Cal Poly's College of Agriculture at San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Mission Produce recently began planting a new 50-acre avocado orchard on campus.

The new orchard is a joint venture between the two partners, designed to be a profitable commercial operation as well as a showcase and field classroom for the latest orchard management techniques.

Mission Produce, a Southern California avocado and avocado products company with annual sales of more than $100 million, is currently planting 6,400 avocado trees on 50 acres at Cal Poly. Mission Produce CEO Steve Barnard, a Cal Poly alumnus, was on campus for the start of planting.

Cal Poly President Warren Baker, College of Agriculture Dean David Wehner and Associate Dean of Agriculture Mark Shelton toured the orchard with Barnard.

Cal Poly's College of Agriculture and Mission Produce, based in Ventura, announced plans for the orchard partnership in August 2002.

Mission Produce is providing orchard management and harvesting crews, as well as state-of-the-art irrigation and orchard-care systems. Cal Poly is providing the land and water for the orchard. The company will make a donation to Cal Poly's College of Agriculture at the end of each harvest based on proceeds from the sale of the avocados.

The new Mission Produce orchard will offer students the chance to learn first-hand about large-scale commercial avocado operation and integrated avocado marketing practices.

Cal Poly's location and its agriculture program make it an excellent site for a showcase avocado orchard, Shelton explained.