Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture

Cal Poly Pomona to Host Summit on Growing Coffee in California

Published Date: Dec 15, 2017 2:00:00 PM

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POMONA – The era of California-grown coffee has begun.

The Huntley College of Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona is holding a Jan. 18 summit on growing coffee in California.

American coffee was once grown exclusively in Hawaii, but today some 30,000 coffee trees are growing from Morro Bay to San Diego, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension. The Department of Plant Science at the Huntley College is already engaged in its own research project into growing coffee on campus.

“We’re inviting anyone in Southern California who may be interested in growing coffee to come to this summit,” said Craig Walters, director of the AGRIscapes Center that is hosting the event. “Avocado growers may have a particular interest, because coffee can grow in the shade of avocado trees and requires well-drained soil, like avocados.”

The college will hold the inaugural California Coffee Summit from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the AGRIscapes Visitors Center near the Cal Poly Pomona Farm Store, 4102 S. University Drive.

Speakers will include California coffee pioneer Jay Ruskey and other industry leaders from Santa Barbara and San Diego counties, and agricultural professionals from the University of California Cooperative Extension, University of Hawaii, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Topics covered during the summit include:

  • How to grow coffee in California
  • Inter-planting coffee with avocado trees
  • Pests and diseases
  • Processing methods
  • Marketing opportunities
  • California varietal trials
  • History of estate coffee in Kona, Hawaii.

The registration fee to attend is $75 per person and include a continental breakfast and lunch. Register at

The Department of Plant Science planted coffee in a secluded spot on the Cal Poly Pomona campus as part of a research trial. It includes 13 different varieties from Honduras and El Salvador to see which can tolerate the range of temperatures in the Pomona area.

“We are working collaboratively with UC Cooperative Extension to determine the best coffee varieties for our area,” plant science department chair and Professor Valerie Mellano said. “Much of the California coffee is grown along the more coastal areas but we are really interested in determining what will do well in the more inland areas where it is a little hotter in the summer and a little colder in the winter.”

The department is starting the second year of its trial, but does not expect to have any coffee yield data for at least two more years.

Students are measuring the plants to chart growth, weeding, fertilizing, mulching, and irrigating the coffee.

The plant science department is also working with the human nutrition and food science department to process the coffee berries so they can be consumed as fruit. The edible berries also contain caffeine.

Opened in 2001, the 20-acre AGRIscapes facility is the educational outreach center for the Huntley College of Agriculture. It includes the Cal Poly Pomona Farm Store and is the site of the annual Pumpkin Festival.