Junior, agricultural communication major
Each year, 20 students from the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences are nominated by their department heads and then selected by the Dean’s office to take AG 452, “Issues in California Agriculture.” The class focuses on educating students who will soon enter the agriculture industry as professionals about the real issues that agriculture is facing. Students represent all areas of CAFES, from agricultural engineering to dairy science to agricultural communication.
The class is currently taught by Dr. Mark Shelton, and was founded in 2001 by Mr. George Soares. Mr. Soares’ vision for AG 452 was to encourage top students in their field of study to broaden their knowledge of the industry they will soon be entering. The class was started at Cal Poly, but has since been replicated at Fresno State, Chico State, and Cal Poly Pomona.
Each year, students learn from a variety of guest speakers who are leaders in the industry. The range of speakers is broad—from Mr. Mark Borrecco, President and CEO of Rabobank to Mr. Carlos Castaneda, who is a labor contractor for farms throughout California. Each of the speakers brings a new fresh perspective, as well as their own opinions regarding the top issues facing agriculture in the state.
Dr. Shelton starts the quarter by fostering a discussion about what the students think the top four issues facing agriculture are (while acknowledging that there are certainly far more than four in total). Once these four issues are refined, the students are split into groups of five and given the topic that most interests them based on a class survey. These groups are then tasked with developing a presentation about their issue, including a brief explanation of the scope of the problem and potential solutions. The issues chosen this year were agricultural regulations, water (specifically focusing on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act), agricultural labor, and agricultural education.
At the end of the quarter, the entire class travels to Sacramento to give a 15-minute presentation of their topics to an audience of industry representatives, state assembly members, and family. This year, the class left for Sacramento on March 5 and returned on March 7. While in the capital, the class toured Mr. Soares’ law office, experienced the Capitol Building and spoke with members of the senate and assembly (and their staff), and were introduced on the assembly floor. Additionally, a number of guest speakers addressed more issues and gave encouragement for the future of the industry. The focus of this year’s trip was on Cal Poly alumni, so many of the speakers were former mustangs.
On the evening of Monday March 6, the class traveled to the State Farm Bureau office in Sacramento and gave the presentations they had worked on all quarter. The topics and solutions were well-received by all in attendance, and a number of pointed questions were asked of the students.
Ag 452 is a fantastic class—perhaps among the top that CAFES offers. It allows young leaders to gain exposure to a myriad of facets of the agriculture industry and shows what it takes to be successful and influential in their future careers.