A typical January morning on campus, Agriculture students arrive to the orchards to harvest navel oranges. The soil is dry and the ladders are ready. Each student has a bag or a box in hand, ready to collect the yield of the day. Hours later they load the truck, where it heads to the packing house where the produce is then washed and distributed.
Cal Poly Pomona students’ hand-harvest hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables every week, but many students don’t know where it goes.
Well as it turns out, the vast majority stays right here on campus.
AGRIscapes, which produces the food, is an organization on campus with hundreds of acres of farmland and large greenhouse complexes designed for research and production.
According to AGRIscapes, The Farm Store, which receives most of the produce, can get up to 30 crates of campus produce per day, depending on the season.
“Depends on what we’re growing at that time during the year. Right now, there’s probably 25 different items,” said Dawn Taccone, manager at the Farm Store.
Right now, winter crops include lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Swiss chard.
Lettuce yields around 20 boxes per week, broccoli 40, cauliflower 30, cabbage 10 and Swiss chard five.
Each of these boxes weighs roughly 25 pounds.
Avocados, navel oranges, mandarins, grapefruits and Valencia oranges are also being harvested right now. The Valencia’s are shipped to the Farm Store to be squeezed for the Farm Store’s popular orange juice.
Almost all of the produce produced by CPP and sold at the Farm Store is day fresh. “In other words, most of our products are picked in the morning and delivered right from the field to the farm,” said Dave Matias, director of Farm Operations.
No CPP grown produce is sold jarred, canned or otherwise packaged; all is sold fresh from the farm.
AGRIscapes also sells produce to other campus services like the Poly Pack and Los Olivos.
The Poly Pack, a program started by The College of Agriculture is a subscription service where customers can sign up and receive packs of fresh seasonal produce every two weeks.
This includes the full pack, which is 12 to 13 pounds or the half pack, which is six to seven pounds.
Los Olivos, the dining commons on campus is currently receiving oranges, cauliflower, broccoli and lettuce.
This month AGRIscapes met with Los Olivos and Kellogg West to discuss selling more produce.
Other future plans include selling produce to Innovation Brew Works for fresh pizza toppings.
Aside from regular purchases, there are also seasonal events like the pumpkin patch.
This past fall CPP harvested around 42 acres of pumpkins, which equals to over 480 tons.
The pumpkins not sold are often fed to the animals on campus.
As for the rest of the produce that doesn’t end up being sold on campus: on Saturdays, a truck is loaded with several bins of oranges and 10 to 15 boxes of other surplus yields where it is driven to Irvine for the local farmers market.
This produce is grown both on and off campus.
This includes the 55 acres of citrus, avocado, other misc. tree crops, vineyards and approximately 100 acres of animal pasture on the main ranch; the 125-acre farm off of Pomona Blvd. grows most of the vegetables; West Wind Ranch, a 550-acre farm in Chino and Pine Tree Ranch, a 55-acre citrus and avocado farm in Santa Paula.
Other non-food crops produced by CPP include livestock feed and flowers for the Rose Parade float.
The feed produced include grain crops like oats and corn.
This feed is sold to the animal units on campus.
West Wind Ranch produces a large amount of the livestock feed as well as most of the pumpkins sold at the pumpkin patch.
The ornamental horticulture department grows flowers every year to be used on the Cal Poly rose float.
These flowers are specially produced for this event.
CPP Agriculture students and faculty do much of this work and research.
There are only about eight full time employees that help with the production of the crops on campus; the rest are students.
“It’s not just an opportunity to grow food, it’s an opportunity to teach students,” second-year masters plant science major Chris Van Norden said. “It’s a living classroom, we’re out here like actually handling plants. The stuff that we learn out here they can’t teach in textbooks or on PowerPoint slides.”
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