Califonia Bountiful

It's a bountiful life: Hitting the books—and the fields

Sept./Oct. 2016 California Bountiful magazine

Dean cultivates next generation of agriculture professionals

Cal Poly Pomona's 700-acre farm is in the densely populated Los Angeles Basin. College of Agriculture Dean Mary Holz-Clause thinks it's a perfect place to train the next generation of agriculturists.

Like most farmers, Mary Holz-Clause wants to hang onto the land and keep farming. But in this case, she's talking about the 700-acre farm at Cal Poly Pomona, nestled on the university campus among three major freeways in a region more than 13 million people call home. There have been discussions about building academic structures on the edge of the university farm, but Holz-Clause, College of Agriculture dean, has said she sees benefit in maintaining the farm as a living classroom.

What is unique about your location?

We provide opportunities for our 1,900 ag students to experience the vibrancy of the city and enjoy the calm of growing food in our citrus and avocado groves, or watching animals being born through our "foal watch."

What do you see in the future for California agriculture?

With a growing and more ethnically diverse population that prefers fresh and unusual foods, California is one of the few states that can grow anything—almost any time of year. There's great opportunity for farmers to introduce new fruits, vegetables and other California-grown products to U.S. and international markets.

Where do you see the farm-to-table movement headed?

It's an exciting outgrowth of consumers wanting to know where their food comes from and have a relationship with the people who grow it. When I started watching this movement about 15 years ago, it was a small percentage of the U.S. population that was involved with the idea of locally grown. Now, more than 30 percent of the U.S. population is looking for ways to eat local.

Any advice for students interested in exploring an agriculture-related degree?

Agriculture is one of the most dynamic industries in the world. It offers high-technology, science-based careers, and graduates with ag degrees are in huge demand. In fact, there are nearly 60,000 high-skilled ag and ag-related job openings expected annually in the United States over the next five years. But there are only about 35,000 students with degrees in food, ag, renewable resources or the environment graduating each year to fill them. We can't seem to grow our graduates fast enough. As (my husband and I) told our own kids, people will always have to eat, so there will always be jobs in agriculture. They took our advice and all three work in agriculture today.

What's the best part of your job?

Working with students—seeing them come in as freshman and transfer students with great ideas and helping to guide them, challenge them and encourage them to explore the world. We hope they leave with the knowledge that life offers opportunities to be creative, to challenge themselves, make a difference and never stop learning.

Cal Poly Pomona: A brief history

When breakfast-cereal magnate W.K. Kellogg established an Arabian horse ranch at his winter home in Pomona in 1925, his dream was to breed the finest Arabian horses in the world. The hilltop ranch quickly became a destination for Hollywood stars, and Kellogg's horses appeared in several films.

Because the Arabian breed was a rarity in the early 20th century, the ranch attracted throngs of visitors beyond the Hollywood crowd. It became so popular that a show was established on Sundays to better showcase the animals and accommodate the growing number of guests.

In 1932, Kellogg presented the ranch to the state of California, with the requirement that the Arabian horse breeding program and the Sunday shows be maintained. After two additional changes in ownership, the ranch was turned over to California State Polytechnic College, San Luis Obispo, in 1949 as its southern branch. The Pomona campus grew, and in 1972, Cal Poly Pomona was granted university status. Today, the university has an average enrollment of 22,000 students in programs within eight academic colleges.

The W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center breeding program continues today as part of the school's College of Agriculture. True to W.K. Kellogg's wishes, the horses are still presented during shows at 2 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month, October through May.

To learn more about the history of the Kellogg Ranch and the founding of Cal Poly Pomona, check out this video:

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