal Poly Rodeo Team represents a legacy of greatness

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Perseverance. As we near the end of the winter quarter and prepare to welcome spring, I am constantly reminded of the strength and dedication of not only our faculty and staff as they forge forward, but of the steadfast commitment made every day by our students. Amid a two-year pandemic, they continue to show up eager and ready, and look forward to a better future for not just themselves, but the larger world. In this issue you’ll read about students learning to grow food in unconventional ways, professors who are collaborating with colleagues across the state to ensure food security for California and beyond, and about the Cal Poly Rodeo Program, which at its heart, provides students with the tenacity and fortitude to become future leaders. We are not only showing up — we are growing. In the spring, our students will take their first classes in the JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture, the largest completely donor-funded capital project in California State University history. And we are just getting started. Plans are underway to improve our greenhouses, and our new Grimm Family Center for Organic Production and Research will shape the future of organic agriculture. It is your support that helps us to keep moving forward and ensures that our students are ready for the future. For that, I thank you. May we continue to grow together,



Cover Story CAL POLY RODEO ————

11 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

Publication Designer Julia Jackson-Clark

Communications Team Haley Marconett 805-756-2933 AnnMarie Cornejo 805-756-2427

(Graphic Communication, '19)

Cover photo by Tristan Twisselman

Felipe Vallejo (Agricultural Communication, '21) Printer Lithographix Los Angeles, California Staff Photographers

Drew Boysen (Philosophy, '22)

Gold Vang (Graphic Communication, '22) Eden Vitakis (Environmental Management and Protection, '22)

Andrew J. Thulin , Ph.D. | Dean Stay connected on:




Using controlled environments to grow soilless crops Students carefully move through towering green tomato vines, methodically removing excess leaves. The plants, grown hydroponically in a campus greenhouse at the college’s horticulture unit, have grown from seedlings to more than 8 feet tall in less than 10 weeks. Soon, they will fruit. The greenhouse vegetable production class, offered in the fall quarter, teaches students how to grow crops hydroponically – the practice of using nutrient-rich water and no soil in a controlled environment to grow the plants. The 15 students in class start with an empty greenhouse and quickly learn hands-on how to cultivate vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and leafy greens. Sarah Grizzle, a third-year agricultural and environmental plant sciences major, grew up in the Imperial Valley, surrounded by agriculture. She took the enterprise course because she was interested in learning a new aspect of growing vegetables. “We have been a part of the process from preparing the greenhouse, to transplanting the plants, to learning to control the nutrients for optimal growth,” she said. “I have definitely learned a lot in just a few weeks.” Vertical agriculture continues to grow in the U.S. and is being used as a tool in meeting increased demands for food production as the world’s population is projected to surpass 9 billion by 2050. The practice allows growers to produce desired vegetables year-round.

“For many students, this is the first time they have been introduced to growing hydroponically in greenhouses,” said Susan Snyder, a lecturer in the Horticulture and Crop Science Department. “They quickly learn that in a controlled environment with heat, good light and irrigation, we are able to grow vegetables year-round.” Students take shifts managing the greenhouse, measuring fertilizer levels, checking on the irrigation system and the temperature and health of the plants daily. The class also visits 168-acre Windset Farms in nearby Santa Maria – getting a first-hand look at a commercial scale hydroponic farm. A state-of-the-art fertilizer injection system, which is used to pump the water and nutrients to the plants, was recently upgraded by Innovative Control Systems – giving students direct experience using similar technology found in commercial operations. “We work directly with industry to ensure that our students are fully immersed in understanding hydroponic growing,” Snyder said. “By visiting farms, they get a true sense of how big the industry is and the opportunities that are available to them.” During winter quarter a successive class is offered that teaches students how to harvest, market and sell the produce at farmers markets, both on campus and in downtown San Luis Obispo. The courses take the students through the full cycle of production, Snyder said.

For many students, this is the first time they have been introduced to growing hydroponically in greenhouses. They quickly learn that in a controlled environment with heat, good light and irrigation, we are able to grow vegetables year-round.”

Check out a video about the Hydroponics greenhouse:




Ag Showcase

Honored Alumnus Walter J. Ruzzo (Natural Resources Management, ’78) was named the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences’ 2021 Honored Alumnus. Ruzzo, a retired leader of environmental health and safety in the mining and biopharmaceutical industries, has served on the college’s Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department Advisory Council since 2012, and as its chair since 2013. In this capacity he provides frequent guidance and counsel to the dean, department head and other college leadership and serves as a mentor and resource for students. Ruzzo is actively involved with Swanton Pacific Ranch, currently serving as the chair of the Swanton Pacific Ranch Advisory Council and as a member of the core planning team to create a new strategic intent following the CZU Lightning Complex fires that badly damaged the ranch in August 2020. He represents Cal Poly and Swanton Pacific Ranch as the secretary of the Central Coast Rangeland Coalition. He is also deeply involved with Cal Poly’s nationally ranked logging team, frequently traveling with the team to competitions in California and throughout the western United States. He serves as a judge at competitions and a mentor to many of the student competitors. In addition, he serves as a volunteer judge for the Forestry Challenge (a nonprofit for high school students interested in forestry and natural resource careers) and uses this platform to recruit forestry students to apply to Cal Poly. Watch a video at:


Ag Showcase, the college’s largest student-run career fair, was held on campus in January, connecting students with more than 50 prospective employers and internship opportunities in a diverse range of fields.

Calendar of Upcoming Events

APRIL 7-9 Open House

APRIL 9 Tractor Pull at Mount Bishop across from the Crops Unit (1 to 3 p.m.) Ag Pavilion (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Alumni Beer and Wine Garden at Engineering Plaza (2 to 4 p.m.) Poly Royal Rodeo at the Cotton Rosser Rodeo Complex (6:30 to 10 p.m.)

JUNE 11 Spring Commencement


Director of Grimm Family Center for Organic Production and Research

Matthew Grieshop joined the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences in January as the director of Cal Poly’s new Grimm Family Center for Organic Production and Research. Prior to joining Cal Poly, Grieshop was an associate professor of organic pest management and director of the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems academic program at Michigan State University.

COMMENCEMENT Cal Poly hosted two ceremonies honoring its graduates in December — the 38th annual fall commencement, celebrating the fall Class of 2021, and a special, in-person name recognition event for graduates of the Class of 2020.

Cal Poly’s new Center for Organic Production and Research will integrate the greatest talents in academia, private industry, government and a wide range of disciplines to benefit the organic industry. “I am thrilled to welcome Matthew Grieshop to the team as we prepare to launch a unique learning model that will enable research and innovation across disciplines, focusing on real-world issues that directly impact the state’s multibillion-dollar organic industry,” said College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean Andrew Thulin.


The new CAFES Connections: Fall Career Networking Event hosted 16 employers, giving students the opportunity to meet with them to discover new career and internship opportunities. Employers attending included Nutrien, the J.M. Smucker Company, G3 Enterprises, Inc., American AgCredit, San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, Sierra Pacific Industries and Superior Foods International, LLC.




Smooth mustard


A new product developed and produced by the Food Science and Nutrition Department

Smooth and spreadable, with a hint of sweetness and a unique tinge of vinegar. Those are the qualities that a four-person student team sought to achieve while creating Cal Poly’s latest food product – mustard. The condiment will join the ranks with a handful of other student-made Cal Poly favorites such as chocolates, jams and barbecue sauces. Customers eager to give it a try will find it available at the Cal Poly Meats market come October. The students, all fourth-year food science majors, spent 12 weeks over the summer of 2021 immersed in a culinology internship developing the product from conception to completion – handling everything from determining the ingredients, sampling various recipes, securing the necessary legal compliance, sensory evaluation and formulating the final recipe to be jarred in a small batch first run. The idea for creating a Cal Poly mustard was pitched by Jim Douglass and Morgan Metheny, who manage Cal Poly's J & G Lau Family Meat Processing Center. Douglass saw a prime opportunity to pair it with Cal Poly meats and cheeses. “It was a great opportunity to emphasize and apply the food science skills we have learned in our classes while gaining direct experience,” said Kylie Wai, a fourth-year food science major with a double concentration



in advanced food science and culinology. “I’m proud to produce a product that has the Cal Poly name on it and have a direct impact on campus.” Molly Lear, operations manager who oversees the Food Science and Nutrition Department’s student production crews, said the experience was an invaluable one for the students involved who had to apply to be a part of the internship. “They not only learned how to work as a team but excelled at organizing and planning throughout the process – despite challenges such as delays in securing ingredients,” Lear said. Food Science professors Amy Lammert and Samir Amin assisted along the way, offering guidance on sensory applications and ingredients.

It was a great opportunity to emphasize and apply the food science skills we have learned in our classes while gaining direct experience.” “We were challenged to think for ourselves and overcome the hardships that come along with developing a new product, just as we will in industry,” said Briana Lewis, a fourthyear food science major with a concentration in culinology. “What I love about food science is seeing something you had an impact on.”

Agriculture in Space



Consulting on NASA's controlled environmental agriculture program Sara Kuwahara, a lecturer in the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department, will fulfill a lifelong dream in June when she joins NASA’s Laboratory Support Services and Operations unit at the Kennedy Space Center as a visiting scientist.

increase interactions between U.S.-based university researchers, corporate partners and scientists at Kennedy Space Center. The team of scientists selected alongside Kuwahara will be focused on establishing research pathways to develop crop production systems for space exploration.

Kuwahara, who earned a doctorate in ag and biosystems engineering from the University of Arizona, was selected from a pool of applicants to spend 12 weeks consulting on the operation’s controlled environmental agriculture program — a blend of engineering, plant science and computer-managed greenhouse control techniques that are used to enhance plant growth.

“The idea is to work toward a completely regenerative life support system,” Kuwahara said. “The growth chamber allows us to measure every single component of what is being used such as lights, water and nutrients and use that data to make the necessary improvements. I am looking to improve the amount of available oxygen in the root zone, as well as working on treating recycled hydroponic water. This is all to make NASA’s grow system more regenerative and self-sufficient.”

“I will be evaluating the test chambers they currently have designed for plant growth in space and looking for ways to update and optimize the technology,” she said. “My research is specifically focused on the use of ultra-fine bubbles for oxygenation and ozonation of hydroponic water.” Similar research is underway at Cal Poly as Kuwahara and two students, bioresource and agricultural engineering majors Rob Ellison and Angelie Cecka, work with Plenty, an indoor vertical farming company headquartered in San Francisco, to help improve the company's water recycling efforts. “We are helping to test different prototype systems to improve the reuse of plant factory water,” Kuwahara said. NASA has worked for decades on controlled environment agriculture, evolving the process as new technology emerges. NASA’s Visiting Scientist/Engineer Program is designed to

I have dreamed of this since I was in high school. To help develop potential labs to be used on the moon and Mars is both exhilarating and an honor." Kuwahara said is looking forward to bringing what she learns while at the Kennedy Space Center back to students at Cal Poly and will continue to look for ways to collaborate on future projects that her students may benefit from. “I have dreamed of this since I was in high school,” Kuwahara said. “To help develop potential labs to be used on the moon and Mars is both exhilarating and an honor.”






Evaluating the Future of Agriculture and Food Systems in California

About the California 100 Research Grants California 100 is a new statewide initiative being incubated at the University of California and Stanford University focused on inspiring a vision and strategy for California’s next century that is innovative, sustainable, and equitable. The initiative will harness the talent of a diverse array of leaders through research, policy innovation, advanced technology, and stakeholder engagement. Along with research on agriculture and food systems at Cal Poly, California 100 is sponsoring a total of 15 research projects focused on the following issue areas: Agriculture Advanced technology and basic research Arts, culture, and entertainment Business Education and workforce, from cradle to career and retirement Economic mobility and inequality Energy, environment and natural resources Federalism and foreign policy Fiscal reform Governance, media, and civil society Health and wellness Housing and community development Immigrant integration Public safety and criminal justice reform Transportation and urban planning



More than two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts and a plethora of other food products are now produced in California, with an additional $21.7 billion of food exports sent overseas. However, pressures such as a changing climate, limited natural resources and expanding fire seasons continue to grow – making it imperative to evaluate the sustainability of the state’s food systems. Anastasia Telesetsky, a professor in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, is evaluating those challenges with the goal of paving a sustainable path forward. She recently received a $90,000 grant to participate in California 100, an ambitious statewide initiative to envision and shape the longterm success of the state. Telesetsky, alongside Catherine Kleier, associate dean in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, is assessing the future of agriculture and food systems in California. The California 100 initiative, developed by the University of California and Stanford University, is engaging researchers focused on 13 key priority areas such as agriculture, advanced technology, health and wellness, and transportation and urban planning – all issues that will potentially shape California’s leadership in the coming century. In all, 18 centers and institutes across the state are participating – with Cal Poly as the only university within the California State University system selected to participate. “We are thrilled to add Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences to the California 100 family,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, executive director for California 100. “We cannot talk about the future of California without understanding the critical role agriculture will play in our economy and our position as a global leader.” The findings of each area of study will be presented in the fall to the newly formed California 100 Commission, comprised of 26 multigenerational, transformative leaders with diverse backgrounds and expertise. The findings will then be shared with the public and later tested through deliberative polling exercises and engagement sessions directly with Californians in 2022.

Telesetsky, who joined Cal Poly in 2021 and is an environmental lawyer with an expertise in food policy relating to commercial marine fisheries, will evaluate current facts, origins, and future trends that food systems will play in California’s next century. “California, the nation’s largest producer of food, will face tremendous challenges in the years to come ranging from wildfire to drought," Telesetsky said. “We will explore the past, present, and future of California’s food systems and consider potential future scenarios for California’s food production systems. This process will help determine what investments we need to make as a state.” Working through the lens of economic, social, and environmental drivers, the project will explore existing conditions around California food production, historical drivers in California agriculture and commercial fisheries, and emerging trends in California food, including the rise of alternative proteins, increased automation in fields, and an aging cohort of medium to large farm food producers. A group of 20 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Telesetsky’s “Contemporary Issues in California Agriculture” seminar during the winter quarter will assist in conducting interviews with agriculture and food production stakeholders. Telesetsky and Kleier will then put forward a series of scenarios and policy recommendations to ensure a sustainable future for California food systems to be shared with the California 100 Commissioners. The research will be complete by the summer of 2022, with the ultimate goal of the findings leading to a set of policy alternatives for the future of California. The research is being coordinated by Henry Brady, director of research for the California 100 Initiative and former dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley. “We are excited to work with our research partners that are international experts in their issue areas,” Brady noted. “We will not only develop a comprehensive knowledge base on various policy issues, but we will also offer actionable recommendations for our intergenerational and expert California 100 Commission and the larger public to consider.”



In the early morning hours, before most of the Cal Poly campus even begins to stir, a group of dedicated students make their way to the rodeo grounds to begin their day. There are horses and stock to feed, work to be done around the grounds, and with the first day’s light, practice begins. Cal Poly Rodeo is one of the most decorated and historically prestigious rodeo programs in the nation and has produced more professional stars than any other. With more than 80 current students enrolled with academic interests spanning the university, and an enviable recent track record at the regional and national level, Cal Poly Rodeo is now widely regarded as one of the best rodeo programs in the country. The program’s legacy is wrought by the hard-work, dedication, perseverance and conviction of both those who came before in the program’s 80-year history, and on the current resolve of those who work hard every day to preserve and honor it. The program is dedicated to generating student athletes who embody Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy, educating and training future leaders steeped in hard work and with an appreciation for the western way of life.

An 80-year legacy of hard work, dedication and teamwork

Randy Bernard (Agribusiness, ’92) has led a prestigious career both in and out of the rodeo arena as former CEO of both Professional Bull Riders and IndyCar. He is currently co-managing Garth Brooks. “You don’t have to come from a ranch or farm to enjoy the western way of life,” Bernard said. “Many people come from large cities. It is about people who share the same values, work ethic and a culture that is built on honesty, politeness, responsibility and respect of others and animals.”




Bernard jokes that he has been a part of rodeos since his first steps, but it was his involvement in the Cal Poly Rodeo program that he credits with setting him on a pathway to success. “It was a great place to learn about leadership, fundraising, sponsorships and to communicate and promote the program,” he said. “I’ve been able to take those foundations and build upon them through life and I have to give Cal Poly credit for allowing me to grow through the Learn by Doing philosophy at the university.”

Preserving the Legacy A fundraising initiative was recently launched to raise $5 million to establish the Cotton Rosser Rodeo Endowment to support the future of Cal Poly’s Rodeo in perpetuity. The endowment will honor rodeo legend and Cal Poly alumni Cotton Rosser, one of the founding members of the program, and ensure that the Cal Poly Rodeo program will always have the funding and resources needed to not only survive, but to thrive. The endowment will fund student success to ensure students have access to professional development

Preserving the legacy The Cal Poly Rodeo program has been a rich part of the university’s history since 1939, when 15 student athletes paved the way for decades of success by gathering to compete at the C Bar G Ranch near Victorville, California, about 93 miles east of Los Angeles. It was the first intercollegiate college rodeo of its kind and the beginning of a strong, successful history for the Cal Poly program. In 1940, the very next year, Cal Poly students organized the first campus collegiate rodeo as part of the annual open house known as Poly Royal, where it continues to be a showcase of student grit, talent and perseverance. Nearly 70 students participated in Cal Poly’s first rodeo, all with roping or riding experience. Among the participants were the students who won first place at the national intercollegiate rodeo in Victorville. The half-hour program was broadcast over the San Luis Obispo KVEC radio station and the rodeo was the most popular event of the entire weekend. Success quickly followed and by 1949 Cal Poly joined the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, sending its six-person team to the College National Finals Rodeo in San Francisco. Cal Poly swiftly achieved national recognition for the competitiveness of its rodeo teams. Since then, Cal Poly Rodeo’s student athletes have gone on to win six national championships and 46 national titles, and the program 8


opportunities, internships and assistant coach positions. It will also assist with needed facility improvements and ongoing operation costs such as practice stock, feed, maintenance and minor repairs and team travel. In recent years the program has relied on proceeds from the annual Poly Royal Rodeo to continue operating – this endowment will ensure that the program’s operation is not reliant on any one event. It will also guarantee that the program can continue to grow and provide new opportunities for students, cultivating them to prepare a strong foundation for future success in their chosen fields. “Providing practice, sport, community, and a way of life is my first and foremost responsibility,” Coach Ben Londo said. “I am extremely humbled by the opportunity to lead this program. The sport that has given me all that I have and everything I hold dear is in my hands to share with others. I get to share the core values of western life with the world through rodeo. It is a torch that has been carried by many far greater than I.”

has produced more Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association World Champions, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers, and Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inductees than any other college rodeo program. Legendary alumni include Greg Ward, Monty Roberts, Jack Roddy, Bob Tallman, Sharon Camarillo, Tom Ferguson, Chris Lybertt, John Jones Jr., Nolan Twisselman, and Billy Bugenig. These alumni helped shape the program to what is today, providing a pathway for more than eight decades of student success. Rodeo legend Cotton Rosser (Animal Husbandry, ’52) has also played an integral role in the Cal Poly Rodeo legacy, serving as the captain of the Rodeo Team and establishing the traditional Poly Royal Rodeo, which continues to this day. Originally built of chainlink fence and bailing wire, a modest arena hosted more than 4,000 spectators in the rodeo’s inaugural year. Rosser went on to innovate the rodeo industry, introducing crowd-friendly components that are now standard in the sport. Today, Poly Royal is one of the largest intercollegiate rodeos in the world, thanks to Cal Poly’s Rodeo Coach Ben Londo. The rodeo attracts more than 15,000 spectators each year and Cal Poly remains one of the most prestigious rodeo programs on the West Coast.


The endowment will fund opportunities like those offered to Sierra Spratt, assistant coach, who is enrolled in a master’s program while also helping to lead the Cal Poly Rodeo’s Women’s Team to be the highest ranking in the nation. “Joining the team as an assistant coach and being able to pursue my master’s degree is an incredible opportunity,” said Spratt, who has a successful background in the rodeo arena and plans to compete in the professional circuit. “The comradery of the team, the effort that Ben Londo puts into it, and the program is unlike anything I have ever seen. Cal Poly has changed my life – and changed it for the better.” Katie Whitney (formerly Rice), who earned a master’s in agricultural education in 2018, competed with the Rodeo Team for five years, also serving as an assistant coach. She followed in the footsteps of father and brother, both who graduated from Cal Poly. Whitney is now the marketing director for the Cactus Group, which includes the brands of Cactus Ropes, Cactus Gear and Cactus Saddlery – a job that she secured from the network she made while a part of the Cal Poly Rodeo program. “The rodeo program definitely teaches you time management. You are responsible for caring for your horses, maintaining your grades, while also pushing yourself for success in the arena,” she said. “I got up almost every day at 5 a.m. to make our 6 a.m. practice, then went to class, came back to practice more, back to class, then studying, and more care for your horses. Every single day! And I would do it that way five times over. I would not be who I am or where I am today without it. I am forever grateful and indebted to Cal Poly Rodeo.”

The sport that has given me all that I have and everything I hold dear is in my hands to share with others. I get to share the core values of Western life with the world through rodeo." -Cal Poly Rodeo Coach Ben Londo

Forging Forward When the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated all opportunities for competitions, including the annual Poly Royal Rodeo for two consecutive years in 2020 and 2021, Londo continued to work with students in and out of the arena – finding creative ways to allow them to continue to compete in the sport they love. As students returned in fall 2021, Londo and




Cal Poly Rodeo program was established. The first official Poly Royal Rodeo was held in 1940.

Members of the 2021-22 Cal Poly Rodeo program. Participation is open to students from all majors and departments across campus.

National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association championship titles won.




graduate student DeLisa Fracchia began planning the unthinkable: a breakaway roping competition right on the sand in Pismo Beach. Working in uncharted waters, Londo and Fracchia started working from the ground up — securing necessary permits, determining the arena layout, getting approval forms signed, and even contending with Mother Nature. Slowly but surely, what began as a vision came to fruition. From local surf shops to loyal, longtime supporters, the event had a united backing. And on the evening of Sept. 19, when the sunset hit the sand, live cattle and 25 breakaway ropers earned the chance to say they were the first ever Cal Poly students to rope a calf on the Pismo State Beach. The arena was surrounded by family and friends shoulder-to-shoulder waiting to watch the first ever Break-A-Wave Competition. When the annual Poly Royal Rodeo returns to campus this year April 6 to 9, it will not only be a celebratory homecoming after a two-year hiatus, but tribute to the 80 years of perseverance that have kept the team strong through it all. Whether practicing in the arena at sunrise, competing in front of a cheering crowd of thousands of supporters, or using the skills acquired after graduation, Cal Poly Rodeo students represent the legacy that has led many to greatness.

Cotton Rosser Rodeo Endowment Cotton Rosser (Animal Husbandry, ’52) is credited with helping to establish the annual Poly Royal Rodeo event at Cal Poly. While at Cal Poly he served as the captain of the Rodeo Team and won the All-Around and National Saddle Bronc Championship. In 1956 he purchased the Flying U Rodeo Company and since then his name has become synonymous with rodeo. Rosser is known for his innovations, introducing crowd-friendly components that are now standard in the sport. He has been inducted into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Hall of Fame, awarded an honorary doctorate from Cal Poly in 2013 and in 2015 was elected to the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. He is a consistent and enthusiastic supporter of the Cal Poly Rodeo Team and a key reason that the team enjoys such a prestigious reputation today. “Cotton and the Rosser family have dedicated a lifetime to rodeo and the western way of life,” Cal Poly Rodeo Coach Ben Londo said. “That gives meaning to our efforts at Cal Poly. We can only hope to do so with the level of passion that Cotton and the Rosser family have shown for nearly a century.” The $5 million Cotton Rosser Rodeo Endowment honors his distinguished dedication to the sport while supporting the future of the Cal Poly Rodeo program. Robert Durham and his wife Cheryl, whose daughter Anna Grace is a first-year agricultural business major, donated to the endowment. “When deciding on colleges, we looked at a lot of schools across the country,” Durham said. “Until we found Cal Poly, the schools we looked at either had good academics or a good rodeo program, but not both. Cal Poly was the only university with great academics and a great rodeo program. Coach Ben Londo and the team have built a community that stresses commitment, hard work, teamwork and responsibility—both in academics and in the practice arena.” Anna Grace said that in the program she has not only been able to continue her passion for rodeo but become a part of a lasting community of people who she can depend on as friends, mentors and teammates. “To have someone who cares about our success in the classroom just as much (if not more than) our accomplishments in the arena holds us to higher standards and motivates us to work hard and stay committed to being the best we can be at all times,” she said. Durham added: “We are donating today to preserve the legacy of the rodeo program. If it’s good for students like our daughter Anna Grace now, we want it to be good for students to have the same opportunity in the future.”

To donate, contact:


Assistant Dean, Advancement and External Relations 805-756-6601 10


BEN LONDO Rodeo Coach 805-459-7764


Bryan Lohmar Bryan Lohmar, department head of the Agribusiness Department, joined Cal Poly in January from his role serving as the China director for the U.S. Grains Council. Prior to that he was the director for economic research for Bunge China and an economist at the USDA’s Economic Research Service. He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate degree in agricultural and resource economics from UC Davis. He has more than 25 years of experience working on agricultural and economic issues in the academic, government and the commercial sectors. Where did your interest in agriculture begin and how has it grown throughout your career? Growing up in Minnesota and spending a few weeks every summer on my uncle’s farm, I developed an interest in agriculture early on. Many of my early jobs had components that related to the food and agriculture industry. But it wasn’t until I visited China as an undergraduate that I really started to put it together. China is historically an agrarian society and in the 1980s agriculture was the area where China’s initial economic reforms started. As such, it was a natural area for me to pursue if I wanted to learn more about China, so I started studying agricultural economics and never looked back. What are the three top areas of focus in Cal Poly’s Agribusiness Department? Cal Poly’s Agribusiness Department is very comprehensive, so it is difficult to determine just three areas of focus. In, general I would say the program focuses on 1) the entire marketing chain, from production to processor/packer, to retailer and consumer; 2) finance and risk management; and 3) providing hands-on experience through multiple venues including internships and various projects. The department also strives to provide strong training to understand and evaluate trade-offs, as well as strong data management and analytical skills. The department has a strong alumni base in areas such as agricultural sales and marketing, supply chain management and agricultural technology and finance. What role do those direct connections to industry play in the department and how do you plan to continue to grow them? Yes, we are lucky to have prominent alumni across agriculture and other sectors and these direct connections to industry play an important role in keeping our curriculum relevant to industry needs. We are in the process of expanding our formal Industry Advisory Council, and I plan to take every opportunity I can to meet with alumni and industry stakeholders to learn more about what they are seeking in new employees and how Cal Poly can

develop students with those capabilities. Our industry stakeholders also help us identify internship and other opportunities to enhance Learn by Doing for our students. How will your expertise in China’s agricultural markets enhance the learning experience for Cal Poly students? The issues facing agricultural producers and marketers are the same in the U.S. and China. While my research and other work has been China-specific, I have addressed a wide variety of topics including land tenure, labor mobility, trade policies, water policies, livestock production practices, and food consumption patterns, among others. These issues mirror the issues U.S. producers and suppliers face, except China does not have reliable market information services nor objective and contestable dispute resolution services, like the courts in the U.S. But that just makes the environment more challenging, and for education purposes, opens a context of “what ifs” that can help students explore how the institutions in the U.S. work and how they support the market outcomes that consumers in the U.S. (and elsewhere) demand. What national and international areas related to agribusiness do you foresee a critical need in for skilled graduates in the near future? I think there are two fundamental trends affecting agricultural markets – growing demand for niche products and expanding globalized markets. As incomes expand around the world, more and more people are looking to diversify their diets and are looking for specific quality characteristics, and this generates growing demand for products with smaller markets – or niche products. Simultaneously, markets are increasingly globalized with even smaller agricultural product suppliers looking to develop markets abroad. Together, these forces are generating demand for skilled graduates that can develop smaller markets at home and abroad and manage the complex global supply chains for an increasingly large variety of products. CAFES.CALPOLY.EDU



Citrus grove Students tend to more than 18 different types of citrus trees, including mandarins, navel oranges, limes, lemons, kumquats, and citron. The Kishu mandarin is the smallest mandarin grown on campus, with the fruit averaging the size of a ping pong ball. Citrus harvest begins in January through late May. In 2021, more than 28,000 pounds of fruit was picked for wholesale and market customers.






Since Cal Poly opened to students in the fall of 1903, horticulture has been an important part of the curriculum. These photo postcards, highlighting campus facilities and student work, show the horticultural unit circa 1908. At the time of the photographs, Cal Poly had greenhouses, a propagation house, and lath house available to students in agriculture and household arts courses. The unit was originally located at the center of campus, approximately where Via Carta runs between the Baker Center for Science and Mathematics and the Alan A. Erhart Agriculture building today. Students from a variety of programs used these spaces to learn elementary plant propagation and practical botany. Floriculture students grew cut flowers for the local community and for faculty offices. Students in household arts gathered experience with ornamental plants, and horticulture students practiced cross-pollination methods for tomatoes. Practical experience in the greenhouses was combined with tours to local commercial facilities to prepare students for a range of professions, from orchard managers to commercial landscape architects. For the next three decades the horticulture unit continued

with these facilities. When Howard C. Brown, who once served as head of the Ornamental Horticulture Department, arrived at Cal Poly as a landscape gardening student in 1939, he recalled that there were 25 students in the program, and Wilbur B. Howes, first department head, was the only faculty member. Brown recalls, “Each greenhouse was heated with a gas-fired Reznor-type heater made by Cal Poly’s air conditioning department. When it got cold enough in the fall for heat, we wadded up newspaper balls soaked in gasoline, turned on the gas, and threw the lit paper balls toward the heater. It was important to duck because the flame shot out like an army flamethrower.” Eventually, the needs of the department outgrew the space, and in 1956 the Horticulture Unit moved to a new 18,000-square-foot facility at Grand Avenue, approximately where the Yosemite Residence Halls stand today, humorously referred to as “Aphid Acres.” As the campus and department continued to grow, the unit moved once more in 1969 to the present site at the north end of campus at the current Environmental Horticulture Unit. Today, students continue practical and research horticulture, honoring a longstanding commitment to Learn by Doing at Cal Poly.

Above: Horticulture student tending ornamental plants in the greenhouse, circa 1908. Photograph by Frank Aston. Right: Greenhouses and propagation house, circa 1908. Photograph by Frank Aston. Photos courtesy of the University Archives





The Cal Poly Dairy Judging Team competed in the Southwest Dairy Cattle Judging Contest at the 2022 Fort Worth Stock Show in Texas in January, emerging as the first-place team in oral reasons and as the second-place team overall. Team members included agricultural communication major Genevieve Regli, and dairy science majors Lantz Adams, Matthew Brasil, and Ryan Haringa. The team was coached by Animal Science Department lecturers Morgan Wonderly and Matt Ruby and emeriti professor Stan Henderson. In addition, the team placed as second high team in Jersey breed and fifth high team in brown Swiss breed. Regli received first place in reasons and seventh high individual overall, Adams received fourth in reasons and ninth high individual overall, and Haringa received fifth in reasons and 10th high individual overall.

Three Cal Poly teams received awards at the Paperboard Packaging Alliance Student Design Challenge 2021, with students from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences serving on two of them. Recent food science alumna Maia Nelson and food science senior Chris Cheung were both on multi-disciplinary teams honored in the competition, with Nelson’s team placing in the top three and Cheung in the top nine. Nelson’s team “Sweet Pea” designed a packaging system for gardening education and Cheung’s team “EcoSLO” designed a packaging system for clean-ups of natural environments.

Apollonia Arellano, a fourth-year environmental earth and soil sciences major, was selected to participate in the Cal State University’s Agricultural Research ARI-HSI Fellowship program. Students who successfully complete the fellowship receive a stipend of $6,400. The funding comes from a four-year $1 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hispanic Serving Institutions educational grant program. Arellano will study the effects of conventional and biodegradable plastic mulch leachates on plant development. Plastic mulch is used in agricultural production to warm soil, conserve soil moisture, prevent weed growth, and minimize nutrient loss. One alternative to conventional plastic mulch is biodegradable plastic mulch, which still contains chemical compounds that are leachable. Arellano will test the hypothesis that leachates derived from conventional plastic mulches will negatively impact plant development at a greater magnitude relative to leachates derived from biodegradable plastic mulches. “The results of my study will enable growers to make better-informed decisions when choosing between conventional plastic mulch and biodegradable alternatives based on their effects on plant development,” she said.





The second-annual Fresh Tracks: First Generation Panel + Discussion, held Jan. 27, featured several CAFES students who identify as being a first-generation college students. They shared personal stories of navigating the college experience, gave advice, and answered questions about how to make the college experience more inclusive. First-year agricultural business major Nelson Najera said that the encouragement of his friends, family and mentors gave him the inspiration to consider attending college, something he had not previously given much thought. “It is important to remember that not all of us have had the same educational opportunities,” said Najera, who attended a small, predominately Spanish-speaking high school in Greenfield, California. “Deciding to attend Cal Poly was nerve-wracking knowing that I didn’t have some of the same opportunities or as much money as other students.” Najera said that the best advice he received came from his dad: “It doesn’t matter where you come from or where they come from. At the end of the day, you are all sitting in the same classroom.” The event was organized by the CAFES Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee as part of the college’s DEI Strategic Action Plan, Goal 1: Develop a CAFES culture among students, staff and faculty that promotes inclusive excellence and an equity-minded community.

First Place

The Cal Poly Loggers, an intercollegiate team of male and female students involved in traditional forestry field skills, took first place at the Sierra-Cascade Logging Conference and Exhibition in Anderson, California. In addition, Kelly Schwenger, second-year forest and fire sciences major, earned top women’s competitor at the event. Seven teams representing four western states competed in traditional timber sports Feb. 10-12. This was Cal Poly's first competition since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Students competed in events including underhand chopping, single bucking, double bucking, jack and jill, stock saw, choker setting, axe throw and speed axe. The Cal Poly logging team, advised by Professor Samantha Gill and assisted by Walter Ruzzo (Natural Resources Management, ’78), competed against teams from Oregon State University; California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt; University of Nevada Reno; U.C. Berkeley; Shasta College; and Northern Arizona University. The Cal Poly team includes Schwenger; fourth-year forestry and natural resources majors Dustin Morgan, Austin Law, Mark Inman, Owen Purcell, Mary Cizin, and Teoman Dogan; fourth-year architectural engineering major Emmett Huggins; first-year forest and fire sciences major Gregory Crook; fourth-year business administration major Nate Mirizzi; fourth-year animal science major Helen Dubee, second-year forestry and natural resources major Kai Hansen; and Cal Poly alumna Nikki Bright (Environmental Management and Protection, ’21).




UNIFIED WINE AND GRAPE SYMPOSIUM The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and the Wine and Viticulture Department attended the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, held in Sacramento in January.

Salmonson Scholarship Aidan Inoue and Sydney Horne, both agricultural and environmental plant sciences majors, received the John and Carol Salmonson Scholarship for Excellence in Agriculture. The scholarship was created by John Salmonson (Crop Science, ’67) and his wife, Carol, in 2016 to benefit students with an interest in becoming a pest control advisor or similar career path. This is the fourth year it has been awarded.

Antle Scholarship

EDWARD & HELEN SILVA MEMORIAL INTERNSHIP ENDOWMENT In October the Agricultural Operations staff gathered to host the annual Silva barbecue, celebrating the many students who support agricultural operations on campus. The student jobs are funded by the Edward W. & Helen E. Silva Memorial Internship Endowment, which was established by his family in 1989 upon the passing of Edward Silva as a way of honoring him. His wife, Helen Silva, who passed away in August, was added to the endowment this year honoring her long support of Cal Poly. The endowment began providing internships to students in 1999 and continues to offer students the opportunity to have the Learn by Doing experience at Cal Poly. It is awarded to exceptional student assistants recognized by the Agricultural Operations staff, providing recipients the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and expand their work skills.

Fourth-year wine and viticulture major Isabel EstradaSanchez, fourth-year agricultural and environmental plant sciences majors Paola Guido, Angel Ramirez Reynozo and Beatriz Rosas, and fourth-year nurtition major Nikki Vargas received the Rick Antle Memorial Scholarship which was established in 2018 to honor Rick Antle’s (Crop Science, '79) legacy in the agriculture industry and aid students in financial need from the Monterey County area.

World Ag Expo The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and Cal Poly Alumni held a mixer for alumni and industry friends during the World Ag Expo on Feb. 9.

Swanton Pacific Ranch Revisioning Four groups of students enrolled in an advanced Landscape Architecture studio, LA403 Natural Systems Design Studio, collaborated with Swanton Pacific Ranch in the fall quarter to collaborate on the redevelopment of Swanton Pacific Ranch after the CZU lightning complex fire in 2020. The students sought to provide a comprehensive master plan reflecting the ranch’s vision and integrating programs that embrace the characteristics of the region and place, accommodate a variety of educational opportunities, and support its resilience and sustainability. The student designs were shared in an open forum with the campus community and Swanton stakeholders in December.



Cal Poly Rodeo is more than just an extracurricular activity. This program has a legacy of instilling student-athletes with important life skills such as...

TEAMWORK TIME MANAGEMENT DISCIPLINE RESPONSIBILITY DRIVE AND DEDICATION INTEGRITY Being a student-athlete on the Cal Poly Rodeo team has shaped me into the person I am today. I will leave here with the life skills and experience to make a difference in the world. It has been an honor to be part of this program and I cannot be more excited for the future of the Cal Poly Rodeo team.” -JANE WOOD

Investing in the Future


HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE We seek to raise $5 million to establish a Cotton Rosser Rodeo Endowment that will support the future of Cal Poly’s Rodeo in perpetuity. This endowment will honor rodeo legend and Cal Poly alumni Cotton Rosser and ensure that our Rodeo program will always have the funding and resources needed to not only survive, but to thrive. This endowment will support the program in three key areas:


With the right people and resources, we will continue to groom rodeo champions and winning individuals. Investing in student success means funding student scholarships so that money isn’t an inhibiting factor standing in the ways of a student’s dream to come to Cal Poly. Investing in student success also includes support for personal and professional development opportunities, which may include work-study projects, design and implementation tasks, and assistant coach positions and internships.


The international reputation of Poly Royal Rodeo as the largest collegiate rodeo in the world has brought the Cal Poly Rodeo program to the forefront. To ensure the continued success of our students and to keep up with growing demand, we need upgraded facilities that reflect the caliber of our program. Whether it is new stadium lighting, a covered arena where students can practice regardless of weather conditions, or basic amenities like permanent restrooms and additional stalls, rodeo grounds improvements ensure our student-athletes have the resources needed to succeed.


Practice stock, feed, maintenance and minor repairs, travel — they all have a cost. Support for the program’s operational budget would allow for more practice opportunities, professional clinics, premier equipment, travel assistance and maintenance funds — and would eliminate the need for us to rely solely on proceeds from the annual Poly Royal Rodeo, which is at risk in times of crisis.



Assistant Dean, Advancement and External Relations 805-756-6601

BEN LONDO Rodeo Coach 805-459-7764 CAFES.CALPOLY.EDU


California Polytechnic State University 1 Grand Avenue San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0250

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