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Despite state budget cuts, Cal Poly Pomona farm produces profit

August 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Like other California campuses, California State Polytechnic University has been hit hard by state budget cuts. But a school that prides itself on its agriculture and veterinary programs is trying to cope. Students and faculty are dealing with the cutbacks.

An Arabian horse ranch, one of the biggest in the United States, is also a classroom located on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona. A country market is also a classroom.

The young people who work at both are students that are being paid to learn. And like other state universities, the campus is dealing with budget cuts.

Even though the Arabian Horse Center has been funded by cereal maker Kellogg since it opened in 1925, it's had to cut back on classes that teach students how to work with animals

"We've had to limit our number of equestrian classes, things like equitation and farrier classes," said Cal Poly Veterinarian Dr. James Alderson. "We haven't been able to offer those simply because we don't have enough money for the professors to teach those courses."

The campus farm produces about 80 percent of the produce it sells in the store. The store is self-sufficient. Every last penny that's left after the bills are paid for utilities, seeds, equipment maintenance and much more, goes right back into keeping the doors open.

"We get real-world experience all the time and I mean I've learned just as much as I have learned in class here at my job," said student Kirk Weatherton.

This year for the first time, they're actually going to be put some money away, which is a real success.

The campus store generated $1.3 million in sales during the last school year, 4 percent of which was profit.

"The most important thing that we can do is keep the revenue up because that means I can employ more students so that they can pay for themselves to get through school," said Cal Poly Professor Dawn Taccone.

Demand for agricultural-science courses has increased according to the university by more than 20 percent in the past five years.