By: Emily Rosa, senior Agricultural Communications major
“I’m from the Central Valley” is a typical intro, followed by a typical reaction. The heat, the agriculture, and the small-town vibes often come with the association to the span of land that runs from Fresno to Bakersfield. Going home for the summer is familiar, but this year was different. Instead of being surrounded by cows and corn fields, I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, sweet smell of homegrown goodness: fresh fruit. I had the opportunity to work at what I believe to be a hidden valley jewel, HMC Farms.
HMC, which stands for Harold and Mike’s Company, was founded by lifelong friends Harold McClarty and Mike Jensen. The two farmers, who now work alongside their children, have been producing stone fruit and grapes of the highest quality in Kingsburg, Calif. since they established HMC in 1987.
Prior to my experience at HMC, I had very little knowledge of the produce industry. I could easily tell you the five most common breeds of dairy cows, but I had no idea there were so many different varieties of peaches and nectarines! Luckily, with summer being the busiest season for HMC, I quickly began learning about everything the industry had to offer.
There was a total of three interns at the facility and we each rotated concentrations on a weekly basis. Export, sales and marketing, shipping, quality control and farm surveys were the main focuses. Personally, I found the hands-on experience HMC offered to be the best part of my internship. Within the first few weeks, I had been in the export office filling out the proper paperwork that needs to be completed for a load of fruit to be shipped out of the country. I was out on the pack line learning about the ideal piece of fruit, and hand selecting peaches and nectarines to be sent to customers in sample boxes. I had spent time in the breeze way checking loads and learning about fumigation protocols. I was sitting in on the marketing meetings and providing my own opinion and feedback. I was carefully analyzing sales orders and observing the sales people as they kept positive outlooks on their field of work, even in the stressful peak of the season. In addition, I spent time learning about proper HR procedures and the everyday tasks of the on-site attorney. I basically disbursed my time over just about every aspect of the company, and for this opportunity I will forever be grateful.
Internships like mine, are so much more than the obligatory summer job to throw onto our resumes. Cal Poly teaches us to “Learn by Doing”, but the experience is so much more than that. It’s our opportunity to go out into the world and test our limits. This was an experience unlike anything I had ever done before because the people I met genuinely wanted me to learn and have a better understanding of everything that goes into getting the fruit from the farm to the table.
As an agricultural communications major, I felt it was appropriate to become well versed in another side of agriculture that I was not familiar with, and that’s one of the best decisions I have made thus far in my college career. The information I learned about fruit was valuable to my future as an agriculturist and the wisdom I picked up from those at HMC, especially the daily tidbits from Harold, are things I will carry with me throughout my entire life.