SUNY Cobleskill Agricultural Business Faculty and Students Visit California’s San Joaquin Valley
June 25, 2012
SUNY Cobleskill Agricultural Business faculty and students visited California’s San Joaquin Valley in May as part of the two-credit travel course Agricultural Business Field Studies, which provides real-world exposure to theories and concepts discussed in the classroom.
Four professors and 36 students traveled the region between Los Angeles and San Francisco during an eight-day period. At 220 miles in length and 60 miles wide, the San Joaquin Valley includes land resources that are among the most productive in the world. With a growing season from early March to mid-November, the valley produces more than 250 different crops, along with accompanying complementary livestock.
Field Studies participants visited over 20 agricultural businesses, including Grimmway Farms, the world’s largest grower, processor and shipper of carrots, managing approximately 100,000 acres; Paramount Farms, the world’s biggest grower and processor of almonds and pistachios; and Mohr-Fry Ranches, which produces 12 million gallons of wine from 5,000 acres of grapes for bottling by other companies under various California brands.
As the nation’s leading dairy state, California presented the students with several educational experiences. The state is home to Land O’Lakes, which processes 9 - 11 million pounds of milk dairy, and Hilmar Cheese, a company that receives 150 tanker loads of milk each day. Golden State Feed and Grain Company, operating 365 days per year and 24 hours per day, specializes in providing concentrate feed to dairy farms. Golden State Feed and Grain receives 1,100 rail cars of feed ingredients each month, yielding approximately 60 trailer loads of finished product to be delivered to dairy farms daily.
Students also visited with owners of smaller, diversified businesses very similar to many of the agricultural enterprises common in the Northeast, such as Murray Family Farms, which maintains 300 acres with a retail farm store and accompanying farm stands in neighboring towns. Wiebe Farms manages 700 acres of tree fruits, which are packaged, shipped and sold directly to retailers.
Despite its impressive scale, California’s agricultural industry faces numerous challenges. Water scarcity and uncertainty over government regulation were common themes throughout the trip. Unlike Northeast farms, California growers must purchase water allocations, which is a significant component of the cost of business operations.
Other site visits include: Ayala Farms, Burroughs Family Farms Organic Dairy, California Polytechnic Institute, Curtimade Dairy, Inc., Silveira Brothers’ Angus Cattle Company, Sun-Maid Raisins, Tejon Ranch, and Virtus Nutrition. Among the traditional tourist destinations, the students enjoyed stops at Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park, a walk along Hollywood Boulevard, and shopping at the Boot Barn western clothing outlet.