Bartleson will meet with Thulin in the upcoming month to discuss the land's future use. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Benjy Egel

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Ranch owners Stu and Jan Bartleson donated 450 acres of agricultural land in Arroyo Grande to the Cal Poly Corporation on Monday, one of the largest land gifts in university history.

College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Science (CAFES) students will use the land as a hands-on laboratory, college dean Andy Thulin said. The ranch, which is valued at $11.3 million, will still operate commercially and sell products grown on the property to pay for its upkeep, but Thulin anticipates it being used for faculty research and student internship opportunities.

“It’s a great place just to bring our students out (to) because it’s a commercial ranch. We don’t have this kind of thing on campus,” Thulin said. “You’ve got water issues, you’ve got insecticide challenges … What they learn on campus, they can come out and see in real life.”

The Bartlesons will continue managing the land until Stu is ready to give up the responsibility or passes away. He said he would likely maintain authority until at least the end of the calendar year before transferring Bartleson Ranch and Conservatory to Cal Poly.

Joseph Pack/Mustang News
Joseph Pack/Mustang News

The ranch is currently home to approximately 18,572 lemon trees over 150 acres and 8,842 avocado trees over 120 acres, Bartleson said. California’s drought will likely impact how long he manages the property.

“It depends somewhat on what happens with the rain,” Bartleson said. “If we can get our wells restored … I think I’m ready to turn it all over to (Cal Poly) and walk away.”

Joseph Pack/Mustang News
Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Though Cal Poly’s Master Plan proposed building a number of new facilities over on-campus agricultural land, including a hotel and conference center, Thulin said the new land donation would not replace learning facilities in San Luis Obispo.

“Our core learning process, our hands-on learning process will always be at Cal Poly,” Thulin said. “This ranch, like our Swanton Pacific Ranch, supplements that learning process.”

Thulin, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, Cal Poly Corporation interim executive director Lorlie Leetham and Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance executive assistant Cindy Pilg signed the property transfer at the Bartlesons’ party barn on Monday around 11 a.m..

Student leaders like CAFES Board of Directors representative Jana Colombini, University Union Advisory Board (UUAB) vice chair and Agriculture Ambassadors president Jake Odello and CAFES Student Council president Vanessa Alexandre were also on hand to witness the signing.

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