Ventura College unveiled its new avocado orchard with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 10. About 90 students, staff, government dignitaries and college supporters were on hand for the ceremony.
The size of the orchard is a little over an acre and holds an estimated 100, 1-year-old Haas avocado trees. The first crop is expected in 1 1/2 to 2 years.
The avocado orchard will be incorporated into the college’s agriculture program. The program returned to Ventura College in the fall of 2017. Under the leadership of faculty and program coordinator, Dr. Dorothy Farias, the two-year program currently serves 20 agriculture students. The goal is to increase class offerings and boost enrollment.
The orchard was made possible by funding and donations from the local agriculture industry including Mission Produce, Quality Ag, Inc., Brokaw Nursery, Halter-Encinas Enterprises, and Coast Water Solutions. Orchard funding was also received from donors through the Ventura College Foundation.
Student interns will help maintain the avocado orchard in partnership with Mission Produce agriculture workers. Students will have a hands-on experience learning how a commercial avocado orchard is maintained, harvested, prepared for market and then sold. Avocados will be the property of Mission Produce. The avocados will be picked by Mission staff and will go through the company’s processes to get them ready for sale. The Ventura College agriculture program will receive a portion of the avocado sales proceeds.
“Agriculture is one of the top employers in Ventura County so it’s Ventura College’s goal to introduce additional programs at the school so young people will get excited about agriculture and are prepared for well-paying careers in the industry,” says Farias. “The orchard and the real-world education it will bring to our students is invaluable.”
Those attending the grand opening included Dr. Kim Hoffmans, president, Ventura College,
Anne Paul King, executive director, Ventura College Foundation, Matt LaVere, Ventura mayor and Ventura College Foundation board member, Cheryl Heitmann, Ventura City Council member, Stephanie Caldwell, president and CEO, Ventura Chamber of Commerce and John Marquez, executive director, Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce.
“The farming community has been very supportive of our efforts,” says Hoffmans. “Some of our students took part in summer harvesting with Reiter Affiliated Companies, Driscoll’s and Hollandia Produce to supplement their learning. We’re in the process of creating additional internships with a number of local growers.”
For more information about the Ventura College Agriculture Program, go to https://www.venturacollege.edu.