FRESNO, Calif. — Fresno State plant science student Tyler Armbrister (Watsonville) might have grown up on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, but his family’s 100-year legacy of growing strawberries led him back to Central California as a teenager.
A similar passion for agriculture has propelled his fellow Plant Science Club peers to make such a difference on campus and in the community that they won the President’s Trophy contest at the tri-societies conference in November for the sixth time since 2012.
Armbrister’s video presentation showcased the 50-member club’s long list of professional opportunities, activities, community education, industry partnerships and fundraising the past year.
Judges from the national agronomy, crop science and soil science societies also evaluated the club’s problem-solving skills, innovation, teamwork, productivity, creativity and delivery.
The club showed the impact that agriculture makes in all our lives through activities at the Chaffee Zoo farm exhibition, West Fresno School Sweet Potato Project, Ag Booster BBQ, Ag Fest basketball game, Preview Day, FFA Field Day, 4-H Judging Day and other events.
Students attended and presented their campus research at state and national conferences, helped host a career fair and Western Plant Health Association student industry dinner, and invited industry professionals to speak at their chapter meetings.
The club has already donated over a ton of vegetables from a half-acre campus farm plot to Fresno State’s Student Cupboard and other area food assistance organizations.
Faculty members and club advisers Dr. Ranjit Riar and Dr. Jacob Wenger have been key resources for this and other club projects, which offer independent study class credit and give practical, hands-on experience for students.
Armbrister and Riar also traveled to Ghana with other students and faculty this past January. The study abroad group worked with cocoa growers to learn their techniques and improve their crop management and propagation methods.
“I am truly humbled to be a part of such a passionate group of future industry leaders,” Armbrister said. “Representing Fresno State at one of the most competitive and prestigious competitions in agronomy was truly a dream come true for our club. This year’s competition posed unique challenges, and we still came together to adapt to the virtual platform and overcome any challenges.”
In the final contest standings, Fresno State edged second-place Purdue University and third-place University of Wisconsin Platteville in the five-team field.
Previous winning Fresno State presentations were made by students Sara Alatorre (2012), Armando Guzman (2014), Elizabeth Diaz (2016), Vivian Maier (2017) and Ignacio Mendoza (2018).
During the week-long conference, a four-member Fresno State team added a win in the quiz bowl for the first time and topped a 10-team field that included Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Ohio State University and Texas A&M University.
Juniors Christian Duran (Dinuba), Desiree Madrigal (Coalinga) and Alejandra Valdez (Tranquillity) and freshman Juan Carlos Orozco (Dos Palos) successfully answered questions related to agroecology, agronomy, entomology, plant pathology, soil science and weed science.
The event featured seven questions in each of the first three rounds and 10 questions in the final round.
Four other students also participated in a virtual crop judging contest and included senior Bianey Medina (Salinas), juniors Desiree Madrigal (Coalinga) and Jennifer Valdez (Gonzales) and freshman Juan Carlos Orozco (Dos Palos).
Club member and senior Javier Herrera (Kingsburg) was also recognized at the conference as a Golden Opportunity award recipient. The national award recognizes students for outstanding contributions to agronomy through education, service and research.
Besides his community outreach with the club, Herrera works with campus faculty and UC Kearney extension specialists on research related to pests in nut crops and beetle infestations in bee hives.
“All of these awards have brought so much pride and gratitude for the club’s hard work as we proudly represent our college,” Armbrister said. “The Jordan College has been such an incredible catalyst for growth in all of us, and I’m glad we were able to earn that recognition nationally. I want to thank Dr. Riar and Dr. Wenger for being such incredible club advisers. I would also like to express my gratitude for this year’s Plant Science Club. Without all of the members’ contributions, none of this would have been possible.”
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