For 60 years, the College of Agriculture has excelled at preparing tomorrow’s agriculture leaders for the challenges of feeding the world and nurturing local communities. Led by outstanding faculty and staff and enriched through hands-on educational experiences at the extraordinary 800-acre University Farm, our students develop a spirit of inquiry, practice collaboration, learn leadership, and gain a broad understanding of agricultural production systems.
The Paul L. Byrne Memorial Agriculture Teaching and Research Center, more commonly known as the University Farm, is the living laboratory for agriculture programs at CSU, Chico. With four livestock units, a wide variety of orchards and row crops, pastures, a USDA-inspected meats laboratory, shops, research projects, classrooms, and a multi-purpose facility, the University Farm is arguably the most diversified farming operation in Northern California. Among its many uses, the University Farm:
As the dean of the College of Agriculture, my job is to make sure the tools are in place for our students to get their hands dirty in all aspects of agricultural production. For newcomers to agriculture, that may mean they spend a couple of hours each week growing their own garden in our Introduction to Plant Science class. For other students, they may be working alongside our farm staff to milk cows, plant row crops, harvest orchards, calculate fertilizer requirements, sell meat to the public…you name it. We probably have the most diversified farm in all of Northern California, and our main product is our students, who graduate with real-world experience in farming and ranching.
I am inspired daily by our students. They are creative, inquisitive, hard-working (most of the time!), and full of energy. You can’t spend time around our students and not be inspired. I’m also inspired by our faculty and staff in the College of Agriculture, who have dedicated their careers to advancing the future of agriculture through their teaching, research, mentorship, and advising.
The University Farm gives students the opportunity to gain experience, make mistakes, and learn from their mistakes before they enter their careers. Once they have spent a couple semesters working through our directed work experience program, we have a pretty good idea who has the work ethic, passion, and drive to be successful with the many agricultural employers who come to us to recruit our students.
Our applied agricultural research program gives faculty and students the opportunity to partner with other agricultural producers and companies to conduct research that is relevant to the industry. This has led to some great partnerships, such as with Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Alturas Ranches, Organic Valley, Pacific Coast Producers, and a host of others.
I’ve been in agriculture my whole life, so I can’t imagine doing anything else. I spend more time at my desk or in meetings than I’d like to some days, but I really get a kick out of seeing the light come on in students’ eyes when they discover an area of agriculture that stokes their passion. When the parent of a first generation college student comes up to me at commencement to tell me what an impact we’ve had on her graduate’s life, it makes every budget meeting and late-night e-mail exchange worth it.
When it comes to the Sierra Oro Farm Trail, we sit back and let our students take the lead. It’s such a great experience for them to learn to see the University Farm from the guests’ perspective and answer the questions that our visitors ask. We especially love it when families visit the farm during the farm trail, because kids are so curious and aren’t afraid to ask the questions that adults may not ask. We look forward to kids who later chose to make in agriculture because of the excitement sparked during the farm trail and visits to the farm.
We joined the Sierra Oro Farm Trail in 2009.
So many people in our community are unaware that Chico State even has a University Farm. The Sierra Oro Farm Trail is a great chance for us to share what we think is a true treasure with people who don’t know we are here.
Butte County Agriculture is in a great position to harness the local food movement and build connections of trust and familiarity between farmers/ranchers and consumers. The growing interest in food and how it is produced has buoyed not only the Sierra Oro Farm Trail and the rise in local direct-to-consumer businesses. It has also played a factor in the growth of our agricultural program at Chico State, which has more than doubled in enrollment in the past ten years.
The most influential person in my career was a professor who took interest in me and believed that I had potential. He encouraged me to work in the University Meat Laboratory.