Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong agreed to change the master plan due to the number of signatures on a petition to preserve vital agricultural land use for dairy education.
The land is currently being used for animal wastewater disposal, grazing land and research.
Agriculture students started the opposition petition to maintain Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto. They planned to get 5,000 signatures and reached at least 1,863 before their voices were heard.
The fields that would be replaced would affect the daily operation of the dairy science program.
By putting a facility complex over agricultural land, the program would have limited disposal of animal wastewater or bio nutrient management, grazing room for cattle and faculty research.
According to animal science department head Jaymie Noland, the fields are currently used as spray fields for dairy waste management and pasture land for heifers and dry cows.
“We became concerned at that point that that would impact the educational process and health and well-being of the dairy,” Noland said. “The issue was putting a facilities unit right to dairy, and not having a space for livestock to graze, and also the biosecurity issue and location seemed very problematic.”
However, Noland wasn’t just concerned about the welfare of dairy science supporters, but also about the facility complex employees because it would not be a good fit for either side.
“I don’t think the facilities will want to be that close to the dairy,” Noland said. “If you’ve ever been up there, there’s a lot of flies and odor; they don’t make the most wonderful neighbors.”
Dairy science sophomore Samiel Tom began her courses learning about animal nutrition and dairy cows by going out to the fields, which is why she can’t imagine learning it any other way.
“It would definitely affect me as a dairy science student because we won’t have the land that we use for teaching, which would not be in agreement with Cal Poly’s commitment to Learn by Doing,” Tom said. “I came to Cal Poly because I knew I would have all these resources and to think that future students might not get that is disappointing.”
Without the lands, students wouldn’t have the resources to make Cal Poly products, dairy science sophomore Emily Butner said.
“The dairy industry is a huge component of California agriculture, so removal of this land to be used for other purposes is not only going to affect the dairy program, but affect everyone,” Butner said. “Because without that land, we cannot operate a successful dairy and a wide variety of ag majors come in and learn hands on stuff about the dairy industry.”
What separates Cal Poly is its Learn by Doing motto, which is critical to students understanding the agriculture business.
“If Cal Poly wants to make the next generation the future leaders of agriculture, it’s very important that they all understand what happens on the dairy operation by doing it themselves,” Butner said.
However, the petition brought the issue to light.
“Good news is that now the Master Plan committee and president are very responsive,” Noland said. “We have had a positive discussion where they now understand some of the more subtle nuances of the problems that dairy would face.”
In the meeting with the Master Plan committee and Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, Noland said that they are in the process of making changes to the Master Plan in order to accommodate for the needs and functionality of the dairy.
“We reached an agreement to move that complex off of dairy land, and I think that will be a win-win for everyone,” Noland said.
The spray fields between Mt. Bishop Road and the railroad tracks were set to be replaced by a corporate yard, facilities, business hub which are indicated by the pink areas.
Armstrong sent an email to Noland stating that they have decided to relocate the pink area to the upper portion of Stenner Creek Housing Site therefore, the projects will not impact the land currently used by dairy science. Armstrong also said he appreciated the attention and advocacy for dairy science.