A Central Coast couple has given one of the largest private land gifts in Cal Poly’s history. Stu and Jan Bartleson, who have been developing land for housing and commercial real estate in the local area for decades, committed their 450-acre avocado and lemon ranch in southern San Luis Obispo County to Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences this summer.
The Bartlesons’ gift is valued at $11.3 million and expands the university’s agricultural land holdings to more than 10,000 acres. Cal Poly currently holds 6,000 acres adjacent to the San Luis Obispo campus, as well as the 3,200-acre Swanton Pacific Ranch and 600-acre Valencia property in Santa Cruz County.
The new property adds a combined 235 acres to Cal Poly’s previous 11 acres of lemon trees and 15 acres of avocado trees. College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences Dean Andy Thulin noted that the working ranch will provide ample Learn by Doing opportunities for future generations of students.
“The Bartlesons’ generosity will enable longer-term research projects, provide numerous internship opportunities for students, and facilitate income-producing industry partnerships for the college,” said Thulin.
“It’s exciting to think about this being kept as ag land and carrying our name in perpetuity,” Stu Bartleson said. “I’m also excited to think that the ranch will help prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s ag industry leaders.”
The Bartlesons are known for their philanthropic efforts throughout the Central Coast, supporting youth, senior citizen and animal welfare causes, among others. The couple was honored in 2011 for their work by Celebrate Philanthropy, a local nonprofit organization.
“It just makes Stu feel so good that the avocados and lemons will be able to continue on,” Jan Bartleson said. “It’s very important to him that it stay the way it is, and the right place to donate it to is Cal Poly.”