SANTA ROSA -- An evolutionary period for the agriculture and natural resources department at Santa Rosa Junior College has continued into the college's fall semester, with the hiring of a full-time agribusiness instructor and coordinator expected to advance efforts to familiarize students with the business principles behind farming and food.
Most recently an instructor at Yolo County's Woodland Community College, George Sellu will teach five courses this semester and work more broadly to help guide the department's overall approach to agribusiness education. His hiring marks what the department's dean, Dr. Ganesan Srinivasan, said is the first full-time agribusiness instructor for SRJC in recent memory.
It is also the most recent benchmark for business education at the largest community college agriculture program in California, one that has developed a number of educational programs that leverage the real-world experience of generating revenue from agricultural and culinary ventures.
"We can't do things as we used to -- agriculture has changed," said Mr. Sellu. "The whole process of bringing it to the consumer is part of agribusiness."
Mr. Sellu, who received a Master of Arts degree in agricultural education from University of California, Davis, taught high school agriculture for 10 years prior to his role at Woodland. His selection followed what department chair Casey Cole said was an extensive recruitment process both inside and outside of SRJC.
"George's vision is to guide students to develop effective business skills that address community and industry needs," she said.
In the North Bay, Mr. Sellu said that the connection between environmentally sound practices and a product was a powerful draw for consumers. That relationship has helped to propel the popularity of revenue-generating initiatives like the community-supported agriculture program from the college's 365-acre Shone Farm, and provided an opportunity to learn ways to adopt those practices with an eye on profit margins.
"We can't just talk about it. I have to work with the farm manager and the producers as a business person and say, 'how can we all accomplish our goals?'" he said.
Finding ways to further market other consumer products, like the farm's award-winning wine and olive oil, will be among other early efforts, he said.
A number of entrepreneurial initiatives have expanded since Dr. Srinivasan joined SRJC as its new dean of agriculture last year, including the convergence of management for the agriculture and culinary arts programs. Collaborative efforts have created further connections between Shone Farm and the $20 million B. Robert Burdo Culinary Arts Center, with the potential for expanded wine production and other initiatives on the horizon.
"Quite frankly, if you go to a four-year school, you might not have the opportunity to do that," Mr. Sellu said.