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Agribusiness students take tour through California

June 12, 2010

Connecting classroom experiences with real-world ones, Colorado State's Agribusiness Association is a student organization focused on applying what's learned in textbooks with realistic outside settings. Over spring break, nine members of the ABA took an agricultural tour through California. Not only did these students take the educational trip, but they also planned it.

Transportation, equipment, innovation

Agribusiness students in a lettuce field during an agricultural tour of California during spring break.

Flying into Los Angeles, the group toured Union Pacific’s Intermodal Container Transfer Facility in Long Beach. This facility ships 2,800 containers within a 24-hour time period. This experience provided students with a new meaning to the importance of transportation in agriculture.

The afternoon was spent at Huntington Beach for a little fun and California sun. Heading north into the Central Valley, they toured Weldcraft Industries in Terra Bella. Weldcraft designs and manufactures pistachio, almond, and prune harvesting equipment.

Entrepreneurship on display

Entrepreneurship at its finest, there were no engineers there – instead the farmers have designed equipment to meet their needs and those of other producers.

During the afternoon, the students tasted their first orange, fresh from the tree, when they visited Chris Smith’s independently owned orange orchard in Exeter.

Loaded up with pistachios and oranges for the road, they spent the rest of the afternoon in Exeter, a small town full of beautiful murals, charming shops, friendly people, and a couple of guitar players who sang every Roger Miller and Hank Williams song requested, shattering previous perceptions of California.

Newest technologies to improve efficiency

Next, the group toured Ted Sheely’s farm in Lemoore that consisted of 9,000 acres of cotton, pistachios, tomatoes, wine grapes, almonds, wheat, triticale, lettuce, and onions. Sheely is at the forefront of utilizing the newest technologies to improve the efficiency of his operation, including an irrigation infrastructure that allows them to allocate water to any field they choose.

Students witnessed a cauliflower harvest at a Salinas, Calif., farm and learned about safety protocols and grower management initiatives.

“Seeing the innovation and technology used here has given me ideas of ways to improve production back at home – we’ve got a lot we can do,” says sophomore Justin Trupp.

Water concerns prominent

Concerns over water issues were discussed throughout the trip including at the next stop at Harris Ranch in Coalinga, a feedlot with more than 100,000 head of cattle.

The Colorado State University Agribusiness Association, or ABA, had the opportunity to sample some of the natural, grain-fed beef while Mike Smith discussed the operation, politics facing animal agriculture, and the fight over water, before showing the students the feedlot.

Fresh produce safety protocols

ABA students met with CSU alumnus, Mike Antle of Tanimura and Antle Produce in Salinas, where they grow fresh produce on 30,000 acres that includes lettuce, onions, and other specialty vegetables. Antle explained the safety protocol necessary in the fresh produce industry, along with the history and management initiatives of the company before taking the group into the field for cauliflower harvest.

Wine country capitalizes on agrotourism

The Nicholson Ranch Vineyard and Winery in Sonoma Valley, Calif., capitalizes on agrotourism.

Driving north along the scenic coastal highway and stopping briefly to check out the waves, the students headed for wine country. At Nicholson Ranch, a small vineyard and winery capitalizing on agrotourism, they tasted some wine, learned how it was made, and enjoyed the view of the Sonoma Valley.

Taking care of SF Giants' turf

The next morning, they headed to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. At the ballpark, they met with Greg Elliott, head groundskeeper, in the Giants’ dugout.

Elliott spoke about taking care of a field including selecting seeds, disease pressure in the grass, and a wide range of agronomic factors influencing what you see when you turn on your television to watch the game. Then, off to the airport to head back home.

Abundant, diverse Calif. agriculture

“The trip was vastly successful in every dimension – educational, professional, and fun!” says senior Kelly Moyer. California agriculture is both abundant and diverse in ways we had never seen. While Colorado will always be home, we gained a great appreciation for the production and people of the Golden State.

Excerpt from story originally published in the Ag Family newsletter, Spring 2010.