Thanksgiving Dinner: California Edition

By Lauren Haas


The New York Times recently asked Google to find out how each state celebrates Thanksgiving – or rather, what food we like to overfill our bellies with.  Google found the most popular, distinct recipes searched during the Thanksgiving season, and the one that stood out for California may surprise you: persimmon bread.


Persimmons are a yellow-orange or red-orange fruit originating from China that has a very sweet, delicate flavor when intended for eating fresh and raw. However, baking persimmons, which produce deliciously sweet pastries and breads, has the power to suck all of the moisture out of your mouth with one bite.


And why is this?  If you’re not from California, you might not have even heard of a persimmon before, so why are they so popular? Well, it has to do with California’s obsession with eating locally and seasonally grown produce.  This is evident recently from the explosion of farmers’ markets and farm-to-table restaurants.  Fruits and vegetables naturally taste better when they are perfectly ripe.  It is ultimately a cheaper option and is better for small farmers and the local community to purchase locally grown food.  Most domestic commercial harvesting of persimmons is centered in California, mainly in Fresno, Tulare, and San Diego counties.


For the same reasons, sweet potatoes and yams came in a close second for this fall season. This is the time of their biggest harvests and they are primarily grown in Sacramento Valley, particularly Merced County.  Because these crops originate from tropical regions, they can only thrive in the warmest parts of California.  They are usually baked, roasted, or mashed, to go together perfectly with your turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving!


If you are not yet among the brave souls who have branched out to the world of persimmons, this week is your chance. Californians are lucky to have over 400 commodities grown right in our backyard.  It’s only natural that we want to have the freshest, in-season foods on our Thanksgiving table.  That’s something to be thankful for!

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Agroecology: People and planet-based production

Have you heard the latest agricultural buzzword? Agroecology, an approach to agricultural production with a planet and people-conscious mindset, is a term working to promote a fair and sustainable food system.

Check out this article from the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy to see what agroecology is all about.


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Western Bonanza managers attend American Royal

IMG_8915Every year more than one hundred students plan and organize Cal Poly’s annual Western Bonanza Junior Livestock Show. This year the show is set for February 12-14, at the Paso Robles Event Center. During October, the 2016 Western Bonanza managers, along with their advisor, had the unique opportunity to attend the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City. The American Royal started in 1899 and is now one of the largest shows in the nation. After spending three days at the show the managers gained many new ideas to bring back and incorporate into this year’s Western Bonanza. Check out what each manager personally took away from the experience below:

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 8.23.30 PMSuzanne Amaral, General Manager
I felt extremely lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Kansas City to watch The American Royal. While I was very involved in showing at jackpot shows, I never personally had the chance to compete at a show of that caliber. It was a great opportunity for the Western Bonanza Management Team to be able to attend such a prestigious show and get ideas on how to continuously make our show better and better, as well as make connections that will benefit our futures.

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Jace Tarbell, Livestock Manager
The trip to American Royal was extremely beneficial to the development and improvement of Western Bonanza. The American Royal provided many great opportunities to observe the amount of detail they place into their livestock shows and the prestige around winning the shows in Kansas City is awesome! However, the food was absolutely the best part and Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue was amazing!

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 8.22.56 PMAllison Finkes, Office Manager
Attending American Royal was a unique experience for me because I didn’t grow up showing livestock competitively. It was amazing to see how passionate the exhibitors and their supporters were about the livestock they showed. Watching American Royal reminded me that we need to continue to improve the show and awards by increasing premiums and payouts to acknowledge the time and effort the exhibitors put into their animals.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 8.23.23 PMKatie Roberti, Marketing Manager
I loved attending American Royal! Seeing the quality of animals presented at this show was truly amazing. I was particularly enthralled with the steer show. I’m excited to take this experience and create a few new media projects out of some of the ideas I got while at American Royal, including videos and a blog for Western Bonanza.

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Shelby Zumwalt, Sponsorships Manager
While at the American Royal I noticed some different ways of incorporating the sponsor’s signage into the show rings as well as around the facilities. After meeting with the Livestock Manager from the National Western Livestock Show, she was able to give me a ton of new ideas on how to improve Western Bonanza by improving advertisement for the sponsors. 

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 8.23.14 PMDiane Meyer, Facilities Manager
It was great attending American Royal. Although the facilities are very different from ours, there were several aspects of the show Western Bonanza can benefit from. American Royal did a great job at promoting corporate sponsors by placing logos and banners around the show. I also loved the colored shavings and other decorative details that gave each show ring more of a ‘wow’ factor.

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California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross returns to Cal Poly

Last week, California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross visited campus for the third time this year to speak with students and faculty about the state of California agriculture. Throughout the one-hour forum, Secretary Ross addressed the audience on issues facing California, and allowed students to spend the bulk of the discussion asking questions. Here are a few of the most notable quotes from Secretary Ross!


“Conservation as a way of life is starting to happen, and all of us have a role to play in that.”

“The most important commodity in agriculture is trust.”

“Communicating in a sincere and authentic way is going to be essential in getting those [new] products to the marketplace.”

“Agriculture is being covered by business writers, science writers, health writers — there are very few agriculture writers.”

“Every place I go I can always tell if they’re a Cal Poly graduate.”


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Agricultural Communication student Haley Warner strives for National FFA Office

  By: Jenna Rose Lee



Most of us are now in the full swing of school with midterms taking place and finals approaching. Our stress is through the roof. As I joke with Haley Warner that tractor driving class really can’t cause that much stress, she reminds me that she is stressed because she is studying for “the biggest final of her entire life.” It’s true; Haley Warner will be California’s national officer candidate at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky October 23rd-31st.

Her preparation for running for national office started at the beginning of June. She says there has not been a day since that she hasn’t thought about running for national office. Preparation includes learning and studying a wide variety of information about the agriculture industry and agriculture education, while visiting student conferences up and down the state.

The first of the nine-step process is the lengthy application, listing every FFA event she has taken part in and explaining why it is she wants to be a National FFA officer. Once in Louisville, Haley must take two tests, one on general FFA knowledge, and the second, a timed test, where she must write about one of 10 topics National FFA has provided her. Then, the meat of the process: interviews.

Each interview round is different. Throughout the week, Haley will take part in a personal round, a round-robin, a stakeholder round where she’ll speak with sponsors and supporters of the organization, a “stand and deliver” round, a facilitation round, and finally the culminating second personal round. This is the last chance for them to truly get to know who she is, with and without the FFA jacket. Their decision will be made and the national officers will be announced during the final conference session in front of 55,000 members and guests (not to mention all who tune in for the live feed).

When I had the chance to sit down with Haley, I initially asked her how it felt to be in the unique position that she is in. She responded, “When I think about my journey through FFA and my experiences within this organization, I can’t help but think about what an honor it is to be at this level and know that I have support of not only the entire California FFA Association, but my mentors, my friends, my family to be in the role of a national officer. I am ecstatic, pumped, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in October.”

As determined and smart as Haley is, we all know that it takes a village. When Haley asked who have been her biggest supporters in this process, she thinks back to day one when she began thinking about running for national office.

“I think about my teammates. My five state officer teammates who have been there since the beginning of this process and are also going to be there at the end of this process which I think is really, really cool,” she said. “They [teammates] said, ‘Haley we think you are going to be the next California national FFA officer candidate, here you go, we don’t even have to worry about it.’ Knowing that they believed in me before I even believed in myself really has been such a motivation and a reminder of how blessed to be in this position and know that I am supported no matter what happens. My friends and family as well have been so supportive along with my teammates, mentors, and advisors. I definitely would not be the person I am today, nor in the position to be the California candidate for national officer without all of their support.”

While Haley’s passion for FFA runs deep in her veins, she hasn’t always known she would get to this place in her FFA career and life. She remembers her eager freshman self, and the first time her agriculture teacher at Bret Harte high school explained what National FFA Office was.

“It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter how big your program is, this organization provides opportunities for people as long as you are willing to work hard and believe in yourself and believe in the power of agriculture education and the agriculture industry, that you can get as far as you want. That is truly one of my favorite things about this organization. It provides opportunities for everyone to be successful,” Haley said.


When asked what makes her so passionate about FFA, she said her drive comes from the support and diversity of the organization.

“What inspires me the most about this organization is that no matter whether you want to show livestock, whether you love science, or whether you even like music, there is something for everybody,” she said. “There is such a close, tight-knit family atmosphere that gives everyone purpose and makes everyone feel like they matter. Sometimes that’s what people need. We get lost in this world of high school and this transition from high school to college and we forget that we have so much natural potential and so much natural ability, and this organization helps us to find that through ag education and through their knowledge in the classroom.”

There are a lot of people in my life that I look up to aspire to be more like, but I have never had a peer, let alone my best friend/roommate be that someone. Even as we were both sitting on my bed when doing this interview, I couldn’t help but think of how lucky the national FFA would be to have her on their team. The passion in her eyes and the way she speaks about FFA with such enthusiasm is moving to say the least.


“I will go into it and give one hundred percent of my effort and do everything that I can to become a national officer. In case it doesn’t happen, I don’t want it to be because I didn’t work hard enough. So from day one, I have realized that I have to put in the hours if I want the position as badly as I do.”

Haley Warner, you have the unending support and love of everyone here at Cal Poly. Go to Louisville and make us proud like we know you can!

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Meet our new agricultural communication students!

The agricultural communication major continues to grow and we are thrilled to welcome so many diverse and enthusiastic freshmen and transfer students. With one of the most impressive classes to date, we thought we should take the time to meet a few of the new ag comm stars. Read below to get a glimpse into Cal Poly’s dynamic students.

Chanel Jensen – Freshman


Q: Where are you from?

A: Colorado

Q: What made you choose Ag Comms at Cal Poly?

A: Cal Poly was my number one choice in schools. What really drew me to CP more than any other factor was all of the agricultural opportunities here. CP has prime land, animals, and facilities. I was specifically drawn to all of the opportunities to work with horses here at CalPoly. I was drawn to ag comms because of how unique it is as a major. Everywhere else I applied, I applied into communications orjournalism majors. However, these majors seem so boring to me, but when applied to agriculture, communications seems so much more exciting and important. I have always been passionate about agriculture, beginning with my first horseback riding lessons at four, to my family’s move to an agricultural area in western Colorado.

Q: How have you gotten involved at Cal Poly and what are your plans for involvement?

A: I have already become so involved here at CalPoly! My activities so far include being in Kappa Alpha Theta, a Panhellenic Sorority here on campus, the Cal Poly Equestrian Team, and Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow. In the future, i would like to check out the dairy club (I have never worked with dairy, but I want to expand my agricultural knowledge), and being involved in many of the equine enterprises Cal Poly has to offer.

Q: Favorite Cal Poly memory so far?

A: I think my favorite memory so far here at Cal Poly was during WOW week. I had such an amazing time with my group and I made some good friends. My favorite memory from WOW was going to Pirate’s Cove and swimming in the late evening. It was a really cool experience because the water was perfect, the sun was setting, and the sea lions were watching us from their rock perches.

Q: Fun fact about you?

A: I have owned two rescue horses. They require a lot of care and attention, but once you form a bond with an abused horse, it never goes away.

Brittney Tierney
- Transfer (Junior) 


Q: Where are you from?

A: Atascadero, California

Q: What made you choose Cal Poly? Ag Comms?

A: I chose Cal Poly not only because it’s located in beautiful San Luis Obispo or that it’s close to home, however, because of its Learn By Doing Motto. Because this motto allows students many hands-on experiences, in return, they are very successful and versatile within their field. This is something that is very important to me. The college of Agriculture is outstanding and provides many opportunities which is one more reason why I chose Cal Poly.Growing up in 4-H sparked my passion for Agriculture and communication. Having these passions is what drove my decision to major in Agricultural Communication. Specifically, I am interested in educating the public about agriculture through Public Relations and marketing.

Q: How do you plan to get involved while here? What are you most excited for?

I plan to learn about opportunities here by networking with fellow classmates, instructors, and my advisors. I am going to get involved here through clubs, enterprises, internships, and conferences. What I am most excited for are the new skill sets I will acquire, learning about careers specific to my major, making connections, and, most importantly, learning how to become a positive voice for the agricultural Industry.

Q: Favorite part/memory of your first month here at Poly?

A: My favorite part so far, was the first day of my Orientation to Agricultural Communications Class with Dr. Vernon. Each student got a picture with Dr. Vernon, for our “first day of school picture”, then we did a class picture as well. This is my favorite part, because instantly the class become a comfortable friendly environment and, through taking each other’s photo, we got to know our fellow classmates.

Q: Fun fact about you?

A: I will be attending the Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference this November!!!

James Broaddus – Freshman  

AgCom Logo copy

Q: Where are you from?

A: Davis, CA

Q: What made you choose ag comms at Cal Poly?

A: I have always had an interest in agriculture and sharing information about it. Ag Comms was the perfect balance of all of my interests. I would like to narrow down my interests. I am interested in writing, photography, education, public relations, and public policy.

Q: What are you most excited to get involved with?

A: I am very excited for all of the clubs and organizations on campus.

Q: What’s you favorite memory at Cal Poly so far?

A: The dorms have been very interesting so far, there is always something new happening and going on.

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OSU’s Seafood Lab ensures freshness in Northwest albacore

Working in the Brock Center, we’re exposed to many fantastic agricultural publications from across the United States. One that caught our eye recently is Oregon’s Agricultural Progress. Produced out of the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, the magazine highlights the contributions and discoveries made by each of the branch experiment stations Oregon State has across the state. 

This article from the Summer 2015 issue of  Oregon’s Agricultural Progress highlights OSU’s Seafood Laboratory and their methods in catching Northwest albacore, an industry that requires strict safety and processing standards.

Written By: Gail Wails

When albacore tuna are schooling in the blue waters off the Oregon coast, fishermen don’t get much rest. A dozen trolling lines unspool off the stern of a boat and trail their bright-orange lures. A crewman leans over and hauls in a line, hand over hand. In a sudden eruption of spray, a silvery torpedo-shaped fish bursts through the waves, its slender pectoral fins rising like wings. The crewman unhooks the fish and flings it into the bleeding trough, then reaches for another line and begins to pull again.

A second crewman seizes the fish from the trough and makes a firm, swift cut under the chin. Blood drains from the wound and puddles down the trough. Albacore require bleeding and chilling as soon as they are landed. The crewman buries the bled fish in ice or in the freezer and hustles back as another fish plops into the trough.


(Photo © kitchakron, istockphoto)

“There’s not a lot of time to catch your breath,” says Nancy Fitzpatrick, whose husband Mike fishes for albacore and salmon on the F/V Sea Rose out of Newport, Oregon.

Sea Rose is one of a fleet of more than 400 mostly family-owned boats that operate out of Oregon ports from Astoria to Brookings, catching the 12- to 20-pound fish one at a time with trolling gear or single-line poles. These fishing methods, along with international cooperation to regulate catches worldwide, make Pacific Northwest albacore a sustainable seafood choice.

Albacore is also a safe choice, and OSU’s Seafood Laboratory is helping to keep it that way. “With seafood, safety is always a challenge,” says Christina DeWitt, director of the Seafood Lab, part of OSU’s Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station. “And safety is tied to the quality of processing and handling.”

More than most seafood, albacore needs special handling. It’s imperative to chill the flesh quickly—otherwise it develops a toxin that can cause a severe histamine reaction. This toxin has not been a problem in Oregon-caught albacore, DeWitt says. “Our fish are younger, smaller, and come from colder waters” than other tuna species. And, she adds, Northwest albacore fishermen are well aware of the danger and are diligent about icing or freezing their catch immediately.

A couple of years ago, DeWitt found herself in the middle of a dispute between fishermen and federal regulators over a new interpretation of a seafood-processing rule. Regulators were calling for detailed onboard recordkeeping of catch times and fish and water temperatures. They wanted documentation that the catch had been handled safely.

Christina DeWitt

Seafood safety begins at the moment that fish are caught. Christina DeWitt, director of the OSU Seafood Lab, works with the fishing industry to assure the highest quality and safety of Oregon seafood. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Such a system is appropriate for trawlers, seiners, and large processing ships that process fish in bulk quantities, says DeWitt. “But our albacore fleet catches fish by hook and line, one at a time,” and the fish are typically iced or frozen within minutes.

The new rule called for a separate record for every single fish. DeWitt met with the fishermen and listened to their concerns. Then she traveled to Washington, D.C. and spoke to regulators at the FDA’s Office of Seafood Safety. “I told them how fish are caught here, and we discussed how we could design a record-keeping system that would not be over-laborious to the fishermen.”

Listening to both regulators and fishermen, DeWitt drafted a set of handling guidelines that fulfilled the intent of the new rule. She devised a simple log sheet for noting catch periods, type and effectiveness of chilling, and other pertinent records.

“We demystified the record-keeping so that we could get buy-in from the fishermen,” says DeWitt.

The economic payoff of effective regulations may be hard to quantify, says DeWitt, but it’s real. Without the simpler system, “each vessel might have needed an additional crew member to handle the monitoring and record-keeping,” she says. “That would clearly have been a financial burden.”

The system hasn’t been formally blessed by regulators, but they’re happy with the process used to develop it, DeWitt says. And the processors and restaurants that buy the fish—and that are ultimately answerable for its safety—are happy with the added accountability.

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