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Category Archives: College life

Learn By Doing: Get Involved in Clubs!

Andi Goodman, AEPS Student concentrating in Public Horticulture

Andi Goodman, AEPS student

Andi Goodman, AEPS student

Learn By Doing: Get Involved in Clubs!

During my first two years at Cal Poly, I had underestimated all of the countless opportunities that were available to me. I would occasionally volunteer for events such as Open House and other highly advertised functions, but I wasn’t quite as involved as I should have been.

When I entered my third year at Cal Poly, I took Melinda Lynch’s Floral Design class and a new world opened up to me. I was in love with making floral designs and would always look forward to attending her classes. From that point on, she invited me to join her Floral Design Club on campus. Our club meets once or twice a month during which we organize and make floral designs for upcoming events on campus. These events are usually for other clubs or departments such as banquets and award dinners. Not only do we make arrangements for clubs and departments but those for dinners hosted by President Armstrong.

Feeling that I was part of a group has given me a sense of belonging and encouraged me to seek more involvement. This year I became the President of the Floral Design Club as well as the Marketing Chair of the Environmental Horticulture Club. Through these clubs I have attended many volunteering opportunities that have led to future career options. I have also met driven and passionate faculty members in our Horticulture and Crop Science department that know people who are in the Horticulture field, which has become a great way for me to network with professionals in the industry. The only regret I have at Cal Poly is not getting involved sooner, “Learn by Doing” is exactly what we do here!

"Not only do we make arrangements for clubs and departments but those for dinners hosted by President Armstrong."

“Not only do we make arrangements for clubs and departments but those for dinners hosted by President Armstrong.”

"I would occasionally volunteer for events such as Open House and other highly advertised functions, but I wasn’t quite as involved as I should have been."

“I would occasionally volunteer for events such as Open House and other highly advertised functions, but I wasn’t quite as involved as I should have been.”

The AEPS booth for Open House, designed by Andi Goodman

The AEPS booth for Open House, designed by Andi Goodman

Setting up the AEPS booth for Open House

Andy Klittich helping to set up the AEPS booth for Open House

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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!

 

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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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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It’s the Little Things Around Campus

Posted By: Dani Ruais

As it is getting close to finals week here at Cal Poly, and as long as the entire student body is studying at Kennedy Library, why not take a walk around campus for a study break? You might be surprised at what you find! Just take a deep breath and look around youself. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, located in the valley of the Irish Hills, Madonna Mountain, the “P”, and Bishop’s Peak. We are minutes from the great outdoors: Leaning Pine Arboretum, Poly Canyon, Horse Canyon, not to mention the several hiking and biking trails on and off campus. Here are just a few of the great treasures that I look forward to spotting around campus on a regular basis. Being on this campus and in this beautiful town is just one of the perks of coming to Cal Poly SLO. Especially enrolling in the Horticulture and Crop Science Department, we are not only some of the creators of this beauty on campus, but we are also true stewards of this land and campus.

Sheep on the BRAE irrigation test field

Sheep on the BRAE irrigation test field

Sheep on the Bio Resource Agricultural Resource Test fields

Fletcher, one of the mousers at the Horticulture Unit, getting some much-needed TLC.

Say “Hi” to Fletcher when you are up at the Horticulture unit!

We treat our barn cats and mousers very well here! An extra special thank you to the Cal Poly Cat Program for taking care of our campus kitties!
Check out the Cal Poly Cat Program at: http://www.afd.calpoly.edu/facilities/cats/index.html

Hummingbird nest in the greenhouse corridor at the Horticulture Unit

Hummers nest at the Horticulture Unit

Baby swallows in the breezeway at the Horticulture Unit

How do they all fit in that tiny nest?!

Birdhouse at the Horticulture Dorm

The baby horses are out with their moms at the Horse Unit right across the way from the Horticulture Unit at the top of Via Carta on Cal Poly SLO’s campus.

Just enjoying the beautiful sun!

Take a walk up to the Horse Unit and pet a horse or two!

Horses!

Scrub jay at the Horse Unit

Thomas, the mouser at the Horse Unit

Thomas getting ready for a nap

View from the Horse Unit

Bishop’s Peak in the background; not a bad place to attend class 🙂

They don’t seem to mind the sprinklers.

Visit the Swine Unit!

Pirate calf

At the Dairy

Good luck studying for your finals! Hope this post reminds you to take it SLO!

 

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Back to Cali

Posted by: Mitchell

Hi All!

Sorry for the delay. It has been a rather hectic schedule since I left Iowa to finish my last quarters at Cal Poly!  As of this point, I am taking my last three required classes at Cal Poly, and then it is back to Colusa I go.  I felt that this blog was as good a time as any to reflect on my last five years in the HCS department.

I came to this university in 2007.  I didn’t know anybody, and realistically, I didn’t even really know myself.  Since that time I have taken more than 52 classes and met lifelong friends.  I have also had the chance to do things that I never thought possible such as travel both the world and the United States. I have been given the chance to not only be a student in a University, but be an individual at a school full of professors and staff who know me and what I need to succeed.

The main purpose of a college degree is to help prepare you for a career, but along with that, it’s to help you find out what your passion is.  For example, I am currently growing hydroponic lettuce for my senior project.  With this project we are hoping to start a breeding project that could help improve the way that we grow lettuce in California.  None of this would have been possible without the help of my advisor, my professors, and my classmates.  The project itself is an accumulation of everything I have learned at Cal Poly, and I really think it exemplifies everything that I love about this school.  Before this project, I had never grown anything using hydroponics, yet here I am, one quarter later growing whole lettuce crops.  Learn by Doing at its finest.
I believe that this blog has given people a good look at our everyday lives and what it might mean to be a student at this school.  If you love agriculture, learning, and growing as a student and as a person, come to Cal Poly, and become a member of our AEPS family.

 

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Get OUT! :)

Posted by: Kelly

Now is the time! Get out and do something new!

My time at Cal Poly is coming to an end, and I have realized how many things I have always said I will do and have never done. Recently I have been trying to go out and try new things. Here are a few things I suggest doing in the near future to make you a happier person

One: Read a new book. I have never been an avid reader, of anything, except maybe food blogs or magazines (which I tend to skim through). For my senior seminar class we are required to read a book and write a review on it. At first I saw it as a daunting task: why would I want to read a book for a class? It is my last quarter of school and I’m sure I can find a way to make it look like I have read the book. But after looking at the list I decided to read a book by Michael Pollan called “In Defense of Food.” To my surprise, it was one of the best books I have ever read! It gave me a new perspective on food and how others (mainly those not involved in ag) look at food and how it is grown. It has opened my eyes, and now I can understand why people think they way they think. This book has also encouraged me to start reading more books, which I am extremely excited about!

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Two: Go visit a different city for a weekend. Last weekend I went up to Davis to visit some friends (and because I had volleyball which is a wonderful excuse). I had never been to Davis to just hang out, and it was quite nice! We walked around campus, got to check out a bunch of greenhouses, the domes, the Arboretum and the Davis Co-op. I felt like I was taking my own personal field trip. We went out to yummy dinners and the nightlife there was really entertaining! Even though it may seem like going out of town is a hassle, or you might not have time to get everything done, do it! Just go explore. You won’t be sorry.

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Three: Go to Song Writers at Play. At Kruezburgs on Tuesdays, as well as a few other locations during the week, there is an event called Song Writers at Play. You can go to the coffee shop, grab a beer, some coffee or food and just sit and listen to people play their songs. It is one of the most relaxing things I did this week. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in school, or sports, and our daily lives that we forget to go out and do something fun for ourselves.

Four: Try a new sport in the Rec Center. Have you been to the new Rec Center? It is the Disneyland of all gyms. I nearly died when I walked in for the first time and thought I was going to get lost!! Even if you aren’t a gym rat and you don’t really like exercise, there are a ton of fun things to do in the gym. They have ping-pong, basketball, racquetball, squash and volleyball. The options are endless. Just go and try it out!

Five: (If you are a foodie like me…) Make a list of local restaurants to try. My roommate and I recently have come up with a list of restaurants in town that we would like to eat at someday. Sometimes when we are just sitting at home and have the urge to go get tasty food, we pull out the list and pick somewhere to go. Lots of places around San Luis use local produce and turn it into a divine dining experience.

Six: Throw a dinner party with some close friends. Our time in college is short and we want to see the friendships we make throughout the years last for a long time. Have some friends over for a dinner party. It doesn’t matter if you are a great chef or not, just having people all together, socializing over food makes for a great setting. This week I had my team over and we did a make your own pizza party. Go to a farmers market, pick up some veggies, some pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and call it a day! Easy-peezy party that people will love.

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