Cal Poly San Luis Obispo School of Agriculture

America's Ag colleges are crucial to helping overcome challenges faced by growing populations and changing economics.

Ag colleges important to help address challenges

Sometimes the 'he-said, she-said' stories I come across can sound an awful lot like divorce court yet they can be illustrative of a larger issue if you spend some time connecting the dots.

It all started a few weeks ago when social media lit up over the proposed master plan update at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Stories in local newspapers and social media had Cal Poly paving over the university’s Ag land with housing, hotels and a convention center under the master plan.

Just so we’re clear: I am not a Cal Poly alum. My purpose isn’t to support one Ag college over another. My purpose here is to defend Ag programs in general.

A university professor I know from Cal Poly was notably outraged at the proposals in the general plan update, saying the university’s long-standing policy of “learn by doing” was in jeopardy, particularly for agriculture students as the land in question currently supports grapes, citrus, plus silage grown for university livestock.

According to a news article at, university leadership decided to nix its plans to develop over the farmland at the college because of the outcry.

I’m not privy to the discussions or apparent meetings but the instant outrage was, in my estimation, probably simmering for some time based on other social media mumblings I’ve seen over the past couple years.

Stories published over the past couple years about how students with agriculture degrees are better suited than many of their peers for jobs – Ag-related and otherwise – suggest the high value of agriculture programs at the college level, and even in high school.

Many of us have seen stories pointing to the positive job outlook for college graduates with agricultural degrees and backgrounds.

What to some may seem unrelated but I argue is not, California’s political climate continues to reduce water deliveries to farms and formulate laws and regulations that make producing food and fiber a more difficult enterprise. This is actually where the training and education young adults receive at Ag schools like Cal Poly, Fresno State, Chico State and the University of California will be even more vital for society.

Society is going to need these graduates if we’re to overcome the challenges facing American agriculture. To disconnect society from agriculture would not be wise.

For instance, the aging of the California pest control advisor and farm advisor work force is evidence enough that there will continue to be opportunities in those two important fields. Moreover, I’ve heard that reporting requirements under California’s irrigated lands program will necessitate more hydrologists with agricultural understandings and background.

Keeping sustainable agricultural programs at our colleges will continue to be important on a number of fronts. The impact of farming to local economies is measurable and proven.

With the growing amount of political unrest around the world, our ability to be agriculturally self-sustaining in the U.S. becomes even more important to national security and preventing civil unrest that comes with endangered food supplies.

TAGS: Agenda
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