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Category Archives: Cal Poly students

Building Our Resources: Strengthening Our Advantage

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is the leading industry in California, contributing over $500 billion annually to the state. Among universities that grant undergraduate degrees, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at Cal Poly SLO is the fourth largest undergraduate agriculture program in the nation, with more than 3,500 students. It is the largest non land-grant agricultural program in the United States. The College awards an average of 650 baccalaureate degrees each year, nearly half of all baccalaureate agriculture degrees granted in California.

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, CA

The Department of Horticulture and Crop Science now serves over 300 students annually. Students at Cal Poly SLO come from all over California, with the majority hailing from the Central Coast and Central Valley, followed by the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas. Only seven percent of students attend from outside California.

HCS Vineyards

HCS Vineyards

The future of the agricultural industry rests with the education of Cal Poly SLO’s highly capable students who will provide leadership to one of the world’s most important industries. The challenge is enormous: produce more food for exponentially greater numbers of people on less land with a finite amount of natural resources and do it in an environmentally sensitive manner. Food, water, land, and air are our primary resources, and to use them wisely, we need trained, motivated students eager to tackle these critical issues with energy and intelligence. In addition, the enhancement and management of our personal and community environments with plants is an important issue that helps assure us healthful lives and better quality of living and keeps us in harmony with the natural world around us.

San Luis Obispo, CA

San Luis Obispo, CA

AGRICULTURE’S KEY ROLE AT CAL POLY SLO

The University’s learn-by-doing, hands-on philosophy is reflected in the laboratory-intensive curriculum, focus on undergraduate research, importance of cooperative work experience, and the requirement of a senior project that is applied in nature. Cal Poly SLO is an institution that prides itself on keeping students current with industry trends. Horticulture and Crop Science at Cal Poly SLO have a rich tradition dating to the University’s founding in 1901.

Cut Flower production in Retractable Roof Greenhouse at Horticulture Unit

Cut Flower production in Retractable Roof Greenhouse at Horticulture Unit

In 1901, visitors to San Luis Obispo saw a ranching and farming community of just over 3,000 people. What is now the Cal Poly SLO campus was farmland some distance north of the town, a place where the trustees charged with finding land for the campus were impressed by the oranges picked from the groves of the Dawson Lowe Ranch. From the University’s earliest days, agriculture in the fertile area was a primary emphasis–even in areas where the soil was “inferior”. Trustees saw this as a perfect learning opportunity for students. As the campus grew in acreage, extensive dryland crops, vegetable fields, vineyards, and orchards were added to the site.

Cal Poly SLO Orange Groves on Highland Drive Entrance

Cal Poly SLO Orange Groves on Highland Drive Entrance

The departments evolved with the decades, feeling the pinch of the Great Depression and the extraordinary influx of students as a result of the GI Bill. Before World War II, horticulture facilities included a lab for plant propagation, tool storage for horticulture and grounds departments, housing for two students, a redwood lath house, and a 1,200 square foot glasshouse. The Crops Department had 390 acres under cultivation and an assortment of storage facilities. Only after World War II, was an Ag Building constructed, housing classrooms, offices, and labs. In 1962, the Crops field house (Building 17) was erected and land under cultivation soon increased to 719 acres.

Corn fields with Madonna Mountain in the background

Corn fields with Madonna Mountain in the background

Crops Unit Complex (Building 17) erected in 1962

Crops Unit Complex (Building 17) erected in 1962

Peaches in production at the Crops Unit

Peaches in production at the Crops Unit

The subsequent decade witnessed a building boom on campus. Conceived in the 1960’s, the Leaning Pine Arboretum developed over time into a lush, five-acre showcase for native and mediterranean climate plants. The 1970’s saw an increase of 13,000 square feet of greenhouse space for Ornamental Horticulture and Crops and some new facilities. New classroom and office space was added in 1986, with the construction of the Agriculture Sciences Building (Building 11). The Crops Department was able to add two new labs to their site in the 1990’s to replace the labs lost in prior renovations and construction.

Leaning Pine Arboretum at the Horticulture Unit (Building 48)

Leaning Pine Arboretum at the Horticulture Unit (Building 48)

In 2002, Environmental Horticultural Science (formerly Ornamental Horticulture) and Crop Science merged to strengthen student education across the curriculum and better prepare students to enter the Plant Agriculture Industry. But in recent years, facilities for both departments (most of which date from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s) have fallen short of the kind which today’s students expect and today’s industry requires.

EHS Unit at the top of Via Carta on campus

EHS Unit at the top of Via Carta on campus

In response, the Horticulture and Crop Science Department (HCS) has developed a master plan for comprehensive modernization of the Horticulture and Crop Units: the Sustainable Horticulture and Crop Science Complex. The current 20th century facilities will be revitalized to accommodate new technology and the needs of the 21st century. Already, we can see that this century of agriculture is driven by the need to feed and clothe a growing world population using methods that ensure the continued productivity of our farmland.

Food processing and packaging labs

Food processing and packaging labs

In these new facilities students will experience modern harvesting, post-production care and handling, marketing, and retail. The renovations will allow for meaningful collaborations with industry, preparing agricultural graduates to provide immediate value in the workplace, and renew both the Horticulture and Crop Sciences’ curriculum and faculty.

We were the second greenhouse nursery to grow this new variety of Green Ball Dianthus (aka Trick Carnations) grown at the EHS Unit greenhouses

We were the second greenhouse nursery to grow this new variety of Green Ball Dianthus (aka Trick Carnations) grown at the EHS Unit greenhouses

With your support during this planning process for the Sustainable Horticulture and Crops Complex, you will help develop:

  • More and better-qualified graduates
  • Improved learning facilities
  • Cooperative education programs with industry
  • Opportunities for students to enhance their skills in leadership, management, and communication
  • Programs that rapidly incorporate industry advancements, both in sustainability and technology

OUR FUTURE

Perhaps nowhere else in the world are the educational opportunities are greater for students to see, experience, and learn about the production, handling, utilization, and marketing of ornamental and food plants than in Central California’s Coast and Valley. On the coast, the mediterranean climate and superb growing conditions provide an extraordinary spectrum of ornamental and food plants. Nearby in the Central Valley, agricultural production is California’s breadbasket.

We're located in one of the most fertile areas in California

We’re located in one of the most fertile areas in California

California is also home to some of the largest nurseries, greenhouse operations, and landscape maintenance companies in the United States and ranks second among states in the number of golf courses. California’s horticulture industry is a multibillion dollar business and Cal Poly SLO graduates are in demand by the industry.

Students in the greenhouses at the EHS Unit

Students in the greenhouses at the EHS Unit

Poinsettia Enterprise Project in greenhouses at EHS Unit

Poinsettia Enterprise Project in greenhouses at EHS Unit

As we consider the future of agriculture in California, we have an extraordinary opportunity to plan wisely for a Sustainable Horticulture and Crops Complex, attracting new students to agricultural careers and expanding Cal Poly SLO’s critical role in the industry. Working with other departments across the campus, we will continue to teach our students to be environmentally and politically sensitive to the global forces that are shaping our industry:

  • Competing demand for natural resources
  • Cost structures
  • Infrastructure required to ensure a safe food supply
  • Energy consumption and the impact of alternative sources of energy
  • Shortage of skilled labor
  • International public policy demands

WHAT WE SEE FOR OUR FUTURE OF THE DEPARTMENT’S FACILITIES

Driving north on Highway 1 from the coast, the morros of San Luis Obispo rise from the east as you enter the valley, with Bishop’s Peak dominating the west. The entrance to the university on Santa Rosa is the first impression visitors traveling along Highway 1 have of California Polytechnic State University. Flanked by avocado and citrus groves on the south, and Radio Tower Hill to the north, it is also the first impression of the Horticulture and Crop Science Department. It is an ideal location to showcase Horticulture and Crop Science; planting terraces of water-wise native mediterranean plants on the northern slope, opening up the views to the orchards on the south, and creating immediate opportunities for learning with signage along the walkway leading into the interior of campus.

Bishop's Peak dominates the Cal Poly SLO backdrop

Bishop’s Peak dominates the Cal Poly SLO backdrop

Continuing along Highland Drive, now lined with Italian Cypresses, the groves and buildings of Crops Science are the first teaching facilities visitors encounter. The Crops Unit has 70 acres of productive citrus, avocados, grapes, deciduous orchards, and berries. Now the site is a series of labs and ramshackle structures, but we envision a Farmer’s Market outfitted in the old Crops Field House, moving the Organic Farm to this prime location, as well as a new winery, dormatory for a select few students, and upgraded teaching and office space.

Cal Poly SLO Organic Farm

Cal Poly SLO Organic Farm

Walnut processing lab at the Crops Unit

Walnut processing lab at the Crops Unit

The relocated Organic Farm and new Winery will create innovative educational opportunities and programs that reflect the significance of these components in the crops industry. Largely student managed, the current eleven acre Organic Farm is home to a variety of programs, including Cal Poly SLO’s annual CSA subscription program. Students are involved in composting, natural pest control, native plants, bio-intensive agriculture and permaculture design. Additionally, students volunteer for work activities. But the current site is too close to other campus activities to be a truly successful and public-accessible organic farm.

Crops Unit Vineyards

Crops Unit Vineyards

Students harvesting organically grown vegetables at the new Organic Farm

Students harvesting organically grown vegetables at the new Organic Farm

Cal Poly SLO grown produce from the Organic Farm

Cal Poly SLO grown produce from the Organic Farm

Produce from the Organic Farm and Crops Unit sold at the current Farmer's Market on campus

Produce from the Organic Farm and Crops Unit sold at the current Farmer’s Market on campus

Consumers are driving the demand for more organic and sustainable products. Additionally, there is an increased demand for locally produced products. At the new Farmer’s Market and Organic Farm, a visitor might learn about making honey, bottling wine, fruit and nut processing, enjoy an ice cream cone with Cal Poly SLO’s own ice cream, buy flowers and ornamental nursery plants from the Poly Plant Shop, or learn about organic and sustainable (as well as conventional) farming techniques. Visitors meet Horticulture and Crop Science students working in the shops, the fields or new labs, studying integrated pest management, viticulture, vegetable production or cleaning and storing equipment. A new greenhouse showcases the latest in hydroponic production, demonstrating how the vegetables for sale at the Farmer’s Market can be grown during the colder seasons. Green roofs cover the new buildings, including a dormatory for four students who oversee the site. These green roofs are water-wise, and insulate the buildings as well.

Nursery one-gallon plants for sale at Poly Plant Shop

Nursery one-gallon plants for sale at Poly Plant Shop

Poly Plant Shop student-made bouquets for sale

Poly Plant Shop student-made bouquets for sale

Student-built and maintained Greenwall at the EHS Unit

Student-built and maintained Greenwall at the EHS Unit

Cal Poly SLO Honey for sale

Cal Poly SLO Honey for sale

Fruit and vegetable production fields will be redesigned and relocated to enhance educational and operational efficiencies. New laboratories will incorporate the latest in operational and farm management equipment, particularly related to plant protection and product handling systems. Students have the opportunity to learn cutting-edge techniques in the field through close interaction with instructors. Lab-intensive, hands-on approaches to learning continues to be a top priority for our students.

Students trained how to use farm equipment

Students trained how to use farm equipment

Cut flowers in production in the greenhouses at the EHS Unit

Cut flowers in production in the greenhouses at the EHS Unit

One-gallon nursery plants in full production at the EHS Unit

One-gallon nursery plants in full production at the EHS Unit

Driving east along Highland Drive and going left on Via Carta toward Poly Canyon Village, Cal Poly SLO’s new dormatories housing 2,700 undergraduate students, visitors come to the Horticulture Unit now transformed with new greenhouses, a visitor’s center and up-to-date classrooms, demonstrating the latest in plant production and floriculture techniques in a unique rural-urban landscape. The Amatoscapes at the southern end of the Horticulture Unit invite visitors to the Leaning Pine Arboretum, itself a showcase for water-wise mediterranean plants from Chile, South Africa, Australia, Europe’s Mediterranean Basin, and California natives. Along Drumm Creek, a horse trail borders the demonstration are for native plants where students work on bio-water filtration, propagating native grasses and restoring the creek habitat.

IMG_3482

Poly Canyon Village and Cerro Vista undergraduate dorms

Leaning Pine Arboretum

Leaning Pine Arboretum

The California food, fiber, flower, and forest system continue to change dramatically, being driven by continuing advances in technology, consumer behavior and globalization. The new Horticultural Science Unit will train students about the production, harvesting, handling, and utilization of ornamental horticulture crops in contemporary methods. Out-dated labs and classroom facilities will be modernized and greenhouse structures will be renovated to demonstrate cutting-edge technologies. Turf and arboriculture areas will be augmented with the high-tech equipment required for training students in this lucrative industry. Here too the green roofs and green walls are evident on the new dormatory and Visitor’s Center, underlining Horticulture and Crop Sciences’ commitment to creating sustainable landscapes and a harmonious relationship with our environment.

Arboriculture lab

Arboriculture lab

New student-designed, built, and maintained ampitheater

New student-designed, built, and maintained amphitheater

Beautifully student-grown pansies for color trials

Beautifully student-grown pansies for color trials

California claims the largest urban agriculture industries in the United States–industries such as landscape, nursery, greenhouse products, golf and recreation. The Horticulture Unit at Cal Poly SLO can offer students tremendous diversity of landscape–both natural and urban–to learn an integrated approach to land-use that addresses the optimum stewardship of the land, natural resources, energy and labor, combined with sustainable economic growth and profitability. This is the model that California’s agriculture, floriculture, and resource professionals will follow.

Hydroponic vegetable crops in the new Hydroponic Greenhouse at the Crops Unit

Hydroponic vegetable crops in the new Hydroponic Greenhouse at the Crops Unit

Students installing the next crop of hydroponic vegetables in the Hydroponic Vegetable Production lab

Students installing the next crop of hydroponic vegetables in the Hydroponic Vegetable Production lab

Hydroponically grown Gerbera Daisy cut flowers in the EHS Unit greenhouses

Hydroponically grown Gerbera Daisy cut flowers in the EHS Unit greenhouses

HOW YOU CAN HELP REALIZE OUR DREAMS

The College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences strives to be a leader in providing students with real-world skills based on laboratory and field-intensive curricula, contemporary instructional technology, uncommon access to senior faculty in small class settings, and student enterprise projects. We already know the new millennium is different than Cal Poly SLO’s was over 60 years ago. Skills, such as computer literacy and being technically savvy, are mandatory. The days of strictly domestic production are disappearing, and success on the international level will require an understanding of other cultures and fluency in other languages. Technology keeps increasing the rate of change in our world, and our students have to be flexible, agile, and successful communicators.

Student grown succulents

Student grown succulents

Senior projects offer students a unique opportunity to Learn. Do. Lead.

Senior projects offer students a unique opportunity to Learn. Do. Lead.

The opportunities are tremendous on this campus. More than 6,000 acres are allocated for agricultural instruction on the campus at San Luis Obispo. There is rangeland for grazing, and more intensively cultivated parcels are used for orchards, vineyards, fruit and nut crops, vegetable production, field crops, agroforestry, and turf management. Greenhouses, the Leaning Pine Arboretum, as well as facilities for fruit and vegetable processing are available for production and instructional use. But Horticulture and Crop Science has not been truly modernized since the 1970’s, putting Cal Poly out of step with industry standards. While the worldwide demand for trained men and women in plant bio-technology, integrated pest management, precision farming, post-harvest technology, research and development, consulting, and marketing is growing everyday, the Horticulture and Crop Science Department has more or less stood still. In order to give our students the best education that Cal Poly SLO can offer (and attract new and fresh faculty) we must bring our facilities up-to-date.

Cal Poly SLO Compost for sale

Cal Poly SLO Compost for sale

Collecting insects for Biocontrol and Entomology classes

Collecting insects for Biocontrol and Entomology classes

Scouting for pathogens at the Crops Unit

Scouting for pathogens at the Crops Unit

We estimate that we will need to raise $20 million dollars to do everything we see in our future. Our immediate goal is to secure $1 million dollars for design and planning of the Horticulture and Crop Science Units. This would include relocating the Organic Farm, changing the circulation and roadway on the site of the new Sustainable Crops Complex, new landscaping along HIghland Drive, garden design and landscaping for the Environmental Horticulture Center and a new entrance to Cal Poly SLO from Santa Rosa. Your gift is the building block that will allow us to incorporate our vision into the curriculum, secure new students and faculty anticipating the latest technology and techniques at Cal Poly SLO, and retain the “Learn by Doing” hallmark on which Cal Poly SLO has built its reputation.

Cal Poly SLO

Cal Poly SLO

If you would like to help us realize our dream for our new department facilities for our students, you can help by donating to the Horticulture and Crop Science Department. Just make a check out to “Horticulture & Crop Science Department” and send it to:

HCS Department,

1 Grand Ave.,

Cal Poly,

San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

 

Disneyland Horticulture

Disneyland Horticulture

Hallie Schmidt, AEPS student

On April 14, 2013, twelve members of the Horticulture Club drove down to Anaheim, CA to Disneyland theme park and resort. We got to spend our entire first day enjoying the park- going on rides like Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean and enjoying classic Disneyland treats like churros and giant pickles. In the evening we went to the home of one of our members, Cody, whose parents had prepared for us an incredible dinner of authentic carne asada and chicken tacos. We were so grateful for their hospitality – it was a long day of driving and running around the park!

It was a long day of running around the park!

It was a long day of running around the park!

"We got to spend our entire first day enjoying the park- going on rides like Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean"

“We got to spend our entire first day enjoying the park- going on rides like Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean”

The next morning we woke up at 5am to get ready for our 6am tour with the Disneyland horticulture staff. Their regular working hours are 2am-10am so that visitors never see the anybody working in the park. After going through a rigorous security check, we met with Dave Garza, the manager of Disneyland Horticulture operations, and a few members of his staff on the back lot. They call this back lot “back stage” where all the prep goes on: a small nursery, growing topiaries, etc. “On stage,” or the park itself, workers were in giant bucket lifts trimming trees or hedging shrubs and topiaries. We walked through almost the entire park in less than an hour (no crowds at this time!) and our tour guides told us all about what it takes to keep their colorful annual beds looking so spectacular, how they grow the grass on Splash Mountain, and how they keep the Jungle Cruise looking and feeling like a real jungle, the IPM program among many other interesting horticulture secrets.

Beautiful Roses at Disneyland

Beautiful Roses at Disneyland

The next morning we woke up at 5am to get ready for our 6am tour with the Disneyland horticulture staff.

The next morning we woke up at 5am to get ready for our 6am tour with the Disneyland horticulture staff.

our tour guides told us all about what it takes to keep their colorful annual beds looking so spectacular, how they grow the grass on Splash Mountain

“Our tour guides told us all about what it takes to keep their colorful annual beds looking so spectacular, how they grow the grass on Splash Mountain.”

They call this back lot "back stage" where all the prep goes on: a small nursery, growing topiaries, etc.

“They call this back lot “back stage” where all the prep goes on: a small nursery, growing topiaries, etc.”

Overall, we accomplished a lot in a short time which was exhausting, but we learned a lot and had a lot of fun. This summer one of our club members will be interning with Disneyland in the horticulture department! Who knows, one of the horticulture managers graduated from Cal Poly in 2010…maybe we’ll be seeing more Cal Poly HCS grads working there in the near future.

 

It’s A Real Competition…

Max Sheehan, AEPS student

Max Sheehan, PLANET Competition 2013

Cal Poly 2013 Planet Team

 

The mornings are always early on a PLANET trip. Having to wake up way before the “magic eight hours of sleep checkpoint” becomes commonplace. The first morning started early because of our drive from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles to catch our flight to Atlanta, Georgia. We then had a two-hour drive to Auburn, Alabama. After the fourteen- hour first day of traveling, we had a whole day to figure out our events and workshops. We took over one of the conference rooms in the hotel and renamed it “Cal Poly Headquarters”. This became our home base for the next four days. We spent many hours studying, conversing, strategizing, eating, and occasionally taking breaks to laugh at Taylor Swift parodies on YouTube. But mostly we were just studying. So what did we do on the trip?

Day 1

Day one consisted of us planning our own schedules, and figuring out where and when we needed to be so that we didn’t miss any of our events or workshops. We got a chance to walk around the campus at Auburn University, and it was quite impressive. The football stadium itself was massive and located right in the heart of the campus. I couldn’t even imagine the 80,000 screaming football fans that it seats, since I was coming from a small football team at Poly.  But, I’m getting side tracked…

We walked the campus, and found buildings and sites where our different events would be held come Friday and Saturday. Then we were treated to a big dinner with Valley Crest Landscapes to introduce us to that famous Southern BBQ. Then we had more studying and went to bed to rest up for the coming days.

Day 2

Day two was the day of workshops. Those of us who had events that required explanations or demonstrations were urged to go to these workshops where you could gain valuable information on your events, and even get a leg up on the competition. I had a few workshops: one for hardscape installation where they demonstrated the proper techniques that they were looking for on our finished product come Saturday. I also attended a workshop for the truck and trailer event where they explained the course and all the penalties. In these workshops, they stressed job safety and how we could prevent injury. Finally, I went to the Tractor Loader Backhoe event workshop where they went over the logistics of the event as well as provided an equipment overview. Again they stressed safety in their talks to ensure that it sunk in and that we all understood the dangers of working the equipment. Almost all of the event sponsors talked about safety being essential in the workplace; whichever workplace that may be. I think that PLANET asks the sponsors to stress safety specifically because it is probably the most important aspect of the landscape industry from a company standpoint. This emphasis is a really good thing to have stressed to the participants because it makes the events safer, and it implants the safety aspect into our daily habits.

After the workshops ended, there was more studying to be had, more great food, as well as a good night sleep. On a side note, if you can’t tell, we eat…A LOT…. These trips usually involve gaining a few pounds due to the delicious food provided by the sponsors. And the fact that we ate AT LEAST three full meals a day, which for me is almost unheard of back home.

Day 3

Day three brought with it the opening ceremonies, which is always a good time. There you got to see all of the other schools participating, as well as a re-cap of the events from the prior year, when Cal Poly placed second. You got to cheer your schools’ anthem, which for us is usually conducted by Mike Magnani about two minutes before it’s our turn. We usually come up with something fun and tribal in nature. Following the opening ceremonies, we were all in “schedule mode” as we attended our half-hour event briefings. The basic point of the briefings was to clarify any questions that anyone had, as well as to go over the rules for each event in specific detail.

After all of the event briefings, some of the event competitions began that very same night. For example, I had my Construction Cost Estimating event competition that Friday night where I thought that I did fairly well. I finished strong with plenty of time left. I ended up placing thirteenth out of around sixty-five students. It was stressful in a room where all you heard was tapping feet and pencils scratching and erasing. Luckily I was allowed to listen to some sweet tunage via the iPod while I was completing the event, so the stress was less than the year before. After completing the event I returned to “Cal Poly HQ” and studied for my events to come on Saturday. Then, of course, bed…

Day 4

Day Four. The Big Day. We woke up early to hit the breakfast bar at the hotel (which was amazing). The morning started strong with some of us starting at 8am with our events. Fortunately I didn’t start with Hardscape installation until 10am. It was a one-hour and fifty-minute event. Which meant it was 110 minutes of adrenaline and stress as Cody “magic fingers” Stewart and I raced to finish our mini hardscape patio. Luckily for us, we had been practicing our strategy for a month ahead of time, so we were pros at this point. As the last minutes wound down, we were scrambling to finish the patio, frantically sweeping and cleaning the area to make it look as good as possible. Finally it was over, and man did it look good… We finished, which is more than most of the teams could say. It was a difficult event to compete in; and even harder to do well in. This year we took tenth out of sixty or more teams. Which for Cody and I was a BIG DEAL! We made Chris Wassenberg (one of our PLANET coaches) proud; or at least his equivalent of that emotion… We can never tell with him!

It was 110 minutes of adrenaline and stress as Cody “magic fingers” Stewart and I raced to finish our mini hardscape patio.

It was 110 minutes of adrenaline and stress as Cody “magic fingers” Stewart and I raced to finish our mini hardscape patio.

Then came lunch, which in the middle of the frantic day was an amazing point of relaxation in between the chaos. All I want to say about lunch is “peanut butter pie”. Following lunch was my next competition with fellow teammate Andy Klittich. It was Wood construction: a high-intensity, saw-buzzing, drill-whirring good time. It, like hardscape installation was a one-hour-fifty-minute event and every minute was go go go! This year, the event sponsor, Stihl, decided that a bench was too Plain Jane, so our task was to build a swing instead. After staring at the plan like it was in Chinese for about ten minutes, we established our plan of attack and started to make headway on our swing. And with fifteen minutes to spare, we finished! We ended up taking second place, which was really exciting! Our swing was professional looking, to say the least. It was a shame we couldn’t bring it home with us!

So pretty, we wanted to take it home with us!

So pretty, we wanted to take it home with us!

Then it was a quick jog to the Truck Trailer Operation, where Andy and I would test our ability to safely load a ride-on mower and drive a large truck/trailer set-up through a ridiculously small course. With a little bit of patience and some great test taking and loading know how, Andy and I took first in the competition.

We had to maneuver through a ridiculously small course

We had to maneuver through a ridiculously small course

Then it was a final jaunt to the Tractor Loader Backhoe competition. This event tested our balance of speed and accuracy with the backhoe teeth as you had to pick up three different sized balls and deposit them into a bucket. Point deductions were easy to accrue, and even though I dropped the smallest ball as I attempted to remove it from its PVC perch, I was still able to win the event based on my overall time.

Tractor Loader Backhoe competition. This event tested our balance of speed and accuracy with the backhoe teeth as you had to pick up three different sized balls and deposit them into a bucket.

Tractor Loader Backhoe competition. This event tested our balance of speed and accuracy with the backhoe teeth as you had to pick up three different sized balls and deposit them into a bucket.

Then in tradition, most of the team gathered to watch the end of the Landscape Installation event, where almost everyone who participated in PLANET cheered their team on. We had a great spot next to Palo Alto Community College out of Texas. They were some really nice people, just like many of the other teams at the competition. After a long day of competition, we all had a great dinner and most of us chose a quick nap session before celebrating with the rest of the team. We worked really hard, and now we finally got to relax, with only the suspense of how we placed weighing on our minds.

Day 5

Day five was an early start, big surprise, because of Closing Ceremonies. Here, everyone gathered again like in the Opening Ceremonies, however we were all just waiting to hear about how we placed. There are a few speakers, and then the results came out. They went event by event, calling the top three teams to the stage to receive prizes from the sponsors. Many of our Cal Poly competitors ended up making the walk to the stage either as an individual, or as a pair. I got to go up three times: twice with Andy, and once by myself. Cal Poly SLO was announced as receiving fourth place overall, however we noticed that the points were off a bit, so we made the call and the correction was made a few weeks later that we had actually received second place overall!

I placed fifth overall student out of 800 students, which is extremely exciting for me as I strived this year for a place in the top 5! After some celebration and photos, we took off for some good ol’ Jimmy John’s Sandwiches. We then raced to Atlanta to catch our flight back to L.A. and then our four-hour drive back up to San Luis. We made it back home around midnight on Sunday after an almost full day of traveling.

This competition has been an incredible experience for me for the last three years. I am extremely sad that I have to let it go next year as I will be graduating in the Fall. The places I have been: Chicago, Kansas, and Alabama, have been great places to visit with amazing people at all of the events too! The stress and anticipation is addicting at times and is something that makes all of us strive to be greater. It’s kind of cool being around so many people from around the nation that have the same interests as you. We all love the industry and want to do our best as we graduate from school and enroll in real life. And as I do just that, I will always remember PLANET, the team mates I have had, the professors that have helped immensely, and the competition itself for being so damn fun. I will definitely take what I have learned and apply it later on as I start my career.

Cal Poly placed Second overall two years in a row!

Cal Poly placed Second overall two years in a row!

 

2012 Haskell Scholarship Recipient

2012 Haskell Scholarship Recipient

Posted By: Desiree Davis, EHS student

My name is Desiree Davis and I was awarded the 2012 scholarship through the Arnold D. Haskell Foundation. This scholarship is made possible by the M. H. Sherman Company to benefit the overall advancement of environmental horticulture education in California. The Arnold D. Haskell Fund provides support to two outstanding students majoring in horticultural science at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. As part of their overall educational experience, the students intern at the Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona del Mar, CA during the summer quarter following their scholarship award.

The Sherman Library & Gardens were established by Arnold D. Haskell starting in the mid-1950s. The gardens are open to the public.. Haskell named the Library & Gardens in honor of his mentor and benefactor, M. H. Sherman (1853-1932).

The following determine eligibility for the scholarship award:

1. Students must be actively pursuing a B.S. in major in Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture.

2. Students must have scholastic achievement of a minimum cumulative 3.00 GPA

3. Students must demonstrate horticultural competency including successful completion of Principles of Horticulture, at least one Plant Materials class, Landscape Maintenance, Plant Propagation, or comparable courses.

4. Students must show evidence of participation and/or leadership in department activities such as student clubs, events, judging teams, etc.

5. Students must demonstrate strong personal character, work ethic, and initiative.

The Horticulture and Crop Science Department committee selects finalists from among qualified applicants. This committee forwards the finalists’ applications to Sherman Library & Gardens and M. H. Sherman Company for their review. The finalists interview with Sherman Company representatives at the Gardens. The HCS Department Head, Dr. John Peterson, is present at these interviews and participates in the selection of the Arnold D. Haskell Scholars.

Recipients must complete a six-week internship for academic credit at the Sherman Library & Gardens during the summer following receipt of the scholarship. I achieved this scholarship not only through my hard work but also through the help of my professors. It was important to write a clear, thoughtful, and unique essay to catch the attention of the Haskell Foundation. In my essay I explained how my love for being outdoors and working with my dad’s landscape design and maintenance company had taught me a lot about this industry and how this industry has shaped me into the confident, determined and responsible person I am today. I can’t wait until the summer for the internship portion of the scholarship. I will be able to learn and work in one of the most beautiful public gardens I’ve ever been to. Tough life, right?

I was pretty nervous during the waiting process – not knowing whether I was going to be interviewed or not. Then finally I was told that I had been granted an interview! Dr. Peterson drove me and the other HCS interviewees four hours south to Sherman Gardens in Orange County. Looking like business professionals, we all arrived in Corona Del Mar and were given a tour of the beautiful gardens. One-by-one we were called in with three of the principal Sherman Gardens staff and Dr. Peterson. I was very nervous but the interviewers were so nice! They were easy to talk to and were genuinely interested in you as a person and what you were about. I found myself relaxed and comfortable in the interview. If you are thinking about applying for this scholarship I can say that confidence is probably the biggest factor. Be confident. You are a Cal Poly student with the knowledge and skills to do great things!

The Haskell Story http://www.slgardens.org/:

“In 1955 Arnold D. Haskell (1895-1977) bought the Norman’s Nursery property at the corner of Dahlia Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, California. The property included a small adobe house that he planned to use as his Orange County office. Shortly after occupying the adobe Mr. Haskell began landscaping the nursery site and the surrounding property. By 1958 the nursery area, now known as The Tea Garden, was being used as a community service project by the Newport Harbor Service League (later to become the Junior League of Orange County) for the sale of pastries, coffee and tea.

Mr. Haskell’s concept for the property was then expanded to include the building of a beautiful garden that would be open to the public. It was to be a serene oasis – a respite from the stress and pressures of daily schedules. During the 1960s the balance of the property making up the entire 2.2-acre block, which is now occupied by Sherman Library & Gardens, was acquired. Remodeling of the original buildings, consisting of the present gift shop, Gardens office and the adobe house, and construction of the Library, conservatory and central patio building were all completed between 1967 and 1974.

Typically (for he always shunned personal publicity) Mr. Haskell named the Library & Gardens after his mentor and benefactor, M.H. Sherman (1853-1932), and not after himself.”

 

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Internship at the Smithsonian (continued…)

Posted by: Katrina Burritt, EHS student

I just finished up my last week at the Smithsonian on Friday July 27, 2012. I really enjoyed
this internship. The staff was very nice and I got to connect to most of the people in the
Greenhouse unit because there wasn’t that many of us. I have learned so much about
maintaining a living collection, specifically with orchids, although I also worked with bonsai,
tropical and bromeliads. Work included testing the orchids for virus, watering (so much
watering), greenhouse maintenance, plant upkeep, flower arranging and database work. I
would highly recommend an internship within Smithsonian Gardens for anyone. Another bonus
to an internship at Smithsonian Gardens is all the field trips and events the interns are allowed
to participate in. I got to go the American History Museum, Natural History Museum, the Freer
and Sackler Gallery, and Dumbarton Oaks before they were open to the public.

 

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Internship at the Smithsonian

Posted By: Katrina Burritt, EHS Student

My internship at the Smithsonian is a position at the orchid greenhouse. So far I have learned lots about orchids including how to water, fertilize, what type of growing conditions the different species require, virus testing, virus eradication. My supervisor plans to work with me on transplanting, and dividing several different orchid species and hybrids, both indoor and terrestrial species. I plan to start a green roof project during my time at the Smithsonian. The green roof will be installed onto several bluebird houses that are going to be built on the property in Suitland surrounding the greenhouse grounds. I am going to be learning how to catalog and verify nomenclature of the orchid species and hybrids also.

 

An Intern’s Life in a Public Garden: The Best Job in the World

An Intern’s Life in a Public Garden: The Best Job in the World

Posted by Hallie Schmidt, AEPS ’13

Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Filoli is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Formerly a grand 654-acre country place, Filoli is operated today as a public garden, cultural center, and nature center. It was built in 1917 as the country estate for Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn II and has a 16-acre formal English Renaissance-style garden as well as original elements from a “gentleman’s estate,” an orchard, agricultural fields, and oak woodlands.

Under the supervision of a horticulturalist, interns learn techniques of planting, watering, hedging, fertilizing, mowing and pruning, with two-week rotations in five garden areas. They are also taught to operate power equipment, use hand tools and are required to learn garden and greenhouse plants, weeds, and native plants. A test on these subjects completes the 10-week program.

As part of my internship, I kept a daily journal of my activities. At the end of each week or when I felt inspired, I would write an overview of my experiences and thoughts about everything. Below are my journal entries while at Filoli.

WEEK 1:

I am already thoroughly enjoying this internship program. I appreciate that my lead trusts me to do more specialized tasks like pruning or mowing. Because I am given good direction, I feel that I have been doing well with the tasks assigned to me. I am also performing regular tasks more quickly and with more confidence as I become comfortable with them. For example, I watered pots and coiled hoses much more quickly on Friday than I did on Monday. On my second day of pruning azaleas I felt my approach and finished product improved. I appreciated the power tools workshops as I haven’t had a great deal of experience. The fine-cut mower makes me a little nervous, but I don’t think we’ll be using that here anyway. I wish I could drive a tractor…guess I’ll have to save that for the tractor driving class at Cal Poly, SLO.

WEEK 2:

Just as I get used to an area it’s my last day! I do like that I get to spend time in each area and with only a 10-week program, two weeks is generous. I’m beginning to notice myself go through different energy levels throughout the day. For example, I will be doing an activity like weeding, and I am dragging. It takes a lot of physical and mental effort to do a good job. And then, after break, I will be plowing through the beds, doing an effective job without even thinking. I wish I knew how to always be in that high-energy positive state. Interns stay with local families and do garden work in exchange for the hospitality. Going into this I already know that I wouldn’t be looking forward to the extra garden work after a full week of gardening. I am grateful for this opportunity that has saved me from having to arrange and pay for local housing for the summer. However, I think it would be ideal for interns to live together, on the Filoli property if possible. Since we don’t ever work together during the day we don’t really get to bond much and I feel we’re missing out. Even doing yard work together after work would be better than doing it alone.

WEEK 3:

I really like doing irrigation work because I feel that it takes problem solving and thinking. I do love gardening, but I also like to be mentally challenged. Sometimes gardening can be a “moving meditation” as Dave Lesser calls it, which is good. Irrigation, however, is like a moving puzzle for which you have to use critical thinking and observation. I also know that water is a huge issue in California, so being an auditor, or any job with water use, will have demand and possibly good money in the future. I will definitely consider this possibility. I don’t mind getting wet…in the summer anyway.

WEEK 4:

Once again, I am sad to be leaving this garden area. I really enjoy all the flowers for cutting. They have a nice effect with all the different patches of color around the garden. I think they are much nicer than roses, but people do love roses so they are an inevitable part of public gardening. I would really like to be part of flower arranging, either here at Filoli or in the future. Which is another class that I can take at Cal Poly, SLO. (Floral Design I & II taught by Melinda Lynch).

WEEK 5:

Working in the greenhouse is a total change of scenery compared to the past two weeks in the garden. I’m definitely enjoying it, which is surprising to me because after my nursery internship last summer, I decided I wasn’t into the nursery scene. It seems like a more social work environment because everyone is close together and there are more people working here. Also, I’m learning a totally new set of garden techniques (watering pots, propagation, interior plant care, greenhouse environmental controls, etc.)

One thing I found interesting was the biological controls being used in the greenhouses. In an effort to move away from pesticide sprays the staff is experimenting with introducing beneficial insects into the greenhouse environment and soil. So far I know there are good nematodes (that eat the larvae of fungus gnats and lacewings). There are also some botanical helpers: marigolds and peppers, whose pollen is apparently helpful. Cool, huh? At the end of the day I was having trouble with my forearm and wrist. I was doing a lot of hand-sewing and pruning over the weekend, plus holding the pruners while taking cuttings. Add holding the hose and I must have overworked it. I tried to do more cuttings in the afternoon but my hand was shaking and I wasn’t nearly as efficient as before. So I cleaned the greenhouse instead. I’m hoping tomorrow it will be back to normal. I like taking cuttings!

WEEK 6:

I got a history of renovations of Area Two from Matt. The area has undergone a lot of change since he began here about five years ago and it sounds like there’s more to come (removal of the rose garden, planting bulbs, renovating boxwood hedges and yews, moving from chemical to organic fertilizing, planned removal of the Sunburst Honey Locust and olive trees, etc.) Along with that, he explained to me the evolving goals of Filoli garden, as in practical vs. traditional, botanic garden vs. original specimen plants, various visions vs. the original architect’s vision for the property.

It’s an interesting thing for a public garden institution to consider, especially in the case of a historic national trust. My initial reaction was to introduce a variety of new plants and design ideas (I love protea and a “Native California English garden” would be an interesting challenge and demonstration for patrons) but I definitely see the benefit and reason to maintain a historic garden in the state it was originally planted and planned. There are numerous famous landscape architects. To change the plants and themes in a historic garden would be like modernizing or updating a Frank Lloyd Wright home. It would no longer be his piece and would not reflect history of the artist’s design accurately.

However, I do think changes in the cultural practices are appropriate, especially at Filoli where a lot of the traditional methods are still maintained. For example, I’m glad underground irrigation has been installed and I think it’s great that Filoli is making the move to using organic fertilizers and on-site composting in lieu of chemical fertilizers. Still, tradition is preserved, especially in the greenhouse area where the original greenhouses, cold frames and even wood cutting boxes are still used. Overall, this is an interested topic of debate.

WEEK 7:

I had a plant problems workshop and walk with Dave Lesser (Filoli horticulturalist). Dave is an interesting guy and it seemed to me that his main goal was to encourage us to observe the world around us in more detail than we are accustomed to doing. Having these skills will make us better diagnosticians of plant problems and also better storytellers and observers in general.

Something he said at the beginning of the talk stuck with me: the idea of gardeners being seen as “glorified janitors”. I see this perspective, and from the general labor we do I can feel it, too. However, in the case of plant problems, there is a step up in the respect people give (and the amount they will pay for consulting). After our walk I feel more confident in identifying thrips and fire blight and the weevil that likes Rosaceae plants.

I was already interested in becoming a certified arborist and this workshop got me even more motivated to do so. Just as with irrigation, I like the critical thinking and diagnostics that plant problems entail. Although pests and fungi and diseases gross me out more than water in pipes, I still find it interesting and could see myself doing this for a living, especially with trees. Trees are such majestic, revered, incredible structures of life and spending my work day around and up in them, sick or well, would be wonderful.

WEEK 8:

I’ve always been interested in compost so the combination of this with the soil science class I just took during the winter make a lot of the concepts easier to grasp in the composting workshop. Still, I have never had the opportunity to observe in person the methods of how small scale, commercial composting is done. The windrow turner is also a very cool piece of machinery. I think Filoli should be proud that the composting is going so well and that they seem to be successfully making the transition to more sustainable amending practices.

I’ve been pruning two huge, old camellias and I must say that when I finish one, it is very satisfying to step back and look at my work. The last two I did are round and about 10-12 feet high and maybe 6-8 feet wide. THey each took me two to three afternoons, but the finished product is an open, round, non-fluffy globe that should flower well into the winter and spring. Now I’m dreaming about camellia pruning. I see the leaves and Felcos in my mind when I close my eyes.

WEEK 9:

I am now in my final area! As the lead, Shippy said, it’s like my Olympics of the internship because I’ve been practicing the past eight weeks and now is my time to perform. After working in the sunken garden I feel more experienced in lots of skills I didn’t used to have. I’m also looking forward to learning more about fruit tree care as the orchard is part of this area.

Shippy explained to me what the regular morning routine will be for me: walking through the area looking for animal damage, dry spots in the lawn, etc. I will also take down the electric fence around the front of the house.

This area is unique from all the others for a few reasons. First is that is has a lot of hardscape and a great deal more non-formal and wild landscapes. This means different kinds of maintenance such as rough-cutting along roads, picking up trash in the parking lot, looking out for safety hazards, etc. Shippy emphasized the fact that this is a very public part of the public garden, as everybody who comes through here sees it. Also having the orchards is an interesting aspect because these are not attached to the formal hardens and really just serve as germplasm storage rather than appealing to visitors. Still, their care is important.

We just completed our plant ID test this afternoon and tomorrow we will have tests on power equipment and hand tools. I feel I did very well on the ID test–it was similar in format to Professors Hannings and Faulstich Plant Materials class at Cal Poly, SLO. I think the tool test will be more in depth than the ID test as in addition to names we’ll also have to know uses, parts, care, and maintenance.

To sum up my experience at Filoli, I’ve done five internships since I’ve been in college and I truly belive that I have learned more at this program than at any other place I’ve been. I came into this internship with minimal hands-on garden experience and now I can look at the garden and identify what needs to be done, what tools to use and of course, I can do it all myself! The most important lesson for me is that if i get a job like this one out of college, I would be happy and satisfied with the work I do. Visitors to the garden always comment to me that “this must be the best job in the world!” and although it is hard work, at this point in my life they are absolutely right.

 

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