The College of Agriculture has received an $800,000 donation to expand educational outreach programs at AGRIscapes and create an endowment to support plant science and agribusiness students.
Businessman Jim Hicks, a longtime supporter of the College of Agriculture, along with his wife Neta, made the donation. It’s the largest single gift ever given to the college.
“We’re grateful for the Hicks’ passion for agricultural education and their generosity for supporting our programs,” says Mary Holz-Clause, dean of the College of Agriculture. “Their donation will go a long way toward raising up the next generations of leaders in agriculture.”
Jim Hicks says he’s pleased to be helping the College of Agriculture.
“We depend on agriculture to provide our food, and we must not take that for granted,” he says. “We must continue to educate the public on the importance of agriculture so future generations will continue to have stable and sufficient food supplies.”
It’s especially important to recognize the students from the first graduating class at Cal Poly Pomona and the farming families who became leaders in the agricultural industry and contributed to the bounty in food that we have today, Hicks says.
The bulk of the donation will serve as the lead gift toward improving the “heritage discovery farm” at AGRIscapes. The farm promotes agricultural literacy through field trips for schoolchildren, who learn about farming and food through fun, interactive and hands-on activities.
The donation will support facilities that include a barn, windmill and outbuildings that serve an on-site petting farm, crops and house antique tractor and farming implement displays. It also will support staffing for administration, marketing, animal care, garden farming and the creation of student and docent programs for tours and school outreach programs.
“Our goal is to connect the rich agricultural heritage of our valley and California with new opportunities in an urban environment. This generous donation will allow us to reach more schoolchildren and increase their knowledge about food, farming and agriculture,” says Craig Walters, director of AGRIscapes. “Hopefully, it will pique their interest into studying agriculture and becoming leaders in the field.”
The College of Agriculture created the 40-acre AGRIscapes in 2001 as a center that would promote agricultural and environmental literacy through research, education and demonstrations of alternative methods to grow food, conserve water, reduce energy needs and recycle agricultural and urban waste. It includes the Farm Store at Kellogg Ranch, greenhouses, and hydroponic facilities that allow fruits, vegetables and plants to grow in a controlled environment without soil. It’s a cost-effective, water-efficient way of growing plants in limited space.
The Hicks’ gift also will go to create a student assistance endowment to provide financial support to plant science and agricultural business students for tuition, books housing and travel to internships.
Hicks is the retired president and CEO of Jim Hicks & Co. in Brea, a wholesale distributor of commercial fertilizers that serves the agriculture industry in the Western United States and Mexico. He serves on the board of the California Agriculture in the Classroom program.
Since 2009, he has provided scholarships for students in the College of Agriculture and helped fund the expansion of the university’s AGRIscapes complex. Last year, he funded the creation of the Jim Hicks International Scholarship program, which gave College of Agriculture students the opportunity to intern in India last summer.
In recognition of his efforts, the college presented him last March with the first Agricultural Achievement Award at the inaugural Spring Harvest Farm 2 Table dinner. The college presents the award annually and has renamed it in Hicks’ honor.