Brock Talk: Lifehacks from Leslie Friend, Past Editor

Written by Leslie Friend, Past Brock Center Associate

“My problem is, I’ve done so many things,” I said to her, “I’ve spent my academic career bouncing around, being ‘good enough’ at a little of everything, but never great at one thing. How do you figure out what you’re meant to do when, up to this point, the goal was to be ‘well-rounded’?” I sat back in my chair at Sally Loo’s while my best friend gave me a pep talk that could rival Kid President. But deep down this source of anxiety still loomed, pressing me to question my soon-to-be Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communications with a minor in Agri Business. It was October of my senior year at Cal Poly and it seemed as though everyone around me was falling into their dream job while I—miss “do all the things”—was still without a plan following June 12, 2012.


Lifehack #1: Statistically speaking, that “dream job” will likely not happen right after you graduate. New graduates will change jobs within the first 1-3 years of their employment and hold roughly 11.3 jobs in their lifetime. It may take a while, and that’s okay.

I went back to the drawing board and leaned what I knew about myself, eliminating things I knew were not an option: I am passionate about pizza. Not helpful. I am passionate about agriculture. “Great,” I thought, “That narrows it down to a global-scaled multi-billion dollar industry.” I want to make an impact in the industry that I love and I want to work alongside others who want to do the same. And then I remembered Tom.

During one of my extra-curricular bouts, I worked as a National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador with the National FFA Organization. Here I was exposed to industry leaders, one of which is the company I work for today, BASF. Tom Holt was the Director of Biology at the time and acted as our facilitator during our week of training in North Carolina. He spoke about the imprint BASF as a global chemical company had on agriculture and how they would be a catalyst in feeding the world. I remember listening to he and his colleagues discuss, so passionately, the importance of supporting growers and helping them get the most out of every acre they produce. I was sold. Naturally, as I volleyed between thoughts of being an artisan pizza maker or doing something in agriculture, I reached out to Tom.

Lifehack #2: The people you meet along the way, no matter if they’re a CEO, industry mogul, or a low-level guy in regulatory, are critical to your career success. Keep a digital rolodex with every contact you make throughout college and beyond. I promise it will change your course for the better.

Tom accepted my resume for their Professional Development Program (PDP), a program that allowed 18 months of extensive marketing and field sales training in US Crops for BASF North America. When I was offered the position in late November of my senior year, I had no metrics for this type of work. Aside from the phone number for a relocation specialist and the promise of a job in Raleigh, North Carolina, my understanding for the following 18 months was limited. Even so, it was a job after graduation and 18 months of training that would allow me to exercise different roles within a company. Toting a U-Haul packed to the brim with belongings, my Cal Poly Alumni sweatshirt, a GPS and, my mom, I made the 2,300 mile trek from California to North Carolina to begin my journey as a PDP.

At BASF I spent nine months in a marketing rotation in the heart of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. While there, I worked alongside the Channel Strategy team creating grower and distributor programs for the field, setting prices for BASF’s herbicide and fungicide products, facilitating technical training modules to our sales team and analyzing a lot of data. I also made lasting professional relationships and learned that, although a great experience, analytical marketing and price setting was not something I particularly enjoyed.

Nine months later, I was in the heart of Washington state, working with Yakima Valley apple growers to decrease the apple scab problem in their orchards. This was the field sales rotation of my program and the moment I learned that I am not just passionate about agriculture but also its producers. I spent most of my time traveling the Pacific Northwest, selling chemistry to growers and finding a myriad of solutions for the problems on their farm. Throughout both rotations, BASF routinely scheduled additional agronomic and leadership training sessions for the PDP’s, trusting this exposure would warrant us a well-rounded approach in becoming a long-term BASF employee. As I neared the conclusion of my 18 months as a PDP, I was offered a position as the Eastern North Carolina Business Representative where I service roughly 50 retail locations and 100 growers locally, still providing solutions on the farm.

What they won’t tell you is that the work place is not like building 10 on campus. What they also fail to mention is that meeting people your age with a lot of commonalities between you does not happen as easily in the real world as it does in college. Making friends is difficult; adapting to a brand new culture is equally hard; starting a new job is terrifying, especially if you aren’t sure it will necessarily “fit” you. But I promise you it is worth it. My time at BASF has often been a confusing maze working to figure out what I like and what positions actually speak to the skill set I’ve attained over the past 24 years. Experiencing a little bit of everything here and there has been, ironically, the single most critical step to figuring out where I want to be long-term in the agriculture industry.

Lifehack #3: Embrace trial and error in your career. You’ll come out of it as a stronger and better-rounded human, not to mention the adventures that will find you.

Pro Tip: Still learn how to make artisan pizzas. They go over great at company pot-lucks.

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Finding My Voice: Lessons from Working in Radio

Written by Camille Cordisco, Agricultural Communication Senior

I rCamilleemember the very first time I heard country music. I was 11 years old, fidgeting with the radio dial in my room after my favorite pop station had gone off the air for good. One more small turn of the dial to the right, and Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Happen Twice” started to come in loud and clear through the speakers. It was love at first sound. Little did I know I would someday be working in radio, playing some of the very same songs I fell in love with growing up.

Now, I work at 98.1 KJUG FM as a weeknight on-air host, sharing country music and stories with listeners. It has been an amazing adventure so far. I have learned quite a bit along the way and hope to share some of those lessons with you.

Here are four things working as a radio DJ have taught me about finding my voice in sharing my passions with others:

  1. If people can hear your smile, that also means they can hear your passion: I remember listening to myself when I was on air for the first time a few months ago. I sounded cold, and I am NOT a cold person! I was so focused on saying everything right, I forgot to smile, relax and be me! Some of that comes with practice, (another important aspect of finding your voice) but a lot of the ability to share your smile and your passion is remembering you have it in the first place! When we talk about something we are passionate about, others can hear it. Have you ever been on the phone with someone and heard a smile in their voice? It sounds much different than if they had a straight face. Granted, some things we are passionate about are not always going to be happy, but we can effectively share our emotions through our voice.
  2. Sometimes an elevator pitch is all you have, (and all you need): I usually only have 15-45 seconds to speak on air at a time, so I have learned how to summarize an idea or a story very well! As radio hosts, we talk about a number of things from events in the community, to contests, to musicians or stories of our own. We might have a lot to say, but we don’t have a lot of time to say it. Before I hit the record button, I think about three things: how I am going to get the listeners’ attention, what they really need to know, and how to exit the conversation. Those three things are also in an elevator pitch! So essentially, that is what I am doing every time I talk on air. If I want listeners to get excited, be curious to know more, or be informed on a topic, an elevator pitch is the way to go. Knowing the purpose of what you are talking about gives your voice purpose.
  3. People want to know you. So share your story: I think the reason they call us radio “personalities” is because we all have one! When I am on air, I want to be me. There is nothing worse than having a conversation with someone who isn’t real. Share your interests with others so they can get to know who you are while you are also sharing what you are passionate about – whether it’s music, agriculture or something entirely different! You know yourself better than you know anything else. I like food and agriculture, humor, out of the ordinary facts of course music, so that is what I try to talk about with listeners. If I am interested, they will be too! Or they’ll laugh at how weird I am, (did I mention I like humor?). You and your story are important parts of your voice. KJUG Board
  4. Know Your Audience and Keep A Theme: People who listen to KJUG are choosing to do so, which means they like country music. This gives us a common ground from the start. When sharing your voice and passions with others, it is always important to find that common ground. For a country music audience, the music speaks to things we care about or invoke an emotion we want to feel whether it’s happy, sad or even rebellious! When I talk about a song that was just played or one that is coming up next, I try to share that value or emotion I get from the song when talking about something else in order to stitch two ideas together. Finding common ground is going to set a strong foundation for your voice to be heard.

Radio has always been a part of my life. To go from being a listener to an on-air host has been quite an exciting journey! I still have a lot of work to do in finding my voice as an agricultural communicator, but I am thankful to have the opportunity to learn by doing as a student at Cal Poly and as a DJ at 98.1 KJUG.


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Brock Talk: Amanda Meneses, Past Editor Talks About Life After Cal Poly

True Life: I Quit My First Big-Girl Job After Only Six Months
And other stories from a recent alumna who is venturing through the early stages of adulthood.

1015442_10200265079984532_1969900178_oIn October of my senior year at Cal Poly, I received an incredible opportunity to attend the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in New Orleans. Besides being over the moon excited to explore a new city, I was really looking forward to all of the opportunities I would have networking with professionals in the produce industry. What I really didn’t expect was to come home with a potential job offer on the table.

I couldn’t believe my luck! After only a month into my senior year, I already had the security of employment come graduation time. To guarantee the job was actually mine, I even went as far as agreeing to start the position remotely January of my senior year. Mistake #1 of many more to come in my adult life. Balancing a full schedule of classes, a part time job as an Ag Circle editor, a part time job as a nanny, a senior project AND a position as a social media director for over 15 clients was not an easy task. All this, while simultaneously trying to enjoy my last few months in San Luis Obispo. But I held on knowing it would all pay off in the end.

What I didn’t take into account, however, was what the job was going to look like after graduation. Mistake #2. I knew when going in that I would be working from home…that should have raised a red flag immediately. Although the idea of working from home may appeal to some, I grew anxious just thinking about it. I knew I would begin to long for communication and relationships with coworkers and I knew I would become restless being stuck at home all day. These are important qualities about myself I should have taken into account, but that’s what mistakes are for, right?

10923603_10202799091973248_2998807065971417561_nAnd so, six months after I began my first big-girl job, I quit. Believe me when I say I was absolutely mortified. I never let others down and I certainly never quit! But the idea of being completely happy in something I had to do for 40 hours every week was too important to not fight for.

However, don’t believe for a minute that I was brave, no, I was being arrogant. Mistake #3. I thought the first job I applied to  next, I would interview for and begin working within a couple weeks’ time. That thought, I know now, was incredibly naïve.

The next months were filled with resumes, cover letters, phone calls, interviews and rejection emails. The whole process left me second guessing my skills, my value, even my intelligence. As Cal Poly students, we’re told over and over again the Learn by Doing model will set us apart from any other graduate of our kind. My intent is not to scare you, but rather to just give you an honest example. I am so thankful for the education I received at Cal Poly, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. But graduating from Cal Poly doesn’t guarantee you a job; hard work, drive, passion and courage do.

People would tell me over and over again during that time there was a reason why I kept hearing “no” and “every rejection was leading me to the perfect ‘yes.’” I thought they were full of it. Fortunately, they were right.


This past Christmas, Amanda supplied the Halos for her family’s lunch!


Amanda was able to return to Cal Poly in January representing Paramount Citrus at Ag Showcase.

After three months of unemployment and a month of substitute teaching, I was offered a position with Paramount Citrus to be their first Tour Coordinator of the Halos plant. I am so thankful and humbled to come to work each day with a group of people who are passionate, generous and proud of the work they do. I personally think I have one of the more exciting positions, because every day I get to share with others how incredible of a company Paramount Citrus is and the amazing work that has already been done to share Halos with the world. In just three short months I have given tours to folks from all over California, Canada, Spain, South Africa and so much more.

So in the end, everything worked out. And that has probably been the greatest lesson I’ve learned since graduating… “It’s all going to be okay.”

Maybe not right at first, but someday.

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Meet Ms. Erin Gorter!

Last week, introduced Mr. Clemente Ayon as one of the newest faculty members in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department (AGED). Today, we are happy to introduce another new faculty member, Ms. Erin Gorter!

1. Where are you from?

San Luis Obispo, CA

2. Since being at Cal Poly, what has been your most memorable experience?  

Supervising teacher candidates has been the most memorable experience. I’ve had the opportunity to visit schools I’ve never been to and see some awesome agriculture programs!

3. How did you become involved in Ag?

I was involved in 4-H at a young age which then evolved into FFA. I learned to love agriculture and knew I wanted a career in the industry.

4. Where did you go to college and what did you major in?

I attended Modesto Junior College and then transferred to Texas Tech University where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science. My teaching credentials and master’s degree were earned through Cal Poly.

5. Most memorable experience in agriculture?

Most most memorable experience was on the Texas Tech Livestock Judging Team. Some of the greatest memories I have are of traveling across the country in a large, white can with a trailer behind it, looking at livestock with some of my best friends.

6. What made you want to teach?  

My high school agriculture teacher had a tremendous impact on my decision to teach. Seeing her succeed at something she enjoyed really influenced my decision to become a part of the agriculture education family.

7. What Classes do you teach? 

I teach AGED 410, Computers in Education, AGED 303, FFA and SAE, AGED 220, Youth Leadership Conferences.

8. How does teaching college students compare to high school students?  

College students seem more focused on the immediate task at hand while being in class. I like it when Cal Poly students stop by my office to chat or check in. I had the opportunity to work with a few students fall quarter and traveled to Kentucky together. It was a great time and I really enjoyed the perspective each student brought on the trip.That being said, I do miss the occasional high school student outburst; when they can’t contain the thought in their head and it is just out there! It may not always be topical, appropriate or necessary, but it always adds some interest to the day.

9. Outside of work what are some of your favorite things to do?  

My husband and I brew lots of beer. We also enjoy traveling to new breweries and sampling some fine craft brews. We are looking into growing our own hops this year. I also enjoy reading, shooting and fishing. We have three dogs, Catahoula, Rowdy, an Australian Shepherd, and Lady, a Cairn/Yorkie Cross. Lady can be found at #picsforladysfirstyear. Yes, she has her own hashtag!

We are very happy to welcome Ms. Erin Gorter to the AGED faculty and expect great things to come from her while she is here.

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Team Brock’s Favorite Super Bowl Party Snacks

What’s Team Brock’s favorite part about the Super Bowl? Well, besides the game, we love the snacks!

In order to prep for the big day, we got together and tested our all-time favorite Super Bowl Snack – Sweet Potato Fries with an Avocado Tofu Dip!

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Below you can find the recipe for our top four favorite Super Bowl Party snacks:


Kenna’s Fav: Sweet Potato Fries with Avocado Tofu Dip

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 sweet potatoes cut into 1/4 inch wedges
1/4 tsp paprika
1 and 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup silken tofu
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
dash salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While the oven is heating up, clean and slice your sweet potatoes. Place them on a baking sheet drizzle with olive oil. Toss with your hands to make sure they’re evenly coated.

In a small bowl, combine paprika with 1 tsp of the Cajun seasoning, and then sprinkle that mixture over the potatoes. Toss them once more by hand to make sure they’re coated. Bake them for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and the edges are beginning to brown.

While the taters are baking, place the tofu, avocado, lime juice, remaining Cajun seasoning and salt into a food processor. Process until smooth. Garnish with a lime wheel and serve as a dip alongside the potatoes.

Jordan’s Fav: Deviled Eggs

6 hardboiled eggs
¼ cup mayo
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
⅛ teaspoon salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Paprika for Garnish

Slice the eggs in half lengthwise, remove the yolks into a medium bowl, keeping the whites ready for later. Mash the yolks into a crumble using a fork, add ingredients, mix well.

Evenly scoop teaspoons of the yolk mixture into the egg white. Sprinkle with paprika and serve!

Katie’s Fav: Baked Potato Soup

¼ cup butter
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup flour
1 (14.5 oz.) can chicken broth
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
3 large baked potatoes
Toppings: cooked bacon crumbles, shredded cheese, chopped green onions

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add onion, cook, stirring occasionally for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour. Gradually stir in broth and milk. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally, until mixture comes just to a boil. Dice remaining potatoes (skin removed). Add to soup. Heat through. Sprinkle on toppings.

Harrison’s Fav: Tom Reilly’s Famous Clam Dip

2 Packs cream cheese.  Allow to soften
1/2 Container sour cream
2 Cans chopped clams
4 – 5 cloves of garlic. Pressed
Green onions
Cayenne pepper

Mix cream cheese and sour cream. Drain clams, save the packing liquid. Mix in clams, very slowly add clam juice until you have a smooth consistently.  If you add the liquid to fast, it will curtal. Add garlic and green onions. Add cayenne to taste. Best to refrigerate for an hour or two.

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Introducing Mr. Clemente Ayon, New Instructor in the AGED Department!

Written by Mary Allen, Agricultural Communication Student

Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences (CAFES) prides itself on renowned faculty members who help promote Cal Poly’s motto of Learn by Doing in and out of the classroom.  Recently, CAFES gained two new faculty members in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department, Clemente Ayon and Erin Gorter. After interviewing Mr. Clemente Ayon, I found he is no exception to Cal Poly’s high standard. Read our interview below to see for yourself why the Agricultural Education and Communication Department is lucky to have Mr. Ayon as a part of their faculty. 

How did you originally become involved in Agriculture?

Mr. Ayon: My Dad made his living as a farmer and I wanted to follow his path in Agriculture. However, my real passion for the industry began in my Santa Maria High School FFA chapter. There I showed everything including cattle, hogs, turkeys, and sheep. I learned many lessons that have helped me throughout my life.

Where did you go to college?

Mr. Ayon: I got my degree in Crop Science at Cal Poly. I chose this because my dad was a farmer and I wanted to help him. Growing up in Santa Maria, we farmed strawberries, sugar peas, broccoli, potatoes and more.

What interested you in student teaching?

Mr. Ayon: My FFA agriculture teacher in high school made me want to. After my undergraduate, I got my credential, which then led to a Masters in Agricultural Education at Cal Poly.

How did you come to work at Cal Poly.

Mr. Ayon: After student teaching, I got a job at Santa Maria High School in 2000 as one of their now nine agriculture teachers. After 15 years, I still enjoy teaching there today. This year we have over 50 students showing lambs in my group. When I saw that Cal Poly had an opening, I applied. They wanted me, so now I am a teacher-in-residence at Cal Poly — while still being employed by the school district of Santa Maria.  I love being back here; now as a faculty member. It is a yearly deal with the school district, but I hope to be here as long as I can.

What classes do you currently teach?

Mr. Ayon: I teach ASCI 232, which teaches basic handling of livestock, introductory selection of livestock, preliminary feed identification and processing as well as the health care of the animals. This is a fun class. I also teacher Agricultural Education 220. This class prepares workshops for the State FFA leadership conference in Fresno. Finally, I teach Agricultural Education 350, which is an observation of skills and techniques of future Agriculture teachers.

Since teaching at Cal Poly, what has been one of your most memorable experiences?

Mr. Ayon: Being able to work with student teachers and observing them in their programs and experiences has been very memorable so far.

How does teaching college students compare to high school students?

Mr. Ayon: I have no discipline problems with the college students. Working with students who want to learn and are more goal oriented is a huge difference from high school, which has less students with those qualities. See with high school students, you are teaching them how to be successful, whereas at Cal Poly, the students are already successful.

Outside of your work, what are some of your favorite things to do?

Mr. Ayon: Be with my family. I have a six year old girl, Maeli and a five month old son, Maddox. My lovely wife also has her teaching credential. They keep me busy. I also have enjoyed living in Nipomo at the Del Peterson Ranch for the past 20 years. We have about 100 sheep on our 12 acres, which I help my old Agriculture teacher operate. It is not uncommon to see me out in the barn in the wee hours of the night caring and processing the new born lambs.

What are your plans now and beyond?

Mr. Ayon: Stay in Nipomo and keep working at Cal Poly and at Santa Maria highs school. Being at Cal Poly is giving me the opportunity to explore if I want to pursue a Ph.D. and teach at the college level. If I do, then I will go out of state for my doctorate. However, I like where I am right now.

As you can see, Mr. Ayon is not only very experienced in agriculture – but has a passion for it. Cal Poly is thankful to have him back as faculty in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department. Welcome back to Cal Poly!

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Team Brock’s 2015 Resolutions

resolutionsHappy new year and Winter Quarter from the Brock Center! We are excited to see what exciting opportunities 2015 holds for us. Last year the Brock Center had many great accomplishments and our hope is to achieve even bigger things in 2015. The staff is already getting busy working on various projects including the first Ag Circle issue of 2015! We would like to share with you some our resolutions for 2015 – which we plan on keeping!

1. Build a Stronger Connection with Cal Poly’s Journalism Department
Not far from our little office is another department filled with many great resources we hope to utilize this year. Additionally, we would like to invite more journalism students to write for both the Brock Center blog and Ag Circle.

2. Promote More Agricultural Events
Every weekend throughout the state of California and the country, there are great agriculture events and conventions taking place. In 2015, the Brock Center plans to help promote and advertise the other agriculture events, conventions and ideas. Did you know that this weekend the California Women for Agriculture State Convention is being held in San Luis Obispo at Madonna Inn? For more information check out their Facebook page!

3. Recruit New, Young Talent!
The Brock Center is always looking for new ideas and fresh faces to help us contribute to our projects. In 2015 we are going to actively be seeking out help from new students so we can continue to grow in new ways.

4. Enter More Student Work in the NACT Critique Contest
Every summer, the Cal Poly Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow travels to the Agricultural Media Summit (AMS). At AMS, students from all across the nation submit work to be critiqued and judged by professionals. Last year the Brock Center was proud to win the Excellence in Publications award. While it is our goal to win again this year, we also want to help other students get recognized for individual work and help build their professional portfolios.

5. Grow Our Videography Skills
The Brock Center has yet to venture into videography, but plans to start in 2015 by learning how to use Adobe Premiere. Be on the look out for some exciting videos to come from the Brock Center in 2015!

Be sure to keep up with our social media pages, blog and new issues of Ag Circle this year! Happy 2015!

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