On Monday, Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, spent the day visiting the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State.
Ross saw what students have been working on in the agriculture department. Her visit included a tour of the new Jordan Agricultural Research Center and campus agriculture facilities and classroom visits.
“This is my chance to visit this beautiful new facility and see about the capacity that is being built for the future of California agriculture and to visit some of the classrooms and go out to the farm – have a chance to meet as many students as I possibly can,” Ross said.
Ross said Fresno State is a large contributor in the world’s agriculture.
“Fresno is the Ag world. When we think about California agriculture in the Central Valley, this is the heart,” Ross said. “Having this school here is a big reason for the success of Ag.”
Ga-Lhiel Dillard, Jordan College senator for Associated Students, Inc.had lunch with Ross and toured the research center.
“It’s a big deal here at Fresno State and in the Central Valley to have someone as influential as her be here in the hub of agriculture,” Dillard said.
Ross believes the future is in good hands after seeing the work the students do.
Sandra Witte, dean of the Jordan College, said Ross would speak to multiple classes within the department as a networking opportunity for students.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for the students to see how engaged their university is with the secretary of agriculture and food here in California,” Witte said. “I also think that all of our students benefit when they can interact with public figures and with people who are committed and have become role models for them and demonstrate successful careers.”
Witte also said Ross would speak with individuals on ways to improve water conservation and sustainability for the upcoming seasons. She said that Fresno is an “area of excellence” for advancements in issues pertaining to the drought.
“I think it’s a mutually beneficial opportunity for her to see what we’re doing and give us input on what we can do to further her agenda,” Witte said. “It’s [also] an opportunity for us to share with her what we’re doing and what she can do with us going forward. We are all dedicated to California agriculture. We’re here for the same purpose.”
Ross saw first-hand what students are working on when she visited the advanced cooking techniques class in the culinology department.
Megan Cunningham, a senior culinology major, and her team worked on two dishes as Ross observed them working in the kitchen.
“It’s pretty exciting. Our program doesn’t get a lot of recognition, I think on campus and a lot of people don’t really know what it is. It’s pretty special,” Cunningham said. “She picked a good day to come.”
The class was working on its poultry unit and was assigned to cook a duck and a Cornish hen using the techniques it had learned throughout the semester.
“We are in the heart of agriculture and food, so I think it’s important for us to have a program like this that takes the food that we grow and do something with it that’s productive for the community,” Cunningham said. “[It’s] something a lot of us aspire to do when we graduate.”
Ross said she is very optimistic about the future of agriculture from the effort students are putting in today.
“You will make a big difference. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a career in agriculture,” Ross said. “Being a part of nourishing people and caring for our environment.”