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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

Behind the Scenes: Ag Department Prepares for Their Biggest Event of the Year

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The selection of wines that will be available at Taste of the Valley. (Signal Photo/Katarina Flores)

As the harvest season approaches, CSU Stanislaus’s Agriculture department is preparing for their biggest event of the year: The Taste of the Valley. 

Fine wines, delectable cheeses, and the sounds of smooth jazz will soon grace the Turlock County Fairgrounds, as the community gathers to support the future of farming.  
In a city built on farming and food craft, it’s no surprise that the local bites and brews promise to impress. 
However, the incredible eats are only the second-most-important factor in this event: at the heart of The Taste of the Valley is the students.  

For nearly twenty years, the Taste of the Valley has been bringing in vital funding and growth opportunities to the Ag Department. 

The event raises about $50,000 a year through their partnership with the Friends of the Fair Foundation, half of which returns directly to the Ag Program. 

Of this money, roughly 80% is distributed directly to worthy students in the form of scholarships.

“Everything that we raise is for the students, and with the students,” said Dr. Sofia Brizuela-Obando, a professor in Agriculture Education. 

The ninety-odd students in the Ag Department are deeply involved in the setup and execution of the event, from the P.R and fliers, to trying to secure sponsors, to cleaning the glasses the guests will drink from. 

Students also help gather and assemble baskets and goods for the event’s silent auction, which brings in the majority of the income for the night. 

Attached to each auction item is a handwritten thank-you note–another testament of their sincerity and dedication.

For them, the Taste of the Valley is more than a chance to win a scholarship.

Dr. Oluwarotimi Odeh, program director and the Rolland Starn Endowed Chair, said the event is vital because it connects the students to the community, to each other, and to future career opportunities.

“It’s not just for the money, it’s also a recognition of their hard work and their studies.  It also helps to connect them to potential employers,” he said.

Most of the students in the Ag program get multiple job offers before they graduate, says Odeh, which is in part due to this specific event. 

Big-name companies like Hilmar Cheese and Gallo Wine dispense their delicious victuals alongside local sellers, affording students a valuable opportunity to network.

“Ag is what we are here at Stanislaus,” said Dr. Brizuela-Obando.

Here in the central valley, agriculture and farming have deep roots.

Johanna Hibma (Senior/Agriculture Economics), winner of last year’s scholarship, said that bonds in the farm community are so strong that students often know, or know of, their fellow students’ families and family businesses simply from growing up in the area. 

Randall Barron (senior/Sustainable Agriculture), said that one of the reasons he transferred to Stanislaus was because of the strong presence of the Ag community.

That Taste of The Valley will happen on the Turlock County Fair Grounds October 5th, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Hibma encourages potential participants to join them in celebrating the rich history–and bright future–of Turlock’s farm community, and said, “There’s wine and food […] and it’s supporting a great cause.  You really can’t get much better.”

“The students are just like you.” Dr, Brizuela-Obando said, “They’re from this community.  We have them from all over the San Joaquin Valley.   If you’re thinking of donating money to something, please remember our Ag over here at Stanislaus State.”

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Behind the Scenes: Ag Department Prepares for Their Biggest Event of the Year