Poinsettia Season

By Hannah Fortin
Senior, agricultural communication major

Deck the halls with…pots of poinsettias! Here at Cal Poly, we are fortunate enough to have beautiful gifts grown by our very own students and ready for you to take home during the  holiday season.

sale-flyerThe Poly Plant Shop is hosting its incredible annual Holiday Sale Friday, December 2 through Sunday, December 4. Poinsettias, centerpieces, succulents, ornaments, gifts and more will be available for purchase. Fridays, the shop will be open from 10:00am to 4:00pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays, the shop will be open from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Fortunately, the shop will remain open if customers continue to come in, so don’t be discouraged. It’s conveniently located next to the Horticulture Unit (Building 48) on the Cal Poly campus at the top of Via Carta Road. If you can’t make it during the sale, you can still buy these items throughout the month of December.

The Plant Shop opens into a festively adorned room full of gorgeous plants, flowers, and other holiday decorations just for the occasion. Most of these plants are grown by students who take part in the Poinsettia Enterprise Project, an annual tradition.

Starting in May, a few students gain hands-on experience planting and caring for the poinsettias, preparing them for their future home. Each year, multiple varieties of poinsettias are cultivated in the greenhouses near the Poly Plant Shop. Varieties range everywhere from “Christmas Feeling Red” to “Winter Rose White” and (as seen below)  a peachy-tan “Autumn Leaf.” Prices start at $5 for a 4-inch pot. The plants make wonderful gifts for friends and family.


On-campus organizations even participate! Cindi Jenkins with the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT), orders poinsettias every year for their winter faculty breakfast.

“I love them,” Jenkins said. “Every year we order some for the last day of finals week, and people love to take them home after the event!”

In addition to poinsettias, the shop is selling more than 2,000 plants, gorgeous centerpiece accessories, and even succulent wreaths. They also have hot beverages and goodies, so don’t miss out on this amazing sale and support student learning!
Happy Holidays!


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Building Leaders at AFA Leaders Conference 2016

By Sarah Dreyer
Sophomore, Animal Science major

November 3-6 found 23 Cal Poly students from the College of Agriculture Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) traveling to Kansas City, MO, for the annual Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference. The selected students represented eight majors within CAFES. Identified as leaders with a strong passion and commitment to agriculture, all the conference students were sponsored by industry representatives, their respective university or received an AFA National Scholarship.


Cal Poly AFA Attendees

The AFA Leader’s Conference is an experience seeking to bridge the gap between academic, leadership and work experience while helping students understand the impact of their decisions. AFA is committed to human capital development meaning they want students to cultivate skills such as professional, entrepreneurialism, and intellectualism in agriculture leaders to enter the industry and help develop the organizations of employment.

Together, the 730 delegates from over 200 universities participated in a four-day conference focused on improving personal and professional skills. Leaders Conference delegates networked with other outstanding college students who share the same passions for agriculture, as well as more than 400 industry executives and representatives.

Students heard from many astonishing speakers including Dr. Ramaswamy, John O’Leary, Orian Samuelson, and many more during breakout sessions, track meetings and industry panel discussions.

AFA Track Recap:
During Leaders Conference, students are separated in four different tracks ranging from one through four based on past AFA involvement and year in school. Each track heard from different speakers and hosted discussions to interact on topics specifically designed for their track.

Track 1 is designed for freshmen and focuses on assessment and the development of fundamental skills crucial for success in college and career. Delegates complete personal assessment tools and receive training in resume development, time management, goal setting and personal skill development while assessing the opportunities available to them within their chosen career path.

Track 2 is designed for sophomores or juniors and focuses on communication skills and preparing for employment. Communication skills – verbal and nonverbal, first impressions, critical thinking, team leadership roles and personal ethics are addressed as a part of this program. Track 2 heard from speakers Adam Carrol, the Money Game, Terri Thompson, Dressing for Success and Rhett Laubach, How to be a Good Presenter.

The Track 3 program prepares juniors and seniors to live and work in a global market. Sessions include managing personal change, stress management and preparing for employment. Delegates participated in discussions focused on rural policy, personal financial management and international agriculture business. Track 3 partook in an Executive Forum on Stewarding Change and learning to be servant leaders.


Cal Poly Track 3 participants

The Track 4 program is a capstone experience for Seniors who have previously participated in multiple tracks of AFA. Track 4 is the smallest track and is highly interactive and a participant directed program. Sessions focus on making the transition from college to career and discussing individual and collective impacts to global agricultural issues. Track 4 students are able to network with industry representatives and AFA Alliance members.


Cal Poly Track 4 participants and friends

All delegates attending AFA leaders Conference had the opportunity to engage with a myriad of agricultural and food based food companies at the 2016 Opportunity Fair. Many students spoke with companies about future employment opportunities, and internship opportunities.

Cal Poly Involvement:

This year, Cal Poly fortunately had delegates in every track.

Mark Borges participated in Track 1 and said, “Attending AFA Leaders Conference was a tremendous opportunity to grow professionally. Track 1 gave students the foundation to grow as a young professional in the industry. Through workshops and guest speakers we learned that History Starts Now. The conference gave me the determination to continue building my professional career network and I look forward to being involved in AFA in the future.”

Hannah Brady, an agribusiness sophomore returned to Cal Poly and explained, “At AFA Leaders Conference I enjoyed meeting new people from all over the United States and connecting with new industry leaders. I absorbed all the new information and I am excited to implement all the new experiences in my life.”

img_1311-jpg-haley-w-at-mocktailsHaley Warner, agricultural communications junior, reflected on her experiences at Leaders Conference and said, “AFA allowed me to grow personally and professionally in ways I never have. I learned to apply the skills I have gained from previous experiences at Cal Poly in a more relevant way. AFA is high caliber- it was an honor to be amongst those that will be leading and progressing our industry.”

A senior agribusiness student, Shane Gillard said, “I learned the most about the next steps as an agriculture student after graduation. As a senior looking for jobs, internships or even graduate programs at other universities can be intimidating. AFA Leaders Conference gave me the skills and experience necessary to be successful when connecting with industry leaders, and higher educational outlets. Throughout the four days I was constantly moved by guest speakers that really wanted to see all AFA attendees’ success. I’d recommend any Cal Poly agriculture student to apply.”

Natalie Massa, a senior year agribusiness student, explained, “I attended Track 4 at the AFA Leaders Conference. I collaborated with 70+ other seniors from all across the nation. Since we were in such a small group, I was able to form friendships and bonds that could help me network in the future. In addition, we spent 4 days learning about how to become servant-leaders, facilitators, and I gained a better knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses in group work. The best part was being able to ask current executives and employees the tough questions that every senior is wondering: Should I negotiate salary right out of college? How do I tell a potential employer that I need more time to decide where I want to work?”

img_1313-jpg-christine-c-at-mocktailsChristine Curtis, a senior agribusiness student attended all four tracks of AFA Leaders Conferences since her freshman year. She was campus ambassador for Cal Poly least year and promoted more Leaders Conference attendees. When reflecting Christine said, ”My journey through AFA has been a life changing experience. Through the many one on one professional training opportunities, empowerment, and the people I have met through AFA. I am inspired to go forth and be a catalyst in the agriculture industry. As I think back to my time as a freshmen I would have never guessed I would be where I am today. It’s because AFA invested in me in believing that I am and will continue to refine myself as a leader in agriculture. The community of people that have poured into me through my time at AFA have made a significant impact on my life and my purpose. I am forever thankful for my experiences with AFA because now I know my way, and I will go fourth in confidence in my career. I will continue to choose a purpose driven life.”


Past and Current AFA Campus Ambassador

As I write this blog, myself, Sarah Dreyer, an animal science student has this to share about AFA, “This year I was honored to be the campus ambassador for Cal Poly and serve as a liaison between the AFA Organization and Cal Poly students. Being a part of the AFA Organization and AFA Leadership Team has allowed me to gain valuable knowledge and experience that reach outside the classroom. I have been able to create connections with industry leaders and students from all around the nation. The connections made have helped me in finding my own passions and determining which career path I wish to pursue. In addition, I have been able to learn about new techniques and leadership methods that I can strive to implement here on the Cal Poly Campus.”


Leaving Conference and Applying the Skills Learned
This year, Leaders Conference ended with a keynote speaker, Jon Petz. Petz is a motivational speaker, stand up magician and comedian. Petz left all AFA delegates reflecting that now is the time to act and each day the actions matters. You might not be expecting the spotlight, but when it hits – we must perform at our best. That’s SHOWTIME!

The theme for Leaders Conference was History Starts Now! Chosen by the AFA Student Leadership Team, it challenged all delegates to understand the decisions one makes on a daily basis impact the future in all aspects whether you expect it or not. The theme paid tribute to the past achievements in agriculture and the importance of their place in the future of the industry. The present is a bridge between the future and the past. Its strength is important. While we look towards the future and reflect upon the past, we must not lose sight of how important our daily choices are, because History Starts Now!


AFA Student Leadership Team

img_1309-jpg-afa-logoIf you are interested in participating in any future AFA Programs or learning about the opportunities for AFA on the Cal Poly campus, please contact Cal Poly AFA Campus Ambassador, Sarah Dreyer, sedreyer@calpoly.edu. Future opportunities include applying Leaders Conference 2017, Policy Institute, Food Institute, Animal Institute, Crop Institute, Technology Institute.


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Wide Array of Opportunities in Dairy Science

By Elise Regusci
Sophomore, Dairy Science major

As one of the only universities on the West Coast with an established and renowned Dairy Science program, Cal Poly attracts some of the most driven, talented dairy science students in the nation. As a dairy science major, I am overwhelmed with the number of activities offered relating to dairy science in and out of the classroom. Here are a few ways students who are interested in the dairy industry Learn by Doing at Cal Poly.

Dairy Judging Team

Coming to Cal Poly I knew I wanted to participate on the Dairy Judging Team. I began dairy judging in 4-H and became accustomed evaluating dairy cattle early on. The collegiate level is more fast-paced and rigorous than high school because most contests have five sets of reasons and 10 classes. My favorite part of dairy judging is traveling to different farms and practicing our judging, as we get to see some of the best dairy cattle in their respective breeds. Most recently, our senior team placed 7th High Team at the Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest in Madison, Wisconsin. I am looking forward to representing Cal Poly in Louisville, Kentucky at the North American Intercollegiate Judging Contest . Whatever the outcome of the contests may be, Dairy Judging continues to help improve my skills in public speaking, decision-making, and critical thinking skills I will use in my future in agriculture.

Los Lecheros Dairy Club

With more than 100 members involved, the Los Lecheros Dairy Club is a passionate group of students from many majors. The club holds a monthly meeting which includes dinner, business, and an activity. Many meetings include guest speakers who share career opportunities and internship programs such as Hilmar Cheese, Elanco, and Valley Ag Software. In addition, members can participate on intramural volleyball, softball, or basketball teams. One of the volunteer activities within the club are “Dairy Club Clean Up” days at the dairy. Students clean and organize the dairy’s facilities once a quarter. As the Los Lecheros Dairy Club Ag Council Representative, I am responsible for representing the club at weekly Ag Council meetings and relaying information to fellow members. I am looking forward to an exciting year and welcome all to join our Wednesday meetings in the dairy pavilion!

picture2Calving Enterprise

A key example of how students can gain experience of dairy management skills is the calving enterprise instructed by Mr. Rich Silacci. This fall quarter is the second time the enterprise has been offered. Students are given the opportunity to learn how to calve dairy cattle by participating in groups. Each group has a leader who oversees the students. Some responsibilities include watching close-up cows (cows close to calving), helping with difficult calvings, and milking cows for first time post-calving. The calving enterprise truly teaches students on-farm skills they will be able to use in their future careers.






Being involved in the dairy unit at Cal Poly provides many opportunities at the tips of student fingertips. I am thankful for my experiences during my time at Cal Poly and I look forward learning during the rest of my time in college.


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Achieving Goals in a Blue Corduroy Jacket

By: Jillian Raycraft
Sophomore, Agricultural Business major

img_1485 Agriculture has come to play a monumental role in my life. From the time I was incredibly little, attempting to drag a siphon down a ditch for my father with all my five-year-old body’s might, to the more recent honor of receiving my American FFA Degree, I have been shaped and molded by this incredible industry. As I get older, my passion, knowledge and involvement in the field of agriculture has only began to grow; in large part, thanks to the FFA Organization that swept me off my feet.

Early on in high school, I became aware of the endless opportunities that not only my local FFA Chapter had to offer me, but the entire FFA Organization as well. FFA added a plethora of life skills to my tool belt through the leadership opportunities, hands-on projects, and methods of promoting advocacy for any field. Over the years, my time in FFA has become invaluable to me.

I have evolved through the organization – holding officer positions, showing livestock, launching fundraisers, growing crops, and attending character building conferences and conventions. However, I knew my time in FFA would not be complete without achieving The American FFA Degree. This degree is awarded to the members who have demonstrated the highest level of dedication. Less than 1% of members qualify to receive one of the organizations highest honors.

I set my sights on this prestigious award as a high school img_1483
freshman. Last week, I accomplished my five yearlong goal. Walking across the stage at National Convention, wearing the gold key and chain while receiving my American FFA Degree, was the highlight of my FFA career thus far.

It is a known fact that our Nation is one of the most diverse countries in the world. It was not until I spent a week in Indianapolis, Indiana with thousands of people from each state coming together for one greater purpose that I came to fully appreciate the melting pot of a nation I live in.

As I was surrounded by 65,000 other members and guests at the National FFA Convention, I had never been more proud to represent those names listed on my jacket – my home state of California, my hometown of Dixon, and my last name, one that has used agriculture as a way of life for over four generations.
img_1482 img_1484 img_1479

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PMA: World’s Largest Produce Gathering

By Mary Allen
Senior, Agricultural Communication major

The Center for Growing Talent by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) applications arrived to agricultural science and agricultural communication major students in spring quarter 2016. Each year, the program sends four individuals to Fresh Summit PMA from 13 universities from around the world including students from Chile, Australia, and South Africa. Participants are not supposed to have any experience in the produce industry but have a willingness to learn about career options within produce. Cal Poly participated in this particular PMA program for the past six years but numerous students participated through the Agribusiness Department over the past couple decades.


It was an honor to be selected along with Caitlin Paulus, Emily Dale, and Lauren Tomasello to represent Cal Poly with our Advisor Dr. De Lay from the Department of Agriculture Education and Communion. We traveled to Orlando, Florida for the largest gathering of produce companies in the world. A pre-orientation webinar before our trip gave us an overview of the program’s history, the four-day conference, and how to prepare.

There were more than 1,000 exhibitors and over 21,000 in attendance total. Companies of varying sizes  had booths representing all parts of the supply chain including The Wonderful Company, Taylor Farms, and Braga Family Farms along with many other family owned operations. Many companies negotiated new business partnerships or promoted new products and technologies during PMA’s Fresh Summit.


“PMA was an incredible experience,” reflects my good friend, Caitlin Paulus. “I not only learned about opportunities within the produce industry that I wasn’t even aware existed, but I also learned about myself and gained confidence in my professional skills,” she adds. “The conference provided an inspirational and comfortable environment to talk with managers, founders and CEO’s of the country’s top produce companies as well as young professionals new to the industry. It was truly unforgettable!”

The Center for Growing Talent by PMA had a strict schedule of events, seminars, and workshops to educate our student group about the produce industry.

fullsizerender-29Additionally, each student had a “career ambassador”—an industry professional to shadow throughout the seminar to help get an inside perspective and build connections. My career ambassador was Taryn Pfalzgraf with Blue Book Services, a company who provides a credit rating service for produce companies. As senior editor of Blueprints, she understood my interest for publications and writing. We walked the floor on several occasions which helped me interact with companies and get more exposure as she introduced me to her network.

During the conference, I received valuable advice which I took to heart. Some words of wisdom included to mastering the Spanish language, traveling while I am young, and to be open to the future. I also learned how the produce industry is a hardworking, fast paced, and a fulfilling place to be employed. The ultimate goal is to feed the world.

Several alumni attended the Cal Poly Alumni and Friends reception on Saturday night. I met many great rolemodels and passionate leaders who truly are “Poly Proud.” The Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science welcomed us and affirmed the opportunity to come to PMA. It was inspiring to see all the Cal Poly Alumni happy working in the produce industry. They encouraged us to get involved in produce and keep them in mind around graduation.


Over the course of four days, each of us experienced the event slightly differently. At the end we all agreed the conference was very inspiring and working in the produce industry
could be a possibility in the future.  The Center for Growing Talent invests in the next generation to keep the industry filled with fresh ideas and innovation.fullsizerender-31 Mr. Jay Pack, pictured left, started this program which hundreds of students have now benefitted from. About 65 percent of the program’s participants take their first internship or job in the produce and floral industry.

From the moment I stepped on the plane to Florida until the moment I got home, I was networking, building relationships, and absorbing information about the produce industry. Many business cards were exchanged and there were many promising job leads if I choose to pursue a career in the produce industry. It’s a great feeling and option to have as a graduating senior.


I am so thankful for the PMA Fresh Summit experience. It opened my eyes to the numerous career options available and it would be a privilege to be part of the world’s most important industry.

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Young Women in Agriculture Career & Leadership Seminar

By: Samantha Wallace
Senior 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.
Yellow Group .jpg

“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 asipresident@calpoly.edu. Have an awesome year!



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