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For detailed listings of other events, opportunities and resources for sustainable agriculture at Cal Poly and on the Central Coast, please visit recent postings on our Announcements page!

Swanton Pacific Ranch

As a working ranch and a living laboratory, Swanton Pacific Ranch offers a wealth of opportunities for education and research in the areas of sustainable agriculture and resource management. Called the 'Jewel of Cal Poly', the beautiful Swanton Pacific Ranch is located in Santa Cruz County, three hours north of the Cal Poly campus. The 3200-acre property encompasses a diverse set of forest, river and coastal grassland ecosystems and is home to three agricultural operations:
Certified sustainable forestry: 1400 acres of commercial, mixed conifer timberland.
Certified organic agriculture: 15 acres of cropland growing 12 varieties of apples (open for U-pick in the fall and pruning training in the Spring), Christmas trees, and Oat hay, and 65 acres leased to Jacobs Farm/ Del Cabo, Inc. to grow perennial culinary herbs.
Natural grass-fed beef: 1800 acres of rangeland for cattle production, with beef sold directly to the public in the spring in conjunction with Cal Poly Meats.

Each operation emphasizes best management practices that are designed to minimize the environmental impacts of agricultural activities. Ongoing research projects in forestry, crop, and watershed monitoring help inform all agricultural activities.

Students have the unique opportunity to gain a thorough understanding of these sustainable practices through the intensive hands-on summer courses offered at Swanton:
Sustainable Forestry and Environmental Practices
Sustainable Rangeland and Livestock Management
Social and Ecological Dynamics of California Agri-food Systems.

Swanton Ranch also offers full-time internships for each of its operations year-round.

Swanton Pacific Ranch was donated to Cal Poly in 1993 by Al Smith, Cal Poly alumnus and founder of Orchard Supply Hardware, with the aim of fostering the "Learn by doing" philosophy. Cal Poly and other CSU students, faculty, staff, outside industry and agency professionals, and local community members are encouraged to participate in any of a number of activities at Swanton. The Ranch is equipped with meeting space, accommodations, lab equipment and demonstration sites that are available for short courses, field trips, and research. Educational activities at Swanton have included those in Hydrology, Forestry, Restoration, Sustainable Agriculture, Soil Science, Environmental Geology, Watershed Management, Botany, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Art. Swanton Pacific Ranch is a unique collaborative environment representing the interdisciplinary nature of the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Science. For more information about the myriad activities and opportunities at Swanton Pacific Ranch, please visit their website at

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