Fourth generation farmers providing organic produce for the Central Coast.
Ranked one of the five best community colleges in California, Allan Hancock College (AHC) serves more than 10,000 students per semester, 98 percent of which come from the local area. While the college has numerous certificate and degree programs to choose from, those focusing on the food system are very popular due to the abundance of local agriculture employment opportunities and high demand for skilled workers. Whether students aim to complete a certificate or associate’s degree on campus, or transfer to a four-year university to complete a bachelor’s, master’s, or more advanced degree, there are options for anyone at any stage in their studies and/or career.
Incoming students who are interested in food systems can take advantage of AHC’s Field to Table Week of Welcome, a two-day program that introduces a variety of field-to-table disciplines, such as Agriculture, Culinary Arts and Management, Viticulture, and Food Science and Nutrition. Even though students choose one program to focus on, they will undoubtedly have opportunities to explore and interact across disciplines as they pursue their studies. For example, the Agriculture Program runs an on-campus greenhouse, fruit orchard, and farm where agriculture students gain hands-on learning experience and culinary arts and nutrition students source produce for their cooking classes. This type of cross-discipline collaboration gives students the opportunity to learn and experience how diverse career pathways can intersect with – and build resilienceFood System Resilience: A food system that can withstand and recover from unforeseen disturbances and changes over time to supply sufficient, appropriate, and accessible food for all. into – a localized food systemLocalized Food System: A localized food system encompasses the closed loop path of food as it moves from farm to table within the same region, including where it is grown, processed, distributed, consumed, and disposed of.. As Food Science, Nutrition, and Culinology Program Coordinator/Professor Christine Bisson says, “We are trying to celebrate local produce in all of our programs, build awareness about the food system, and encourage students to prioritize local produce in whatever industry they enter.”
For local high school students interested in pursuing a career in agriculture, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District (SMJUHSD) provides a direct pathway for students to continue their food system education at AHC. Before they graduate, students have the option to take one or more of 15 concurrent enrollment classes with their high school Future Farmers of America (FFA) partners. The courses are taught at their high school campus by an AHC-qualified instructor and students earn credit as if they took the class at AHC. Additionally, AHC hosts tours of the agriculture and viticulture facilities, invites students to help with the grape harvest in the on-campus vineyard, and facilitates industry roundtable events to introduce high school students to careers in agriculture.
Once on campus, the Agriculture Program provides a wide range of classes in areas such as agribusiness, crop protection, horticulture, soil science, and commodity sales and marketing. Speaking to the plethora of opportunities, Agriculture Program Coordinator and Instructor Erin Krier emphasized that “part of our job is to help students discern what their interests and talents are. No matter what you’re interested in, it could all happen within the agriculture industry.” Krier and her colleagues work closely with SMJUHSD to connect students to careers in agriculture.
Learn more about how you can start a career in Agriculture, Culinary Arts and Food Science, and Viticulture and Enology at Allan Hancock College and consider attending AHC’s Field to Table Week of Welcome.