As the eldest and as a first generation Mexican-American, Ulises went with his family to berry fields as young as five years old. He has fond memories of running around the fields, taking buckets of berries from his family, and bringing them empty ones so they didn’t waste valuable time.
“I get nostalgic thinking about being in the fields as a kid – I had a lot of fun,” says Ulises.
As a teenager, he picked berries and still enjoyed the work. He decided he wanted to know about farming.
“I could do the work, but I needed to learn how to grow, so I could be a grower.”
Ulises earned a couple of certificates at Cabrillo and enjoyed his time in the Horticulture Department.
“The program was fun. And the people there allowed me to feel comfortable and be myself. It gave me confidence.”
He now is a field manager at a local nonprofit farm, Farm Discovery and is enjoying the work. Through this position, he’s sharpening his tools and gaining experience for a smooth transition to a larger production farm.
His advice to people thinking about the program, “Be patient. Know that not everything is going to go as planned. There are so many factors that go into running a farm, and you don’t always have control. Be prepared, have a Plan B, and be comfortable with imperfections.”
Ryo chose agronomy as a major when he went to New Mexico State University as he felt it was very practical for the future. Compared to what is learned for other degrees, he found that soil and plants seemed ‘more real.’ Coming back to the area after a year, he enrolled at Cabrillo. He then used the transfer path to CSUMB.
“It was a very positive experience, and I learned a lot. I’ve found the reference materials still come in handy,” says Ryo.
Ryo took a lot of different classes at Cabrillo, most with an ag focus but some in landscaping and hydroponics. There is such a broad range of classes he now wishes that he had taken more, such as irrigation.
“Cabrillo has such a good reputation and impressive facilities like the greenhouses.”
Ryo believes that Cabrillo did prepare him well for transferring to CSUMB and for the upper-level classes.
His advice is to take as many classes as you can, and you are interested in. Save the materials for the future as they will come in useful.
“Enjoy your time, it's great, one of the best programs out there.”
Jessica V. started the Horticulture program thinking she wanted to be an organic field grower, but her greenhouse and hydroponics classes led her to focus on controlled environment agriculture as a way to grow more food on less land. She couldn't get away from organics, so she consistently worked on how to make hydroponics organic. She worked for five years at Jacobs Farm/del Cabo, first as the organic hydroponics grower as assistant breeder and later as Greenhouse Manager. Following Jacobs Farm, Jessica opened the Grower Consulting department for LumiGrow, Inc. and later took over as Director of Operations and Grower Consulting. Now she has circled back to organic field production. During COVID, LumiGrow shut down due to supply chain issues out of Asia where their equipment was manufactured and programmed.
“I had formed strong relationships with greenhouse growers during this challenging time and continued working with them pro bono. That led to starting my own consulting business," says Jessica.
She had an opportunity to develop a lettuce scouting protocol for a local company. Giving credit to the professional networking within the Horticulture program, Jessica has expanded her consulting business to include field scouting for local organic growers.
“I met Organic Crop Scout Doug O’Brien when I took his class at Cabrillo, and we continued our professional relationship over the years. I was completely new to field scouting so I asked if I could shadow him.”
As Doug is working toward retirement and reducing his hours, he offered to teach her his scouting techniques and help her set up a consulting business.
Her business is growing with a select group of local organic growers of vegetables, herbs, berries, and cut flowers.
“The work is fabulous – I love it! It’s been terrifying to build my own business, but I love the work.”
Jessica can’t stress enough the importance of the connections she made at Cabrillo. She credits her success to what she learned in the program and the connections she made with industry experts.
“The faculty are top notch instructors who enjoy getting their hands dirty and giving value to the students. I remember Doug encouraging all students to stay in touch after the end of the class. This reflects the caliber of all instructors. This network has served me throughout my career.”
She encourages all students to take advantage of and enjoy the relationships they build in the program. The local ag community is rewarding to work with.
View Jessica's videos on LinkedIn.