Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture

Farming Continues During Pandemic

Published Date: Apr 20, 2020 9:30:00 AM

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The coronavirus pandemic may have emptied classroom buildings at Cal Poly Pomona, but not the university’s farm, orchards, groves, and animal units.

The essential work of maintaining the university’s Spadra Farm and on-campus fruit groves continues with safety guidelines.

“The main reason we continue to farm is to keep the Farm Store running and provide food to the public,” Farm Supervisor Chris Van Norden said. “We have stopped non-essential tasks and are mainly focusing on food production.”

Spadra Farm and the fruit tree groves have long served as the outdoor labs for the plant science, agronomy, crop production classes in the Huntley College of Agriculture, giving students valuable hands-on learning experience.

 “If we did not tend to the crops, they would indeed mature beyond use and rot eventually,” Van Norden said. “The fields would become overrun with weeds, and it would be very difficult to regain control in the future without constant attention.”

The farm crew has planted sweet corn, watermelons, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and zucchini for the summer.

They are currently harvesting navel oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, carrots, beets, broccoli, spinach, radish, cilantro, swiss chard, asparagus, artichoke, onions, and more to sell in the Farm Store.

Farm Store Busy

The Cal Poly Pomona Farm Store has welcomed the fresh produce to sell to an eager clientele seeking food since the shelter-in-place directive was enacted.

“The community is here shopping every day. Our customers are so happy that we are open,” Farm Store Manager Dawn Taccone said. “We hear many stories all day long about our customers lives. They are so grateful for our produce and essential food items that we stock.”

The Farm Store has begun selling honey produced by the university’s apiary.

Because of COVID-19, farm workers and Farm Store employees are taking extra precautions and following safety protocols.

Farm Store employees are regularly cleaning surfaces and handles and wearing gloves and masks and using hand sanitizer. Sanitizer stations and disposable grocery bags are available for customers. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

Animal Life Goes On

Meanwhile, life in the college’s animal units and the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center went on, pandemic or no pandemic. Cows, sheep, goats, and horses gave birth to offspring throughout the spring and summer, with the assistance of college employees and student workers.

Fifty-five lambs, 34 goat kids, and 29 piglets were born in the sheep and swine units over the spring and summer. An additional eight calves and eight foals were born at the beef unit and horse center, respectively.

The foals, however, were not available for the public to see. The horse center was closed to the public as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The university’s farm animals are used to teach students in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Science about the anatomy and physiology of domestic animals, reproduction, animal health and nutrition, and companion animal management.