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Video by Matt Yoon and Dylan Head // Story by Larry Peña
What does Learn by Doing taste like? In the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, Cal Poly students work year-round to create products for customers to enjoy at home, from seasonal flowers to wines to meats and cheeses.
“Yes, I am putting in the effort to make this, but I know someone else is going to enjoy it at the end,” says Ellie Conlin-Day, a third-year food science student who has been helping to make Cal Poly Jam for the last few years. “It’s not just for me — it’s for the enjoyment of, hopefully, many other people.”
For many students, enrolling in one of the dozens of enterprise courses is a perfect stepping stone to a career in the industry.
“We have alumni working all over the food industry, from Kraft to Frito-Lay to Amy’s,” said Molly Lear, operations manager at the Food Science and Nutrition pilot plant, where she oversees students making jam, chocolate and condiments. “We do not struggle with companies looking for our students, because they know they’re getting that hands-on experience.”
That preparation is exactly what many students are looking for.
“I grew up hunting and fishing a lot, and I always had a passion for processing my own game, and growing up doing that really sparked my interest in the meat industry,” said Donnovan McAbee, a third-year agricultural science major from Hollister, California who works at Cal Poly Meats. “That’s why I’m working on this operation, and I definitely want to go back home and open up a meat shop back in Hollister.”
But whether or not students end up in the food industry, experience producing food at Cal Poly in a professional setting yields a wealth of important skills for any career.
“The students who are working here get a lot of great hands-on managerial skills — how to delegate, how to be responsible, time management, how to react when something goes wrong, how to make the ethical and proper choice,” said Lear.