Coburn Palmer/ Roundup
The alarmingly shrinking size of the Pierce College Farm is enough to cause a panic for the department of agriculture.
Over the past forty years, the Agriculture Department has lost nearly 95 percent of their animals and 100 percent of their orchard.
With the rise of technology, a finite amount of space to build on and state budget shortfalls have changed Dr. Clarence W. Pierce’s vision of an agricultural school into what it is today.
California is called the “breadbasket of the nation.” Its central valley is comprised of farms and orchards. Food from California flows all over the nation and even overseas.
“Since World War II, California has been the number one agriculture state,” said Dr. Leland Shapiro, a longtime Pierce professor.
Gone are most of the cattle that used to wander the Pierce range and with them an immensely valuable teaching tool.
“I came in one day and all the cows were gone,” said professor and an alumna at Pierce, Kathy Oborn. “They just loaded them all into a truck.”
Pierce has tried to copy Cal Poly’s system of teaching, which is to learn by doing. This becomes increasingly difficult when animals are not around.
“We can talk about the animals but not show them,” said Shapiro.
The 15-acre orchard that used to be on the campus is gone too. Also missing are the animal units that were removed to build parking lot eight. Their return has been promised but as of now they are still missing.
Maintaining a farm can be very time consuming and expensive and Pierce has suffered along with the rest of the state because of budget cut backs but now has two full time employees for the farm, according to Shapiro.
“You can’t put an animal on a shelf and say I’ll water you on Monday,” said Shapiro.
Pierce has recently built the Center for the Sciences buildings and invested more money on the farm.
“The administration is willing to give us a shot,” said Shapiro.
Pierce’s agriculture program has changed from one with an emphasis on farming to one with an emphasis on veterinary skills.
There are only 27 veterinary schools in the United States and there is currently a shortage of about 2500 veterinarians across the nation, according to Shapiro.
California has only three public universities teaching agriculture and farming: University of California, Davis, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Pierce is the only community college between the San Fernando Valley and Mexico teaching agriculture, according to Shapiro.
With fewer schools teaching the necessary farming skills and the demand for farmers and the food they produce expected to continue into the future, it is necessary to determine where our food will come from.
“If we reduce our food supply in the United States then we’ll be dependant on the rest of the world,” said Shapiro.
One possible option is Mexico, but their quality controls are less then our own.
“Many people say we don’t need agriculture any more and I would agree with them as long as they don’t eat,” said Shapiro.