by Valley Ag Voice Staff
California State University Bakersfield (CSUB) has dedicated a significant amount of effort to help students realize their entrepreneurial goals. The CSUB Business and Public Administration program along with the entrepreneur club have been hosting a series of presentations to inspire students to bring creative ideas to practical industry use. On December 6th, they hosted a presentation on one of Kern County’s largest industry clusters: agriculture.
Assistant Professor of Management, Jeremy Woods, coordinated the program for CSUB and wanted the focus for this panel to be on roles where entrepreneurs could excel in agriculture and a specific topic to focus on water solutions in the industry. “Our top club members are passionate, out-of-the box thinkers who take initiative but are also humble, coachable, and diligent. When we say, “entrepreneurially minded,” that’s what we mean. Wonderful, Grimmway, and other large ag companies hire plenty of CSUB students and have plenty of recruiting events focused on “regular” students. This speaker panel focuses specifically on the kinds of jobs where they need someone who is entrepreneurially minded,” commented Woods.
Panelists came from the large corporations in the agriculture space, support industries, and those that facilitate permitting. The panelists were:
Garrett Busch –Water Resources Manager, Wonderful Orchards
Curtis Lutje –General Manager, Laurel Ag (Formerly US Irrigation)
Nick McGill –Owner, Kern Irrigation Scheduling
April Morris –Director of Employee Learning and Development, Grimmway Farms
Russell Johnson—Owner, Common Sense Consulting, and Co-Owner, Valley Ag Voice
All the panelists encouraged students that entrepreneurs are needed in agriculture. It was highlighted that challenges and hurdles come up every day, and it often takes unique solutions to address those problems. Many times, it comes down to finding a person who can focus on the unique problem in a different way where a new business opportunity is created.
All the panelists addressed the fact that water is a large challenge facing agriculture. Students were informed that with reductions in surface water supplies, agriculture has had to make changes in the way the industry uses water. Irrigation has improved, the use of water has been focused to eliminate waste, and crop rotation has been utilized to manage the scarce resource of water.
The topic of regulations on the waterfront also became a major point of discussion. With the introduction of the State Ground Water Management Act (SGMA) all water users in the state are going to reduce their water use. Agriculture is very concerned with the challenges of complying with the new rules. The point was made to the students that in times of challenge and adversity there is also opportunity. Farmers and water users will be looking for creative solutions to address these new water challenges. Short of new development of additional surface storage water and water quality, we will be starving for entrepreneurial solutions.
Professor Woods addressed the importance of the panel discussion by saying, “Lots of people all over the state, the country, and the world are working on sustainable water solutions for the ag sector. This panel focuses on things that AREN’T being done right now that our student entrepreneurs should focus on doing.”