Agribusiness & Food Industry Management/Agricultural Science

Department History

The Agribusiness & Food Industry Management – Agricultural Science Department has two undergraduate majors. Those programs are a B.S. in Agribusiness & Food Industry Management and a B.S. in Agricultural Science. It also has two minors (Agricultural Business Management and International Agricultural Business Management) and an M.S. option in Agricultural Science.

The Agricultural Business Management (ABM) program (predecessor to the Agribusiness & Food Industry Management program) was implemented in 1960. It was the first business-related major at Cal Poly Pomona. Some of the luminous professors in the development of the program were Milo Lacy, Robert White, and Ed Cabacungan. It should be noted that Dr. White and Dr. Cabacungan both established endowments that continue to provide scholarships to students. The Agricultural Science program evolved from agricultural education, which trained students to be high school vocational agriculture teachers. The program started in 1977. Agricultural Science was led for many years by Prof. Flint Freeman, who retired in 2006.

In the late 20th century, the college went through consolidation of departments. Prof. Flint Freeman was the sole tenure-line Agricultural Science faculty member. The Agricultural Science Department was merged with the ABM Department to attain synergies in teaching, research, and service.

A notable alumnus of the ABM program is Mike Provenzano. With the help of his three sons, Mr. Provenzano built a chain of Hispanic supermarkets (Pro’s Ranch Markets) in California and surrounding states. In 2003, he established the Provenzano Endowment for Faculty Development in honor of the professor who recruited him to Cal Poly Pomona and inspired him to success, Milo Lacy. This endowment continues to provide support to ABM faculty to attend conferences and engage in other professional growth activities.

A common way to measure the strength and viability of a program is through its cadre of tenure-line faculty. By this measure, the department reached its peak strength in 2002 when it had seven tenure-line faculty. In spring 2004, Dr. Art Parker, who was department chair at the time, retired. The department was managed by a series of Interim Chairs after that. The Interim Chairs were also Chairs of other departments in the college, including Nutrition and Food Science, Animal Science, and Plant Science.

The cadre of tenured faculty in the Agribusiness & Food Industry Management – Agricultural Science Department gradually left through retirement, etc. over the years. It got to the point where Dr. Jon C. Phillips was the only tenure-line faculty left. The tide began to turn in a positive direction in 2011, when Dr. Kim Miller was hired to take over the Agricultural Science program. Dr. Miller, a recognized leader in California’s agricultural education community, subsequently was named Teacher of the Year in the college. A new vision was developed for the major to serve students interested in a general agricultural degree in a variety of agriculture industry sectors while continuing to support students looking to teach high school agriculture. The Agricultural Science major has experienced significant growth since Dr. Miller joined the faculty, and Agricultural Science is currently the fourth largest major in the college.

Dr. Mary Holz-Clause (Dean of the College of Agriculture from 2014 – 2017) demonstrated renewed confidence in the department. Under her leadership, Dr. Steve Archambault was hired as an Assistant Professor of Agribusiness in 2016. Dr. Holz-Clause recognized that the Agribusiness & Food Industry Management – Agricultural Science Department deserved its own Chair, and she secured a search for one. After a lengthy search process, Dr. Phillips was named Chair of the Agribusiness & Food Industry Management – Agricultural Science Department in January 2018. This ended a 14-year period of interim leadership, referred to above.

As Chair, Dr. Phillips took the lead on a program review for the Agribusiness & Food Industry Management B.S. program, which culminated in external reviewers visiting campus in spring 2019. ABM faculty participated in the program review, including developing goals in response to the recommendation from the external reviewers. The department looks forward to a program review of the Agricultural Science B.S. program, which will be coming up in 2022 - 2023.

The department offers applied and authentic industry learning experiences through intercollegiate competitions related to our majors. Our students have a history of competing in the National Agri-Marketing Association business plan competition and the Food Distribution Research Society’s Food Marketing Challenge. In 2020, our students competed in the National Grocers Association case study competition for the first time. Since 2014, students have participated in competitions in Jacksonville (Florida), Salt Lake City, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Honolulu, among other cities.

In 2019, the department added community service-learning classes among its major core and general education (GE) classes. It is also offering a new ethnic studies GE class for the first time in fall 2021. The department added another Assistant Professor of Agribusiness, Dr. Fionna Xie, also in fall 2021.

Focusing on the future, we plan to continue to develop our curriculum to keep it relevant to students and their eventual employers. We have a goal to retain our current tenure-line faculty, as well as to add additional tenure-line faculty to teach and engage in research in a wide range of subfields within agribusiness, food industry management, and agricultural science.