Young Women in Agriculture Career & Leadership Seminar

By: Samantha Wallace
Agricultural Communication major

sam-quincy-crystalAt Cal Poly, every student is required to conduct a senior project prior to graduation. Having the opportunity to collaborate with such a driven individual, Crystal Avila, is the reason I decided to undertake a project substantially bigger than anything I had planned.

Crystal and I lead the efforts in organizing the 2nd Annual Young Women in Agriculture Career and Leadership Seminar hosted at Cal Poly on October 9th. The purpose of this seminar is to invite young women to explore their full potential and expose them to agriculture through professional women in the industry.

At last year’s seminar, high school students put their best “Boot” forward, as they took their next step into the agricultural industry. To carry out the tradition, Crystal and I wanted to emphasize and teach the young women to “Brand Yourself”. We encouraged them to be authentic, unique, promote themselves and their mission in the agriculture industry and wherever life takes them.

Together, Crystal and I hand-picked six dynamic speakers who inspire, motivate and are passionate “AGvocates”. All coming from diverse backgrounds, they shared their unique perspective and wisdom about branding yourself to stand apart from the crowd. Our goal for the young women in attendance was to encourage them to develop and enhance their skills as successful agricultural leaders.

Our speakers included Celeste Settrini, Quincy Freeman, JoAnnWall, Brooke Helsel, Leslie
Friend and Chris Koch. Celeste, is the owner of CS Connections, a boutique graphic design and communications business. Quincy, is a true rodeo cowgirl and owner of her western fashion company “Rodeo Quincy“.  JoAnn is an entrepreneurial business woman, as she has started three real estate land appraisal companies and was named one of the Top 50 Women in Business by the Pacific Times Business News. Brooke is employed by MWI Animal Health and owner of the successful “Meet your Beef” blog. Leslie works for Valent Corporation as their Communications Activation Manager for Row Crop and Seed Protection. Crystal and I are so grateful for the exceptional contributions these women made to our seminar!


“I was beyond excited for the incredible speakers who lead this day to success. In the end, their words of wisdom came down to a couple things.. We don’t have to compete with anyone, just be yourself. Secondly, don’t be a mean girl, be a support system for your fellow peers.” – Crystal Avila 

sam-and-chrisThe final keynote speaker was Chris Koch, who did not leave a dry eye in the house. A Canadian farmer, born without arms and legs, Koch travels the world sharing his story called “If I can”. The heart of his story surrounds the idea if he can do it, then what is stopping you? Early on in life, he decided he would not be treated with pity and partakes in activities such as marathons, snowboarding, skydiving, etc. He may not have arms or legs, but he has a good head on his shoulders and with that anything is possible.

“If you’re worried about how you look, you’re cheating yourself out of opportunity,” said Koch with a smile on his face.  

All together, we had a total of 50 guests in attendance. Initially, Crystal and I were aiming for a larger turnout, however, we continually heard how pleasant it was to have a more intimate setting. The one-on-one interaction with the speakers allowed for a unique networking experience and fostered professional friendships between women with shared backgrounds, interests and goals.

Throughout the seminar, several young women approached me and expressed how much they appreciated us organizing this event. It made the countless hours of planning all worth it. My personal goal was to have one guest leave more educated about all the endless opportunities they had; little did I know several women would be greatly impacted! I am truly excited about the passion and raw enthusiasm I continue to see in women in agriculture.
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“Thank you for the amazing opportunity to speak at YWALS this weekend. Not only did you absolutely crush it at planning and orchestrating a flawless event, but you brought a bunch of people together to learn, network, and develop themselves–in a fun, safe, and welcoming environment no less! We are all fortunate to have been present for such a thing; gathering together to grow is the stuff of life. I appreciate the chance the be a part of it!” – Leslie Friend

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to our speakers, guests and volunteers for helping  make this seminar a success. And a special thank you to our advisor, Ms. Freeman! She helped with organization, planning, and most of all a continual cheerleader to Crystal and I throughout this process.


As women in agriculture face a unique set of challenges as they look to take on leadership roles, I hope to see this tradition of empowering each other continue on for years to come.  As I reflect on this day, little did I know how much I would gain from my senior project. I am overwhelmed with joy that it was a huge success and I will never forget this incredible learning experience. It was truly wonderful to see all our efforts over the past four months come together so perfectly. I look forward to the future of this event carried out by others as a senior project.

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Looking Forward to the Year

Hello Mustangs! My name is Jana Colombini.  I am a 4th year Agricultural Science Major from the very small town of Linden, CA in the central valley.  I’m a third generation Cal Poly CAFES student and I am the 2016-17 Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President. I hope you had an amazing summer but I’m sure it feels good to be back.  img_4528

This year I am looking forward to fulfilling my platforms that I campaigned on back in April – Care, Communicate, and Connect. Care is the efforts to increase campus safety in diversity and inclusivity with increasing lights and safe transportation for our off-campus students. Connect targets the expansion of shared governance with the Cal Poly administration and with the city of San Luis Obispo in which the students hold a third of the population. Communicate is an ASI-wide initiative to enhance our transparency and communication to all students. This involves informing students about what our organization is through enhancing social media, outreach, and connecting those to different sectors of ASI that interests them.
I hope that each and every one of you will join me in helping create a better Cal Poly for all. We have an opportunity to make a big impact on this campus but we must work together, as part of the Mustang family.
You should always remember that it is up to you to get the most out of your college experience.  ASI is one of the resources you have on campus to do just that. As a student you are automatically a member of ASI, with access to all of our programs and services. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities ASI has to offer; whether through Student Government, the state-of-the-art Recreation Center, intramural sports, on-campus child care, outdoor adventures, concerts,  our 400 clubs, or the Craft Center – there is something for everyone!

Please feel free to contact me throughout the year if you have any questions, comments, or issues.  My office is located in UU 202 and my email is Have an awesome year!



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A New Pair of Shoes

By Brittney Withnell
3rd Year Agricultural Science Major

Saturday, October 1st, myself and over 40 volunteers woke up bright and early to help host the Santa Barbara Sectional FFA Opening and Closing Ceremonies Contest at Cal Poly. This contest was organized by the AGED 303 class under Ms. Freeman’s leadership. Selected Cal Poly student volunteers judged the contest. Seven schools and 402 FFA members competed, totaling to about 450 in attendance. Special recognition goes to the four individual managers of the event including Molly Miller as the Event Chair, Bailey Riedel as Officer Team Chair, Brian Snyder as Open Division Chair, and Nicole Jorgenson as Novice Division Chair. To begin the event, Dr. Scott Vernon gave a warm welcome to the Santa Barbara Sectional FFA chapters.

As a former FFA member who used to compete in the Opening and Closing contests, I felt so much nostalgia during the event. I learned so much from the competition and know the many opportunities these high schoolers have in front of them. It was an unreal experience to be on the other side and judge the competition which I competed in just a couple years ago. I was just in their shoes. I remember the encouraging words of my advisors before the competition and feeling the excitement and nervousness of the day. During the event, I looked with astonishment at the young FFA members who hid their nervous emotions so well. You would never know how nervous they were feeling unless you had been in their shoes.

It has been a transition from being an FFA member to an Cal Poly Agricultural Science student and aspiring Ag teacher. I know what it’s like to be an FFA member competing in this contest and it gives me a sense of a comradery with those students. At the same time, I am able to look at them in new pair of shoes, from a facilitator and judge perspective.

Now, I understand what my teachers experienced when they coached me. It opened my eyes to the other side of the event. I saw the disappointed faces of students who didn’t win, but I smiled because I knew their potential and exciting future. Everyone did a great job putting the event on in an organized manner.
img_4666I have moved from the FFA member’s black pumps to a pair of multi-purpose teaching shoes. I am very thankful for those experiences which help guide me and many others as we prepare for our teaching careers.

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Internship with Moo U Livestock Tours

By Alexandra Lavy
Agricultural Communication major

This summer I had the opportunity to work with an amazing and unique company, Moo U Guided Livestock Tours.  Moo U was created in 2007 by Cal Poly alumna Jeannene Xanthus. Each summer, the company, based out of Celeste, Texas, is hired by fairs all over the country to give free educational tours of the livestock at the fair.


The purpose of Moo U is to inform people about livestock, from how the animals are raised, to all the ways that animal byproducts are used in our lives.  Our presence at the fairs provides the opportunity to communicate with regular, everyday consumers, and explain where food comes from.  As an Agricultural Communication major, I love that I’m able to be a voice and educate the public about the livestock industry.  We focused on several main production animals including dairy cows, beef cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits.

During my internship, I worked at three different fairs: The California State Fair in Sacramento, The Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York, and the Los Angeles County Fair.  An average day at work usually consisted of five tours, each lasting about 40 minutes.  As a tour guide, I was asked a lot of crazy questions, but those only made the tours more fun. Depending on the audiences’ questions, I cantered to their area of interest. No two tours went the same.  At the Erie County Fair, the booth set up was located in a large barn with all sorts of newborn animals including the birthing center for expecting dairy cows.  That was a great opportunity to educate people on all the different animals’ birthing processes, especially in the dairy industry.

This internship really put me out of my comfort zone for two main reasons. Firstly, I’m very introverted, and second, I didn’t grow up with any livestock experience.  Additionally, I’m typically a really shy person. Before my internship, I could barely speak in front of my communications class, but now I’m fine speaking in front of a group of 20 strangers, and even approaching onlookers at the fair to talk to them about livestock.  Growing up, my family farmed walnuts, rice, prunes, almonds, and some pistachios, not livestock.  From growing up in a rural area and spending a year at Cal Poly, I knew a little bit about each animal, but through this experience, I’ve learned more than I ever thought about the livestock industry.

moo-u-3I’ve met so many amazing people from working with Moo U this summer, and have made some great connections.  Along with becoming more knowledgeable in the livestock and agriculture industry as a whole, I’ve built self-confidence and grown in my public speaking skills.  Overall, this internship was a great opportunity and learning experience.

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AMS 2016: San Luis to St. Luis

By James Broaddus
Agricultural Communication major

Picture this, St. Louis, Missouri in the middle of July, its 96 degrees F with 85 percent humidity. We are staying at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch Hotel and Conference Center for the annual Agricultural Media Summit. That sets the scene – slightly toasty temperatures; a venue on the river by one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States and some of the most excited Ag-vocates in the country.

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The Agricultural Media Summit (AMS) is the largest agricultural communications convention in the country and it draws international agriculture professionals as well. A diverse group of journalists, PR pros, marketing experts, photographers, and college students joined with their shared love of communication about agriculture and how the industry feeds the world.

AMS had a plethora of activities for both seasoned professionals and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college students looking to expand their careers in agricultural communication. Workshops and round tables varied from a business info-expo with over 65 companies represented to informational seminars including topics from InDesign and photography, to experts speaking on farm investing and risk communication.

Well represented by ten students, Cal Poly’s agricultural communication majors had one of the largest college groups in attendance. The Cal Poly crew had a variety of interests, experiences, and brought strong Poly Pride to an event with a rather small west coast presence.

Now, that’s enough lead in… Let me tell you about AMS 2016!

Day 1, Sunday July 24, 2016

The conference unofficially began for us Mustangs at 12:00 p.m. sharp with a convergence in the hotel lobby and a short chat with Dr. Vernon about expectations and goals, and even some griping about the terrible thing surrounding us called, wait for it, HUMIDITY! AMS then officially began at 2:00 p.m.  with the ACT Welcome and Student Professional Session; a fantastic way to meet industry professionals and learn a little more about what lies ahead from the ACT national officer board. The opening seminar was followed by a trip to the famous Osborn Barr marketing agency, headquartered in St. Louis, right by the beautiful Busch Stadium.

Osborn Barr was my favorite part of the first day! The O+B office is not only located in a very cool area of St. Louis, across the street from the home of the Cardinals, but also is designed with creative desk layouts and work spaces. The first, and most important thing I saw when entering the building, was the O+B Core Values. They were posted all throughout the building. The values are: Be Curious, Walk in Someone Else’s Boots, Be Humble, Roll Up your Sleeves, Be a Good Neighbor, Leave the World in a Better Place, and Be Resilient. A cluster of very mind expanding values which are literally instilled at the door to remind all of a quality workplace environment.

The first day wrapped up with the baseball themed famous “Welcome Party”. This fun meet and greet evening was filled with networking, good food, and music. Being good Californians, Cal Poly represented the best team, in my opinion, the San Francisco Giants!FullSizeRender 18

Day 2, Monday, July 25

Early bird gets the worm! Our second day beside the Mississippi River began at 7:30 a.m. with a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, and muffins coupled with hot tea and coffee. With stomachs full and minds ready to learn, the breakaway sessions began. With several options, Cal Poly students attended sessions from Adobe InDesign (just wait to see what the AgCircle team has learned), a panel all about farm investing, social media marketing, and photography- taught by a CSU Chico professor. The second session quickly followed with video work and communicating GMOs. I would highly recommend asking any of the Mustangs in attendance to hear their individual reflections on the varying topics. As the day continued we kept learning from industry professionals and masters of varying topics.

That afternoon commenced the ACT Critique Contest and Awards. Being a competitive bunch, we were pleased how Cal Poly came home with some hardware as Harrison Reilly and Quincie Gourley became nationally recognized in broadcast journalism and photography, respectively.

To celebrate – and mostly refuel from a long day of learning- we took to the town, grabbing dinner by the ballpark and taking A LOT of group pictures.

Day 3, Tuesday, July 26

IMG_1434The morning began with breakfast at the info expo…another highlight of the trip. The expo, provided the opportunity to meet many industry leaders and learn about potential jobs in agricultural communications. It reinforced why we are in school and what we are learning in our classes. Every professional I met spoke very highly of Cal Poly graduates, reminding me how great Cal Poly’s reputation is around the entire country!

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Following some additional hand shaking and business card trading, we attended more sessions. Learning about agricultural statistics from USDA experts, the art of proofreading, sales, marketing, and other such intriguing topics kept us students engaged and thankful to attend.



During the final luncheon, Chris Koch, a part-time farmer, philanthropist, world traveler, and motivational speaker, touched our hearts. There is one big detail to know, Chris was born without arms and legs. He said, “To do the average activity, I have to give 400%.” He left everyone in the room speechless and thankful. To watch Chris’ videos and read his story, click here.

The conclusion of AMS included the National ACT Business meeting to discuss past events, give annual updates, and elect next year’s officer team to National ACT members. While Cal Poly students did not run for office this year, we participated fully in electing a new qualified team, who can be followed on the National ACT Facebook Page. The new officers were presented at the AMS formal Closing Dinner along with award winning members of American Agricultural Editors Association(AAEA), a professional group of distinguished writers. It was quite impressive and inspiring to see the awards received, which could be some of my fellow Cal Poly colleagues someday.

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Overall, AMS 2016 was a success in my books! From making good friends, gaining much knowledge, to seeing future career opportunities, it is an absolute must for any student desiring to have a career in Ag Communications.

The next AMS is in Snowbird, see ya there!

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Opening Doors

By Chanel Jensen
Agricultural Communications Major

As an agricultural communication student minoring in equine science, I wanted to spend the summer working for a company to help me gain exposure in both the horse industry and communications. I believe that my summer employment will  prepare me for my dream internship in the coming years which is with the American Paint Horse or American Quarter Horse Journal, both of which hire interns in marketing and journalism.

This summer, I am working at Riding Warehouse, a retail and online store for horse products. We sell tack and riding clothes for western, English, and endurance riders, as well as a myriad of equine grooming and health products. When I was hired in April, I worked in the warehouse, picked products and packed orders which helped me become familiar with how the store and its technology works. After a few weeks, I began my immersion in the storefront, where I worked face to face with customers. I quickly learned that this can be a demanding job. So far, I have learned many lessons about customer service and professionalism. All of these lessons have greatly contributed to improving my communication skills both on the retail floor and on the phone. Having an online store, Riding Warehouse receives a multitude of calls every day. Soon I will be trained to assist customers in this way. I have really come to enjoy the daily customer interactions on the retail floor.

Looking back on my three months working at Riding Warehouse, I can think of many times when I felt I helped a customer purchase a product for themselves and their horses in the best way possible. It’s a great feeling when customers leave satisfied and excited to use their new products. I look forward to having those interactions over the phone as well. My communication skills will only grow.

I believe Riding Warehouse will continue to provide many skills and experiences necessary for obtaining future internships and jobs. Additionally, I feel that Riding Warehouse is helping me to build valuable relationships with the agricultural sector of California’s Central Coast. Not only am I creating professional relationships such as those with customers and management, but I am also making new friends! I love being immersed in an environment with horse crazy college girls, just like me.

Overall, my employment at Riding Warehouse has and will continue to open many doors for me. I look forward to my future with the company and my future in the Agriculture and Equine Industries!RW pic

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The Other Side of the Fair

By Quincie Gourley
Agricultural Communication major

The youth organization 4-H is a program I could not imagine my life without. As a proud 4-H member, I have shown market hogs at my local county fair for ten years. Throughout the years, I have learned so much about animals, people, and myself. FullSizeRender-2My 4-H experiences led to my summer internship at the Monterey County Fairgrounds working as the media and marketing intern. Going into this internship, I knew social media management and marketing the fair would be my key focus.  I have been handling all of the fair’s social media accounts, and working with all the sponsorships.

There wasn’t much to managing the social media platforms, so I didn’t have a problem with posting updates about the fairgrounds. I couldn’t have done it without the help of the website Hoot suite, an absolute blessing in managing all of the 4-H accounts. I was also asked to manage the Heritage Foundation’s accounts, a large non-profit organization associated with the Monterey County fairgrounds.



Pictured: A member of the Santa Lucia Rotary Club, two Fair Board Members, Our Heritage Foundation Scholarship Recipient, and intern Quincie Gourley

Sponsorships on the other hand, were an entirely different world to me. The only thing I knew about sponsors was they got their logos on fancy prints. I was given all of the “in-kind” media sponsors to work out agreements and negotiating deals.


Quincie hanging up fair posters as part of her effort to gain sponsorships from local groups and businesses.

Shortly after, I was handling cash sponsors, emailing corporate companies, talking to CEOs, being on conference calls, and getting cc’d on tons of email. For a couple of weeks, I felt like an Agribusiness major.

Now, I am in the middle of planning two events: The Fair Kick-Off Dinner BBQ and the MCF’s Wine Competition and Pouring. The Kick Off Dinner planning has pulled me going in a million different directions. It is quickly approaching, and there is not nearly enough time to get in all my phone calls or donations. The “newest” part of my internship is managing the Wine Competition. Throughout the entire process, Jacky Eshelby, a Cal Poly Agribusiness professor, has helped me. However, the differences between wines or food and wine pairings is beyond me. I have used my “learn by doing” skills to created wine flights for the five-day event. What an experience!

One of the trickiest thing to understand was how to email in a professional manner. Simple, right?  I have never been cc’d on an email or even had a $10,000 sponsorship in my hands. To think my boss believed I could have handle all of this as an 18-year-old is humbling. I don’t take it lightly. Some days are tougher than others, but those are the days I’ll remember and learned valuable lessons. Just like some of the stubborn 4-H hogs I showed at fair, I made the best of the situation. In my internship, I have gained so much more knowledge, from the other side of the fair.

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