Editor’s Note: This is an emailed response sent to staff and faculty at Pierce College by campus president Kathleen Burke-Kelly. This letter is in response to articles previously written by the Roundup, LA Times, and a broadcast report made by KCAL9.
Good Afternoon Pierce College:
As many of you are aware a story regarding the Pierce College Farm ran in the LA Times on Sunday and some of the local news channels late last week. Below is a statement regarding those stories that we just posted on the College website. I am sending this out to the entire college community so that you may address any questions or concerns that you are receiving from concerned community members regarding the status of the farm and our animals. We are still pursuing Hispanic Serving Agricultural College and University (HSACU) status through the federal government. I will be meeting with the Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. at the end of this month to further than conversation.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT ON PIERCE COLLEGE FARM
March 14, 2012 – Email To All Pierce College
In response to the Los Angeles Times story dated 3/11/2012, entitled “Pierce College animal program may lose its farm,” I want to state clearly: there have been absolutely no discussions of closing the Pierce Farm.
Every now and then rumors surface claiming Pierce is closing its farm and it is an emotional topic for our community. In this case, although I conveyed to the Times reporter that the farm was not closing, the story that resulted was misleading.
Yes, there have been brutal budget cuts to the college. No, Pierce is not closing its farm.
We have not discussed putting this program into a viability review, much less discontinuance.
The animals discussed in this article are used for our pre-veterinary program, which has been subject to the same 10% budget cut as every other department. This is due to the dire state California’s budget, resulting in $6 million in cuts to Pierce College over the last two years. Five thousand dollars in additional funding to feed the animals was approved on Monday, March 12.
We are keenly aware of our responsibility to the animals living on our 64-year-old farm, and their care and feeding is a high priority. In 1947, all of our students were agriculture majors, and the farm supported larger numbers of animals, along with a dairy. The needs of our community have changed greatly since then and Pierce College has evolved to serve them. The dairy, along with its milk production classes, closed 22 years ago due to lagging student interest.
Today 300-400 of the 19,000 Pierce College students use the farm to study agriculture, and we maintain small herds of cows, horses, goats, sheep and chickens to support them on 225 acres of open space.
Budget cuts are making it more difficult to operate and maintain our staffing levels. In December, a staff member who worked directly with the farm did retire and thus far we have decided not to replace that position–along with a series of other positions in many departments throughout campus.
The Farm Market at Victory and De Soto–separate from our academic program and independent of college funding–will open soon for the season and is in no jeopardy of closing.
Every spring Pierce puts on the popular Farmwalk, a day we invite the community in to visit the farm and enjoy the animals for a $5 donation that raises money to support the farm and put the event on the following year. This year our Farmwalk is April 22, and we hope everyone will turn out.
Those who wish to donate to the Pierce Farm may visit the Foundation for Pierce College webpage, click donate, and write “Friends of the Pierce College Farm” in the notation field, at http://foundation.piercecollege.edu/ <http://foundation.piercecollege.edu/>