Immed.Land Protection Request

Akiva Werbalowsky akivaw at
Fri Oct 23 12:29:44 EDT 1998


This is an opinion piece on the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Rodeo
construction which could begin in one week on publicly owned prime
agriculture land. Please read if stewardship of public land and
education is important to you.

Even though this piece has been sent it to the Campus newspaper and they
assured me it would be printed this week, for some reason it has been
blocked. It is therefore being published electronically through e-mail,
to ensure a free exchange of ideas. You can also read an online article
at, the local newspaper has an article Oct.23 by
David Wilcox under the title "Crack of the Bat Two Years Away."

I hope you understand that I have great respect for the College of
Agriculture, and  only want to enhance its reputation as a long-term
beneficial steward of public land. I believe that this very rushed
project would be a source of controversy and embarrassment for years to
come, and demonstrates why prime ag land everywhere is disappearing at a
disastrous rate. Without Cal Poly leadership in this issue, our society
will only experience more of the same.

Please do what you can to recommend rethinking this hasty mishandling of
public assets. I recommend an e-mail to mshelton at (Director
of Cal Poly Farm Operations and wbaker at (President of the
University). These men are the two people most likely to delay the
project on prime ag land before $100,000 of earth moving for parking
lots and water channelization occurs next week. The subject title could
simply read: "Slow the Rushed Rodeo".

This issue will not go away, so I recommend a community approach as soon
as possible to avoid lengthy media and legal action, energy which  could
be better used to learn about growing food, the mission of Cal Poly

Akiva Werbalowsky

alternate  email: akivaw at
alternate phone: 783-9546


There is perhaps no more crucial issue for our community than the
proposed construction of a new Rodeo Complex on  publicly-owned prime
agricultural lands at Cal Poly, scheduled to start on October 30. Since
virtually no public review of this recent decision has been invited, and
7.8 acres of our most important crop land would be lost to this
controversially rushed project, it's important that more students and
citizens understand the roots of what's proposed to begin next week.

Our nation's first public university was founded by Thomas Jefferson,
and he called the University of Virginia an "academic village." Situated
amidst the rich crop lands of Albermarle County, the students and
faculty ate food mostly grown within walking distance of where they
studied the ethics of our new democratic society, and the clothes they
wore were of fiber crops grown within  horse cart distance. They were
also strengthened by collaborative and populist institutions that
protected the land and University resources for future generations of
students. I became one of those students as an undergraduate in the
1980's and am grateful to those early "academic villagers" for the
remaining Virginia crop land and open space I enjoyed when I lived

Cal Poly has natural and cultural resources which would have greatly
impressed Jefferson. However, perhaps because we eat and are clothed by
crops often grown thousands of miles away, we face the most rapid loss
of our own university ag lands ever experienced. We should recognize
that the huge Sports Complex will be built on what was prime ag land. 
Now we have the announcement, which surprised many,  that another 7.8
acres right in the heart of our closest remaining fields is being given
over entirely for a new Rodeo Complex and parking lots.

The actual decision to approve Fields 40-43 on which to build the rodeo
was made only ONE HOUR after it was first even suggested as a possible
site to the Land Use Committee. There was virtually no invitation for
student or public consideration on the decision, and bulldozers were
scheduled to grade the site and dig drainage ditches as soon as possible
so the Fall Rodeo could be held. Even if everything else about the
project was well-planned, this lack of good faith discussion or notice
to California taxpayers (the actual owners of the land) would taint any
facility built there with the stench of conquest and improper use of
perhaps millions of dollars of public assets in land value alone. If we
decide to build a new rodeo, let's build a damn good one that creates
more opportunities for interdisciplinary learning and brings greater
honor to Cal Poly. The rest of the California and the nation looks to us
for agricultural leadership,  so we're responsible to sit high in the
saddle rather than sneaking in the back gate to get away with something
we wouldn't do in full view.

One important truth about smart, experienced agriculturists, is that
they never rush into important decisions, especially concerning good
land. The current plan for relocation of the rodeo is rushed and full of
potential problems, expenses, and embarrassments. I highly recommend
anyone associated with it reevaluate the big picture so as not to be
long  burdened by the high costs of hasty action.

Make no mistake, the proposed site is absolutely prime ag land, and is
officially designated that way on all Cal Poly planning maps and
documentation. Given its location at the fourth largest Ag school in the
nation, you couldn't find more prime ag land if you tried. Given any
care, the soil is absolutely fine for most crops, demonstrated by the
over 100 varieties now successfully growing at the adjacent Permaculture
Unit and organic Student Experimental Farm. After just one season of a
cover crop, or the application of our abundant Cal Poly Compost or
manure, the proposed Rodeo Complex site could be some of the most
fertile and productive crop land ANYWHERE. Comments seeking to devalue
the quality of this threatened land so that it's easier to justify
building on it is simply shortsighted and incorrect. Our good leaders in
the College of Agriculture are making a big mistake with this one, and
only encouragement and support from the Cal Poly community this week to
hold off on rushed construction will allow them to make that honorable

What a wonderful learn-by-doing experience it would be for students to
become actual stewards of this land and bring it into abundance to feed
themselves and their community. It is this stewardship of soil which is
the truly important learning for Cal Poly students. Without it,
agriculture ultimately depletes its source of power and meaning,
squandering the inheritance of fertility meant for our children.

Certainly, rodeo fans and participants deserve to be heard and be
compensated for being evicted by the Sports Complex. However, they are
not entitled without debate or review to 7.8 acres of publicly-owned
prime ag lands designated by the people of California for the study
food, fiber, and beneficial plants. For all the good things people may
say about rodeo traditions, please recognize that it is primarily sport
and entertainment, having little to do with modern agriculture. If Cal
Poly seeks to provide educational opportunities relevant to challenges
of today, we'll stop building on our remaining prime ag lands and start
growing on them. Current and future generations of students will surely
be grateful.

-Akiva Werbalowsky

Akiva Werbalowsky coordinates the Cal Poly Permaculture training program
through Extended Education and has developed plans for an university
degree in Permaculture and Ecological Design. Reach him at 756-5086 or
awerbalo at

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