Keith Barnard, Mission Produce’s vice president of global sourcing, joined the Ventura, Calif.-based junior college’s foundation in 2018. He described Ventura County as a close-knit agriculture community.
“When students see and interact with the avocado learning lab, we know they’ll get excited about our industry,” Barnard said in a news release.
Other entities participating in the project are:
- Halter-Encinas Enterprises Inc.
- Coast Water Solutions
- Brokaw Nursery LLC
- Quality Ag Inc.
Through the project, Mission Produce hopes to inspire an interactive learning environment, advance research and attract students with an interest in agriculture, according to the release.
The orchard, nearly an acre with about 100 one-year-old trees, features the same innovative techniques used in Mission Produce’s avocado production. The trees are on berms to encourage drainage and an irrigation system provides water and fertilizer.
Matt LaVere, the City of Ventura mayor and Ventura College Foundation board member, said the partnership with the college, its foundation and Mission Produce is an example of how innovative companies can partner with academia.
“This new avocado learning lab, along with the college’s commitment to agricultural education, will provide students the training and experience necessary to obtain highly-successful careers in our local agricultural sector,” LaVere said in the release.
Ventura College started its agriculture program again two years ago, and there are 20 students in the program. Students in the program will tend the avocado orchard.
“This hands-on experience will give our students the freedom to learn in a practical way,” Dorothy Farias, program director, said in the release. “We are grateful for the companies’ donations and eagerness to develop these types of programs on our campus and create a new pipeline of potential employees for the local ag industry.”