Campus: Cal Poly Pomona -- October 26, 2001

Cultivating Understanding - Cal Poly Pomona's Agriscapes Project To Promote Agricultural, Environmental Awareness

What kid doesn't like to get dirty? Digging in and becoming one with the earth is something nearly everybody does during their childhood.

Somewhere along the way, however, most of us shift away from the soil. Outside of mowing lawns and occasionally weeding the flower garden, urban living here in Southern California affords little chance to expand the nature side of our character. Yet nearly 25 percent of California's jobs are in some way related to the food and fiber industry, and the 250 major crops grown here account for $20 billon of the state's economy.

Cal Poly Pomona wants to reestablish that link to the land while at the same time providing a learning resource for elementary school students, their families and the community. That's the idea behind AGRIscapes, a 40-acre diversified research, education and demonstration center scheduled to open on Nov. 28.

Located south of Temple Avenue and just west of the university's main campus entrance, AGRIscapes is an indoor/outdoor facility intended to help visitors recognize the role of agriculture in today's society.
AGRIscapes will include a visitor center, special exhibit area, a small theater and an expanded university farm store plus administrative offices, teaching laboratories, greenhouses and research facilities. Gardens, crop fields and grazing areas will surround the newly constructed buildings and parking lot, offering a picturesque and informative setting.

While it will be home to ongoing collegiate course work, projects and research throughout the year, the main focus of AGRIscapes involves community access and education.

"I imagine school buses coming down the road every day, each carrying 3rd thru 8th graders," says Peggy McLaughlin, professor in the university's horticulture, plant & soil science department. "They'll learn about where food comes from and about science and environmental issues. They'll learn about what we take from the land and what we restore. I also see kids bringing their families back here on weekends, where as a family they'll learn the importance agriculture plays in California's economy."

Recycling and environmental education will be an important segment of the AGRIscapes experience. Funded in part by a $5.6 million contribution from the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, the facility is adjacent to the recently closed Spadra Landfill and the university's Center for Regenerative Studies. Interactive exhibits will provide background and detail the important responsibility society faces to maintain and replenish the earth's many resources.

Elementary students will be shown how technology has changed the way food is produced and processed. There will also be hands-on lessons reviewing methods used to milk cows, make bread and grow crops on an 1880s farm.

While parents and others can see the various displays on weekends, of particular interest will be the enhanced Farm Store, which provides a spectacular shopping opportunity. Already open for business, it serves as an outlet for goods produced at the university farm, nursery, orchard as well as specialty items from throughout the state. Proceeds from Farm Store sales help fund scholarships for the College of Agriculture.

The goal of AGRIscapes is to afford an entertaining, educational experience for all ages that will offer a sense of history and increase awareness and appreciation for agriculture in today's society.

"People will come to find out about food, clothing, planting and landscaping," says College of Agriculture dean Wayne Bidlack. "It can come to a point where Southern California - and possibly all of California - will recognize this site as a place where the public learns about agriculture."

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