"The university systems are failing agriculture in many ways," says Cindy Daley, Professor of Animal Science in the College of Agriculture at Chico State. This is why she spearheaded a project to develop an organic, grass-based dairy on 85 acres of the University's 800-acre conventional farm. The dairy celebrated its inaugural milking in March of 2007, becoming a new member of Organic Valley and supplying milk for the farmer-owned co-op's California Pastures milk.
The Chico State organic dairy is managed by a team of students who are involved in every aspect of operations, including management decisions, which are discussed at bi-weekly roundtable meetings. "We've got a great hands-on tool here, from the conventional-to-organic transition, through herd health, pasture management, ration formulation, genetics, profitability, and profit margins," Professor Daley says. But it's not just the students immediately associated with the dairy who are exposed to the organic paradigm. Students in animal science, feeds and nutrition, forages, integrated animal systems, and pre-veterinarian classes all come to the dairy for study and observation. Professor Daley would love to market some of the milk they produce right on campus. "We need to develop a whole business plan which would bring in yet more layers of students, broadening the scope of their education from soil to market."
"This dairy is really all about bringing a new paradigm into the curriculum," Professor Daley says. "Organic agriculture enhances the survival of family farms." As a 5th generation Midwest farmer, family farms are near and dear to Cindy Daley's heart. "I want to see a culture change in how we're training people at the university level. If they don't get exposed to new ideas and broader thinking in college, when will they get exposed?"