Agriculture Future of America

Written by Christine Curtis

christineI want to share a little bit about an amazing organization called Agriculture Future of America (AFA). AFA is a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing young agriculturalists into future leaders of the agriculture industry. It’s hard to explain the passion and how much the organization believes in us college students. All I can say is this organization has literally changed my life.

As a freshmen at Cal Poly, jumping into the start of the training into the agriculture industry, I kept hearing professors advising students to start looking into internships and career paths. Later on, back at home I was at a family barbecue and a friend, who was currently a AFA Campus Ambassador for AFA for UC Davis, inspired me to start looking more into AFA. Eventually, I said what the heck, I’ll apply to go to the Annual Leaders Conference. Not thinking anything of it, I got accepted to go to Kansas City, MO that November! Instantly I panicked. How am I going to get there? What exactly am I doing? Oh no, flying… At that point in my life, I have never flown anywhere before. So the night before I was supposed to jump on the plane, I broke down and almost cancelled my flight. But I sucked it up and went for it.

img_5807Traveling wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was able to navigate the airports and get taxis when I needed, but once I got to the conference I was blown away. I heard from motivational speakers like Temple Grandin, Orion Samuelson, and many more! I got to work one-on-one with a recruiter from Cargill on building my resume. I attended the opportunity fair that featured over 100 companies that were so interested in hearing my elevator pitch as well as offering me some amazing internship opportunities. I learned a lot about goal setting, communication skills, and I also was able to have dinner with some industry professionals!

Additionally, I not only got to network with industry professionals, but I also got to know so many passionate student leaders from all over the country. These students are so welcoming and ready to help serve the end goal, to become the future passionate leaders of the agriculture industry. The friendships that I made with these students will last for a lifetime. It’s crazy to think that one day I will be either be working along side these leaders or be competing against them in the career world.

Coming back from the conference, I felt incredibly empowered. I was ready to take on the world! I started getting involved in my school with the Agribusiness Management Club as well as deciding to minor in Agriculture Communications. This experience solidified the reasons why I am pursuing a career in the agriculture industry as well as motivated me to not just be ordinary, but extraordinary in my everyday life. I now pay a lot more attention to the current problems in agriculture as well as reach out to my peers and get to know them. The conference gave me the confidence to go out into my county and land a local internship. From there, I have grown into managing the downtown location for a local beef jerky company called Cattaneo Bros.

1469920_10202503534853424_551780727_nI have stayed involved in AFA throughout college so far by attending two leaders conferences, participating in AFA’s ONTAP webinars, and I have become one of AFA’s 2015 Campus Ambassadors. I represent Cal Poly nationally at AFA events as well as spreading awareness of AFA on campus. So far I have gained the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences approval in funding inquiries as well as getting a group of students interested in getting involved!

I can’t thank AFA enough for providing an amazing opportunity for me and other students to get professional training and for further fueling my passion for agriculture.

If you want to learn more about AFA, visit their website or please feel free to contact me, Christine Curtis at with any questions. Thanks for reading!


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Cal Poly FFA State Finals

The 76th annual State FFA Finals were held at Cal Poly on May 2, 2015.  Hosting the FFA State Finals at Cal Poly has been a tradition for decades. This year, California FFA members competed in 21 Career Development Events for the title of State Champions. Students arrived ready to compete after months of learning, practicing and preparing with the guidance of their agriculture advisers and coaches.

As always, the day concluded with thousands of blue jackets piled in the Cal Poly gymnasium anxiously awaiting recognition for their hard work and dedication towards competing in the 2015 California State FFA Finals. Congratulations to all of the winners and all of the chapters on their achievement!

Make sure to check out an upcoming article on the history of Cal Poly FFA State Finals in the next issue of Ag Circle magazine, available to readers in early June!

Meet the State Champions:

Ag Issues Team

Ag Issues Team Ag Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamAg Issues TeamNot pictured: 
Agronomy, Tulelake FFA
Best Informed Greenhand, Madera South FFA
Floriculture, Madera South FFA
Light Horse, Woodland Pioneer FFA
Nursery Landscape, Madera South FFA

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Our Top Takeaways from the Meet Your Meat Forum


On May 7, 2015 the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication hosted a forum about local meat producers and how they navigate production, processing and marketing their beef products.

For those who didn’t get the opportunity to join us, here are the top things we learned from Mark Klever, Belcampo President and Roland Camacho, Beef Production Manager of Hearst Beef Ranch.

1. Transparency with consumers is important. 

Klever highlighted the different Belcampo shops and restaurants across California. Belcampo has locations in Santa Monica, Downtown Los Angeles, San Francisco, Larkspur (Marin County), Palo Alto and Santa Barbara.

While each shop is tailored to its different communities, the shops have a running theme of keeping everything open, not trying to hide any part of the butchering process from the consumer. Butchers are out in the open cutting meat for consumers, where the consumer can clearly see what goes into segmenting a carcass. The Larkspur restaurant even has an open window looking into their meat locker, with hanging carcasses on display. While some people might think this is a turn-off for consumers, Klever said visitors love the feature.

“When it comes to talking farms, butchers and consumers, it all comes down to communication,” Klever said. “When you live it, it’s easy to tell your story.”

Camacho also added the same principles apply at Hearst Ranch, saying “we make everything as transparent as possible” when dealing with consumers.

2. While transparency is important, it’s important to keep goals and operations realistic.


Klever sharing about BelCampo’s story with the group.

Both Klever and Camacho emphasized the market demand for grassfed beef. Consumers want to know where the cow came from, what it’s being fed and that the animal is being treated as humanely as possible.

While both Hearst Ranch and Belcampo do as much as possible to cater to the consumer, some demands are not economically viable. “Consumers are crucial,” Klever said, “but we have to be careful to not let consumers drive us to something unrealistic.”

3. Consistency is a key component to customer loyalty. 

Mark Klever explained the pressure to deliver a high quality product on time never ceases to be a challenge. Yet, it is crucial to maintain the loyalty and trust of any producer’s consumer base.

According to Klever, losing a customer can take a matter of seconds once they realize your product isn’t ready to go perfectly on time. “Customers are hard to build but easy to lose,” he said.

Consistent production should always be a top priority, therefore production plans must be created far in advance with room for adaptations to consumers’ changing demand.

And a final note of wisdom…

“Common sense is the rarest commodity of all!” Don’t underestimate the power of basic consumer education. 

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A Cal Poly Student’s Inside Look at the Kentucky Derby

Written by Alden Caldwell

j5Sp8uP1f2PZRuZUAmLYW0S4ZtUMgCGR2wrzpW8sp6E More than 294,200 fans made their way to Churchill Downs over the weekend to revel in the pinnacle of Thoroughbred racing for the 141st Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. Mint Juleps, lavish hats, and quirky suits were picturesque under blue skies and the twin spires as a record breaking crowd watched the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.”


Team NBC Talent Assists and RF Cam Spotters.

This year was my third trip to the Derby and second time working the Oaks and Derby as media for NBC. I was given the opportunity to work for NBC upon my graduation from high school and I gladly accepted; since then I have worked countless races across the country. My knowledge of the horse racing industry is why I became a “camera spotter” for the network. This job entails following an assigned trainer or owner to the location they will watch the race from and directing a camera man to that person to get a “reaction shot” during and after the race. Being on the media team gives me the unique opportunity to have what I would consider the true “Derby experience.” With an all-access pass, I can go many of the places others cannot and have the special amenities given to those who own, train, or raised an Oaks or Derby horse.

Historically, Churchill Downs has been one of the most opulent scenes in American culture, and this year was no exception. Kentucky Oaks day shattered the previous record attendance, set in 2010, with nearly 124,000 attendees. The Oaks is for the top three year old female Thoroughbreds in the country. This pre-Derby day, is all about the human ladies as well. From the Garland of Lilies given to the equine victor, to the “Oaks Lily” beverages sold in keepsake glasses, Churchill is adorned in pink. Everyone in attendance, even the men, are expected to be wearing some shade of pink.

Q1nl-exk8yQrQB4jwhCutN2xaVAqlN1EDuULOLxrd-4Derby day was one for the books. With another record breaking crowd, the Mint Juleps were flowing and millions were spent at the betting window. This was a hectic day at the NBC compound, with two late scratches and horses being pulled out of the race due to injury, many of pre-taped b-roll had to be reformatted to the developing stories. The expert team was able to pull it off before the Derby went to air.

-xPLGW-OqWpTpvOLaGiC3XQpDZa6eEdpCbbyWGeJE-oFinally it was race time. I was assigned to follow the 10 horse, Firing Line and his connections. All of the horses entered the paddock to be saddled for the race and the crowd seemed to amass around the favorites, chanting their names and snapping pictures. Many of the horses were unnerved by the volume of the crowd and got so wound up, they burnt all of their energy for the race by stressing out. The favorites, American Pharaoh and Dortmund, wore special earplugs to dampen the noise, and keep them calm.

“My Old Kentucky Home” played as the horses walked under the tunnel and onto the track. I got chills as the song ended and the crowd began cheering, as well as a wave of adrenaline. My camera man was on our target, the trainer and family of Firing Line and I had the magnificent “owners’ box” view on the edge of the track. The horses entered the starting gate and in two minutes years of work all came to fruition.

American Pharoah proved he was a champion by beating the best field of horses in over a decade. He earned the $1.24 million, and the iconic garland of roses, giving his owners their first Derby victory, after having their last three Derby horses run second best. Firing Line ran an incredible race, but tired toward the finish. His second place effort still earned him $400,000.

I then walked over the track to the winner’s circle to watch the crowning of American Pharoah and the trophy presentation. I’ve never seen a group of people so happy and so passionate about their horse and his accomplishment.


Just like that it was all over, the races that is. Spectators celebrated long into the wee hours of the morning and caught early flights home. The grooms tended to their tired athletes, giving them the love they rightly deserve for surviving the stimulating day. And the trainers and jockeys handled the onslaught of questions in press conferences.

PRLLqSmz9XGt9c02jdkVO5EWNb3AEASyzgto1DphOYoThis year’s Oaks and Derby were nothing short of amazing. I have been to many races around the country and nothing compares to Churchill Downs on Derby weekend. It is something I would encourage anyone and everyone to go to, even if you have no interest in horse racing. Culturally it is unlike anything one could experience on the West Coast. It is the Super Bowl of horse racing and is truly the most fun you can have in 48 hours.



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Kentucky Derby Preview

Written by Harrison Reilly


The first weekend in May is arguably the greatest sporting weekend in America. Hockey and basketball playoffs are in full swing, baseball season is well underway, the NFL draft  takes place and the marquee boxing bout of the year is held, this year with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, one of the most hyped boxing matches of the all time. But one event tops them all: The Kentucky Derby in Louisville at Churchill Downs.

Called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” for its quick duration, the Run for the Roses is one of America’s oldest traditions, celebrating its 141st year in 2015. The event is is the crown jewel of showcasing southern hospitality, with ladies dressing in sun dresses and big hats and gentlemen sporting light colored suits, both indulging in mint juleps and other Kentucky delicacies.

It’s also one of the biggest betting events in the United States, with $165.2 million in wages, with $23.4 million being waged at the track during the 2011 Kentucky Derby. And, of course, it’s a big TV event, with 15.3 million people watching the race in 2014.

While the pageantry of the event brings many wealthy and famous people to Churchill Downs, this race wouldn’t happen without the the amazing thoroughbreds that compete each year. The race is a Grade 1 stakes race exclusively for three-year-old thoroughbreds, where owners have paid millions of dollars to buy and train horses.

Many of the thoroughbreds come from a pedigree of former successful race horses. For example, this year’s favorite, American Pharaoh (9/4 odds), was sired by Pioneer of the Nile, who finished runner up in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. The horse Pioneer of the Nile was sired by was Empire Maker, winner of the 2003 Belmont Stakes. In fact, American Pharaoh’s pedigree can be traced all the way back to the most famous race horse of all time, Secretariat.

Despite criticism from animal activist groups and cruelty found on smaller horse circuits, Kentucky Derby thoroughbreds are some of the best treated horses in the world. Groups such as the Jockey Club ensure that horses aren’t mistreated and trained the correct way. The club oversees many different groups that work to serve the best interests of the horses, from birth to when they’re race-ready all the way their retirement life.

The horses are incredible physical specimens. They can sustain a speed of 42 miles per hour on Churchill Down’s 1 1/4 mile long track. Trainers spend endless hours breeding the best horses just at the chance to race in the derby, where nearly 400 horses compete for 20 spots during the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Derby is an event like any other in America. It’s a combination of premiere animal breeding, American decadence and unparalleled excitement across any sport. Be sure to watch this weekend on NBC at 2:30 p.m. E.T.

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Reflection on Serving as the California FFA Association State Vice President

Last spring, Haley Warner, an agricultural communications student from Cal Poly, was elected as California State FFA Vice-President for 2014-2015.  Another Mustang will join the journey as a state officer for 2015- 2016. Congratulations to Danielle Diele, agricultural communications student,  for being  elected as Reporter! Read below as Haley Warner reflects on her time serving on the California State Officer Team this past year.

Written by Haley Warner 

When I think about my year of service as the California FFA Association State Vice President, two things that immediately come to mind is how fast the year has gone and how incredible of an experience it has been. In a matter of 365 days, I met countless FFA members, facilitated leadership conferences throughout the state, traveled thousands of miles and obtained an abundance of agricultural knowledge; but most importantly, I acquired five new family members and over 76,000 new best friends along the way.

State Officer Team

The 2014-2015 California FFA State Officer Team

The connections and relationships I have IMG_0597built with FFA members, industry leaders, parents and supporters has been one of the most rewarding aspects of being a State FFA Officer. The fact that families from across the state generously opened up their homes to my teammates and me and greeted us with immense hospitality is both heartwarming and humbling. One of my favorite memories from this year was during the chapter visit season, where I got to spend the night with the Fleetwood family in Visalia. Having only known the Fleetwood’s for about two hours prior, the entire family and I stayed up for hours reminiscing on memories and sharing laughs around their living room. When I think about the year I have been blessed with, I think back to moments like that and realize that I would have never created that relationship with the Fleetwood family, without the amazing opportunity serving as a State FFA officer.

IMG_0546IMG_0287In addition to the incredible people I have met, this year has truly opened my eyes to what the Future Farmers of America organization does for students. It did not matter whether we were three miles from the Oregon border in Butte Valley or a short drive from the Mexican Border in San Pasqual, the impact that FFA has made in students’ lives is incredible. Because of this organization I have seen students step out of their comfort zones through public speaking, experimenting with a new agriculture project and embracing their true leadership abilities while serving as a FFA officer at the chapter level. Due to their time in FFA, high school students are prepared to jump into their futures with skills and knowledge they will use for the rest of their lives. From the members I have interacted with this year, there is no doubt in my mind that the future of agriculture will be a positive one, and I am thankful that I got to be a small part of it.

It is practically impossible for me to sum up my entire year, but overall, I am incredibly grateful. State Office is a once in lifetime opportunity and a year I will never forget. Even though it has come to an end, this is only the beginning of what will be an incredible lifetime of friendships and memories. As I prepare myself to return to Cal Poly, I cannot wait to take what I have been given this past year and continue to serve, but in a different capacity. Even though the blue and gold jacket has been hung up, I know my love for the FFA, agriculture and the people in it will only continue to grow. I am grateful for the year I have been blessed with and look forward to my future as a Cal Poly Mustang once again.

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Who are you voting for? Meet this year’s candidates for CAFES Board of Directors!

Every April lawn stakes, flashy posters and campaign booths decorate Cal Poly’s campus. Candidates running for ASI President and ASI Board of Directors are eager to make their names known and get your vote.  All students are encouraged to cast their votes not only for ASI President, but for their college representatives, which are known as the ASI Board of Directors.

The ASI Board of Directors serves as the legislative body of ASI and official representative voice of Cal Poly students. This year for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) there are 10 candidates running and only 5 spots available. Voting begins next Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 7 a.m. and ends Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 7 a.m. Take time this week to learn more about the candidates who want to represent you, starting with reading each of their statements below!

Madison Albiani

11110576_992867354059552_5444881431538399998_oMy name is Madison Albiani; I am a sophomore working towards my degree in animal science here at Cal Poly. My passion for Cal Poly and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences has lead me to engage in a number of organizations aiming to better the Mustang experience. From involvement with ASI Board of Directors representing the College of Agriculture, to the Cal Poly Western Bonanza Junior Livestock Show, I have worked to fulfill positions in which I can serve the university while further developing my own leadership skills. My involvement in these great organizations has driven me to run for re-election and continue to serve as an ASI Board of Director representing the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science.

 Seth Borges

11150336_1560911584133596_1165649441794161823_nI am a third year agribusiness student from Visalia, Calif. who is looking to continue representing my college. During my time at Cal Poly I have involved myself in many of the clubs in CAFES. I have been involved in the Agribusiness Management Club, the Ag Communicators of Tomorrow, and have served as a Board of Director for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences for the past year. From my involvement in these organizations, I have built a diverse network of connections that I can utilize to get student opinion on subjects and represent the true goals of CAFES students. If re-elected to the Board of Directors I will work hard to ensure that the best interests of students are met with any decisions or projects. I look forward to the opportunity to serve and represent the students of CAFES.

Jana Colombini

10985219_818621324851827_6145193997525011492_nMy name is Jana Colombini and I am a 11037708_800495159997777_3063762548711580310_nsecond year agricultural science major. Growing up on a farm in the small town of Linden, Calif. I learned the importance of agriculture. I would like to represent the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Sciences again and will continue do so with integrity, respect and honesty. Serving our college this past year on the ASI Board of Directors has given me the experience I need to continue to represent our college well. This past year, I served as the Chair of the It’s On Us Week Committee to work towards ending sexual assault at Cal Poly. I would like to continue my work into next year to ensure a better Cal Poly. As one of your representatives on the ASI Board of Directors, I will make sure your voice is heard and continue to work tirelessly to represent you.

Eric Djanie

10608493_875342942493964_7274272577713081552_oMy name is Eric Djanie, I am an animal science major, and I am running for the position of Board of Directors in order to be a voice for the students of The College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences. Currently, I am involved with several student groups on campus, as well as being the host for KCPR’s Time With Eric, where I discuss inspirational topics that I believe can help students achieve success. Additionally, in the past I have been involved with other student government organizations and business management boards, which have provided me with the necessary skills needed to represent and advocate on behalf of students. Furthermore, I believe in truth, responsibility, hard work, and honesty, and I promise that if elected, I will fight for my fellow students with all of my heart and passion.

Leo Farias

2115611_origI am running for Board of Directors at Cal Poly. ―My name is Leo Farias; I have a lot of experience working with various committees, clubs, events, and organizations. Including an elected position with Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Associated Students of Merced College. At Cal Poly, I am very active with clubs and committees and I truly believe that I am one of the most qualified individuals running for any position, but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as the reason that I am running; which is to make a difference in your life. I want to be your voice, your advocate, your innovator and be at your service. I truly believe that power finds its purpose when it is put at the service of others. I care about the students at Cal Poly and I will do everything I can to represent them well.

Emily Dale

1891381_10206486278378360_4899637791836002052_oAs a first year agricultural communication major and a student in the college of agriculture, I was eager to become part of a variety of clubs including: The Cal Poly Tractor Pull, Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow, Agriculture Ambassadors and Fremont Inter Housing Council. Previous to college, I have held leadership positions in the Future Farmers of America such as Chapter President and North Coast Region Vice President in addition to being the president of my class at Fortuna High School. These diverse experiences and my fresh mind and perspective are what make me an ideal candidate for the board of directors. The board of directors represents the entire college, and I would be honored to serve as a representative of the younger students at Cal Poly. It would be a privilege to serve and represent the college of agriculture and it’s students on the board of directors.

Shane Gillard

10830547_910036552371366_4102752174282579884_oHello all, my name is Shane Gillard, and I would love to have the opportunity to serve on the 2015-2016 ASI Board of Directors representing CAFES. Becoming involved in clubs and activities such as the Agribusiness Management Club and Week of Welcome opened my eyes to opportunities within ASI. I believe I would be a great candidate because of my father’s “3 P’s”– Passion, Purpose, and Perspective. My experiences with FFA and 4-H have fed my passion for agriculture, which will guide me to make the best decisions for our college. My purpose – having the drive to perform at my absolute best in all situations. My perspective offers a unique approach to how I view the school in ways that can bring fresh insights. I would be a motivated, and innovative candidate that demonstrates a high level of professionalism. CAFES students use your brain, and vote for Shane!

Riley Nilsen

11155044_863664450323676_6073951526032991445_oMy name is Riley Nilsen and I aspire to serve you as a representative on the Board of Directors. I believe in our students’ ability to electrify our campus, and I want to serve CAFES by representing our needs, breaking communication barriers, and ensuring positive use of student fees. I was born and raised locally on the central coast, and desire to continue my roots in farming through my major of Agricultural Sciences, with the ultimate goal of becoming an Agricultural Educator. I believe that my past experiences in student government, FFA, club volleyball, and working as a conference facilitator, can be utilized as assets to the Board. On campus, I am currently an active member in Collegiate FFA and Agricultural Ambassadors, and also serve as the Marketing Director for Fremont Hall. It would be an honor to represent our student body to its fullest potential within our college.

Thomas Sawyer

176647_948466331844305_1949248345640776496_oAs a second year Agricultural Business major I have come to love the college of ag and all of the great opportunities and experiences that come with being a CAFES major. My agricultural background rooted from growing up on a production dairy farm in the Central Valley and learning values of diligent labor showing that hard work is the key to success in all walks of life. Through joining and becoming an involved member of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, I have developed an even greater appreciation for Agriculture and all that it represents, and now aspires me to join something even greater. I am excited for the opportunity to campaign for the ASI Board of Directors for the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences, and am devoted to making our great college even better!

Holly Wilson

1613915_805086012908366_7605107340987696176_nHi y’all! My name is Holly, and I am a second-year agricultural communication major, minoring in equine science. I grew up in the Central Valley, in the town of Kingsburg. In high school I was an editor for the yearbook and a writer for the school newspaper, and so far in my college career, I have served as the Communications Director for Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. I feel like my diverse network of connections within Cal Poly will enable me to be a fair representation of our student body. I want to plant my roots in Board of Directors in order to expand upon my leadership experience, and help to serve as a bridge between the student body and ASI. I have a LOT of great ideas, and I hope that you all will find faith in me, and trust me to turn your ideas into reality. Go Mustangs!

For more information about the election go to
All candidate statements were gathered directly from the ASI website.

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