Cal Poly students again angered by plan to develop farmland

May 16, 2016
The areas along Mt. Bishop Road that are colored white and green are farmland Cal Poly is considering developing. The are colored pink is also farmland that may be developed.

The areas along Mt. Bishop Road that are colored white and green are farmland Cal Poly is considering developing. The area colored pink is also farmland that may be developed.

For the second time in the span of a year, Cal Poly agriculture students are protesting a university plan to develop farmland. The new proposal targets land where cattle graze, and it has angered dairy science students.

Last June, a student initiative succeeded in getting the university to drop a plan to develop 43 acres of farmland that agriculture students use as classrooms. As part of Cal Poly’s master plan update, university officials considered building housing, hotels and a convention center on the farmland. The land consists of lemon and orange groves, grapevines, a deciduous orchard and silage for Cal Poly livestock.

ZFfUQgIQB6Sq2YkYBtih_cal+poly+groupThe university’s latest version of the master plan update proposes building sports fields, a parking structure and other facilities on land currently used for dairy farming.

In response, more than 1,600 individuals have signed an online petition calling on Cal Poly to scrap the development plans. The petition, which currently has 1,654 signatures, states the farmland is essential for a dairy Cal Poly students operate because it is where heifers graze, wastewater is disposed and students grow crops for the cattle.

Several faculty members also use the fields for research, and forage classes and fertilizer labs. Additionally, the rodeo and tractor pull events at Cal Poly’s open house take place on fields the university plans to develop.

The farmland Cal Poly plans to transform into a parking structure and sports fields is located on the east side of Mount Bishop Road. Grazing land northwest of that location is slated to be developed into a corporate yard and/or a business hub, data center and rose float storage facility.

Supporters of Cal Poly’s dairy science program say, if the land is developed, there are few, if any, other places on campus where cattle can be placed. Dairy science proponents also say the university is abandoning its “Learn by Doing” motto.

Last year, agriculture students launched a website and a petition opposing the plan to build housing, hotels and a convention center on farmland. Faculty members also voiced displeasure with the proposal. Cal Poly officials decided to scrap the development shortly following a 78-21 vote of no-confidence in Andrew Thulin, the dean of the College of Agriculture.


Dairy science, crop production and ag in general, don’t bring in the big bucks that parking, room and board, sports and all the other “non educational endeavors bring…so why not gobble up all the available land.

You can bet the corporate world is contributing/lobbying heavily for their stake in the university.


That “corporate world” includes BIG AG along with the former CFO of Apple that gave what, $50M to the college of agriculture?


Sadly the motto “Learn by Doing” has become “Earn $ by Developing.”

An online petition is alright but a more effective approach is to outreach to former Cal Poly Mustangs. They–not current students–are the ones who are on mailing lists & donate $ each year.

Use social media to post info about this awful proposed development. Many alumni would not return those fundraising envelopes. Some athletic funds and academic endowments could really suffer without all the cash that normally pours in each year.

Alumni: if you disagree with Poly’s neverending land grab, say so with your pocketbooks!


More empire building. The university’s large enough. Armstrong wants it bigger, to match his ego. This rural university doesn’t need to grow any more. Let the campus growth happen in urban areas. But that wouldn’t nourish Armstrong’s ego. That’s the bottom line here.

Jorge Estrada

And we are forced to use less water?


I was a Poly student in the late 1970’s and early ’80’s and have been surprised by the development and building since then. Back then, I felt the ag lands were sacred and thought they’d remain undeveloped forever. I hope they scale back, and keep Poly from becoming over-built like so many other campuses (UCI, UCSB, etc). Keep the ag in Poly, limit its student population and get the CSU organization to build new campuses elsewhere.


It’s called projected costs… they want to keep their salaries rising as they’ve been, and when they project it with current levels of income, well, they’re probably seeing a problem 10-20 years out. This is one of the biggest reasons things grow. In the professional world, it’s great when companies grow. In government (and quasi-government like Poly), it’s not so good. Either they have to increase fees & tuitions (which they always do anyway) or they need to grow the student debtors (which they are currently doing). So this “plan” tells me that both the increase in fees and number of debtors are still not enough to cover what they want to be making in a few years, so… development it is!

Of course this is not sustainable at some point (much like our economy), but that’s a kicked can for the next batch of fools to mismanage…


Another option would be for Cal Poly to legally condemn adjoining lands through eminent domain as it did under CP President Julian McPhee.


this is a good lesson for students: raw land won’t be left alone.


Cal Poly should build UP not OUT when it comes to classrooms, dorms and parking. Cal Poly is state property. It’s not controlled by the City of SLO. If it must grow, make it grow UP so that it can preserve the resources that help to make it so special.


A former Ag Department head told me about ten years ago that any student can grow crops on the flat farm land off Hwy 1 between the KVEC radio tower and Stenner Creek Rd. He said it might be more of challenge to try to grow something in the not so fertile foothills. This time they aren’t even talking about using that row-crop land.


I hear you, but that was ten years ago. What’s the status today? Any permits pulled, etc. Thanks and Best Regards.