Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture

Tour Offers Students View of STEM-Based Ag Careers

Published Date: Jan 18, 2018 12:00:00 PM

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Sixteen Huntley College of Agriculture students got a glimpse of possible future careers during a December tour of Southern California and Arizona farms and businesses.

Among the agricultural operations that the students visited in the Dec. 18-20 trip were:  

  • Prime Time International in Coachella, the largest year-round grower, packer and shipper of multi-colored peppers in the country;
  • Headstart Nursery in Mecca, Calif., which has specialized in growing vegetable transplants and ornamental plugs for more than 30 years.
  • Vessey & Co., a fourth-generation produce grower and shipper in Holtville, Calif;
  • Tanimura & Antle, a lettuce and produce grower in Yuma, Ariz.;
  • and Taylor Farms, a maker of salads and other fresh foods, also in Yuma, Ariz.

“I had a vague idea of how much work goes into feeding America, but this was eye-opening. If it were not for these people in agricultural fields, it would be a very different place,” said senior plant science major Victoria Schroth, a Los Angeles native. “I have an increased and newfound respect for the difficult work they do every day.”

The tour was sponsored by the Western Growers and also included students from UC Davis and the University Arizona. More than 30 other Cal Poly Pomona students have participated in the program in the past year and a half. They have visited farms, research centers, and seed developers in Northern California, Arizona, and the Coachella and Imperial Valleys, learning how science and technology are used in the agricultural field and about different career opportunities available.

Jonathan Ocampo, a second-year food science and technology major from Perris, found the different machines and technologies that were used in the field most interesting.

“Usually, when someone thinks of agriculture, they do not immediately think of high-tech machines and processes,” he said. “Seeing these machines and processes opened my eyes about agriculture.”

Phuc Nguyen, an ag science major who transferred from Golden West College, said the tour confirmed his dreams of an agricultural career. Nguyen wants to work in irrigation or soil science before moving into the nonprofit field to help developing countries learn best practices in these areas.

“I love the feeling of accomplishment when your crops do well or you can transform the ag practices in other areas in the world so people can have enough food and clean water,” he said.

The students were accompanied by Interim Associate Dean Peter Kilduff, who called the tour a truly outstanding experience. Executives at the companies on the tour were welcoming and generous in sharing their knowledge and experience, he said.

“The level of learning students gained regarding the nature of career opportunities and the economic, environmental, legislative and human issues facing the agricultural sector was immense – perhaps equivalent to a semester-long course,” Kilduff said. “Ideally, this tour should be a required experience for all students seeking careers in the agricultural field.”