Agribusiness Department

College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences

News & Events

New Agribusiness Department Chair

Welcome to the 2016 edition of the Cal Poly Agribusiness Department newsletter.

I was hired to lead the Agribusiness Department (AGB) in July 2015. I bring three decades of experience in agricultural economics and business.

It has been extremely gratifying to learn about the tremendous achievements of our AGB students and faculty over the past nine months, as well as the alumni, industry partners, and other friends and constituents of the department. 

This past academic year has been an eventful one. In July, Professor Jay Noel retired as department chair and I was asked to assume leadership of the department. Noel’s many years of stellar service as both a faculty member and chair led to the hiring of several quality faculty members, some of whom you will hear from in this newsletter. Under his stewardship, the AGB department grew steadily and is now the second most in-demand major in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES). The department's success is due to Noel’s nurturing of faculty and students, as well as overseeing major improvements in teaching and research effectiveness. Noel will retire from Cal Poly in fall of 2016. Please join me in thanking him for his many years of service to the AGB department and Cal Poly. 
Looking to the future, we plan to revamp our curriculum, reinvent our internship program, complete our five-year program review, and renew and refocus our industry advisory council. We will also make improvements to our classrooms, including the creation of a tutoring center that will also serve as a study space, so that our students will have an academic area close to our classrooms. 
The AGB faculty continue to attain high levels of success, presenting their research at professional gatherings, obtaining research grants, and publishing research in respected journals. The faculty commitment to the Cal Poly teacher-scholar model immensely benefits students by exposing them to instructors who are fully equipped with state-of-the-art knowledge and the tools to tackle real world problems. Their success in many national competitions is a testament to the quality of our faculty and the willingness of our students to work hard and deliver first-rate performances.
Our students continue to be successful in securing jobs that lead to meaningful careers in the industries they love. As you read this newsletter, I hope you share my pride in the department and the fantastic opportunities it offers our students. I hope to hear from many of you in the coming months and encourage you to stop by and see us whenever you are in San Luis Obispo. On behalf of the AGB students, faculty and staff, I wish you an outstanding and productive remainder of 2016, and hope that success will continue to find you and your loved ones in 2017.  




Agribusiness Senior and ASI President Owen Schwaegerle

As ASI President, agribusiness senior Owen Schwaegerle’s goal is to fulfill the promises he made to students when running his campaign, which focused on student fees, student safety, school spirit, and helping students find their anchor.

Schwaegerle is lobbying the state government for more funding through the California State Student Association. One bill successfully lobbied in October 2015 was Assembly Bill 798, the Affordable Textbook Act. State advocacy is more effective when students are registering and actively participating in the democratic process, said Schwaegerle. ASI utilized Turbovote, an online registration software, during the Flex Your Right campaign in 2015 to register nearly 2,000 students to vote. Schwaegerle also co-sponsored a debate of the 24th District congressional candidates at Cal Poly to help students become informed prior to the election.

Student Safety is a part of his platform Schwaegerle has become increasingly passionate about. One of the ways he has lobbied to improve safety on campus is through the use of a phone app called Tapshield, which allows students to share information about incidents and identify and communicate potential threats quickly. The ASI executive cabinet is also working on a Mental Health Awareness week in the month of May.

“School spirit is something we need in the midst of these divided and chaotic times worldwide,” Schwaegerle said. His cabinet supported athletics with an ASI tailgate before the Homecoming football game as well as a pregame BBQ before the Fresno State doubleheader basketball game at the end of fall. Schwaegerle also helped ASI sponsor an event in the fall called Good Neighbor Day, where nearly 80 students participated in a trash pickup in nearby neighborhoods.

Riley Nilsen, secretary of student responsibility and fellow CAFES student, promoted academics and school spirit through a week-long Be Present Challenge where 600 students downloaded the app PocketPoints, which rewards students for not using their phone during class. Schwaegerle's cabinet also improved ASI’s visibility by recruiting an average of 30 students a week to attend the Green Team, a passionate group of students who help put on the executive cabinet’s projects.

“We at Cal Poly have much to be proud of and much to be grateful for. Serving the students as ASI President has been a time of growth and humility, and there are many plans yet to come,” he said. Schwaegerle and his cabinet hope to plan a neighborhood clean-up and barbecue, a spirit week, and a mental health awareness week before the end of the school year. “I am excited for the times ahead, and honored to serve,” he said. 


Meet our New Agribusiness Faculty

Two new Agribusiness faculty joined the department this fall. Professor Cristina Connolly joined Cal Poly from Ohio State University. Her research interests include local food, health and direct marketing. She has published research in several peer-reviewed journals, including the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Professor Tim Delbridge earned a doctorate degree in applied economics from the University of Minnesota in 2014. He has taught undergraduate courses in managerial economics and environmental economics and policy at the University of Minnesota and Oregon State University.



Cal Poly Named One of Nation's Top Four Colleges of Agriculture by Campus Explorer

Cal Poly's College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences has been ranked one of the top four colleges of agriculture in the nation by Campus Explorer, a website that assists more than 30 million students a year with college planning.

According to Campus Explorer, Cal Poly has everything, including its own creamery, organic farm and irrigation research center. “If you’re searching for an impressive and more affordable agriculture school, Cal Poly is the place,” states the report.

“Our Learn by Doing philosophy gives our students firsthand experience in the field of their interest,” said Andrew Thulin, dean of the college. “Our classrooms are living laboratories. Our faculty members partner with students, sharing research opportunities and practical experience needed for successful careers.”

Campus Explorer also notes that students can apply for more than 115 scholarships in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

Additional colleges on the list include those at Utah State University, Purdue University and Montana State University. According to Campus Explorer, each of these colleges provides the resources that agriculture majors need at a reasonable tuition price.



Cal Poly Agribusiness Fair Program Recognized

The Western Fairs Association, a nonprofit trade association serving the fair industry throughout the U.S. and Canada, recognized the Cal Poly Agribusiness Department Fair Program for 50 years of service to the industry. A big thank you to lecturer Jacky Eshelby for so many years of hard work.



Agribusiness Students Study in Australia

This quarter, Agribusiness Professor Michael McCullough is teaching two agricultural business courses abroad in Australia. Students are spending seven weeks studying in Adelaide, Australia, touring local wineries, visiting Kangaroo Island, exploring a national wildlife park, and experiencing beach life in South Australia.

University of Adelaide’s main campus is located in the cultural heart of the city. It is the third oldest university in Australia, and is also one of the group of eight Australian Distinguished Universities. It is a top-ranked, government funded research institute, complete with educational and social facilities. University of Adelaide is said to be a stimulating place to study, combining the beauty of a historic campus, the friendly and accessible nature of Australian society, and the culture and tradition of a well-established university.


Professor Michael McCullough

The sheep station where students stayed at Kangaroo Island.

A eucalyptus essential oil distillery visited by students.



Ag Showcase 2016

2016 was another successful year for the annual Ag Showcase. 

Ag Showcase gives students the opportunity to directly communicate and network with company representatives from a wide range of fields in the industry.

Ag Showcase not only provides Cal Poly students with opportunities for internships and careers, but also allows companies to showcase their company and meet with potential employees.

Each year we look forward to welcoming back a number of successful alumni. We extend a huge thank you to our industry partners and the ABM/NAMA Club for a great event.




2016 National Grocers Accociation Annual Meeting

Agribusiness Professor Richard Volpe attended the National Grocers Association (NGA) annual meeting in Las Vegas from Feb. 27 to March 2 alongside four agribusiness students. Cal Poly is one of the newest members of the Food Industry University Coalition (FIUC), a group of universities across the U.S. with programs emphasizing the preparation of undergrads for careers in food retail and supply chain management. Each year, the NGA supports travel and lodging for four Cal Poly students to attend the meeting and compete in the Case Study Competition. During the competition, a participating retailer provides a prompt to all schools, which is usually a challenge or objective facing the retailer. This year Davis Food and Drug asked students for ideas as to how they can best enter the digital age of food retail.

The 2016 team is comprised of JT Janowski, Ryan Mekech, Katie Keaton, and Rachel Schumm, all agribusiness majors enrolled in AGB404: Food Retail Management. Our Cal Poly team gave a great presentation and represented Cal Poly well.

NGA, in conjunction with FIUC, held a number of student sessions throughout the three-day meeting, giving students and faculty the opportunity to meet with retail executives in small, intimate sessions to discuss topics such as roles for millennials in food retail and the impacts of government regulation and legislation on retail profits , with plenty of time for questions.




Professor Jay Noel Retires after 26 years at Cal Poly

This year the Agribusiness Department says farewell to another distinguished and beloved Cal Poly professor. Dr. Jay Noel earned a doctorate degree in agricultural economics in 1979 from the University of California, Davis. He has worked as a natural resource and agricultural economics consultant, the chief operating officer for a California rice marketing cooperative and served as a professor and chair of the Cal Poly Agribusiness Department. He is also a past director of the California Institute for the Study of Specialty Crops at Cal Poly.

Noel taught courses in quantitative methods, agricultural cooperative management, agricultural policy, agricultural policy, agricultural economics, agricultural marketing, and research methodology.  His research efforts recently focused on the impact that market, economic, and public policies issues have on the California and U.S. agricultural specialty crop sector, food supply risk management issues, financial management, and regulatory policy analysis. His research has been published in peer-reviewed journals, research reports, and presented at conferences and workshops. His research efforts have been used by agribusiness firms, California agricultural commodity groups and government policies officials in evaluating a number of differing California food industry issues.

He looks forward to enjoying retirement with his wife and family. He will be greatly missed at the Agribusiness Department. We thank you for your many distinguished years of service!

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