A solo lecture by food activist Michael Pollan scheduled for 11 a.m. Pacific time today on the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was hastily converted to a panel discussion after alumni, including the chairman of Harris Beef Ranch Co., protested. Pollan will participate in a panel discussion that includes Gary Smith, a Colorado meat science expert, and Myra Goodman, co-founder of Earthbound Farms, an organic vegetable operation with 33,000 acres.
On Sept. 23, David Wood, chairman of Harris Beef Ranch Co., located in California’s San Joaquin Valley, sent a letter to Cal Poly officials stating he would pull a $150,000 donation for a new campus meat processing facility if Pollan’s solo lecture took place. Wood, who manages one of the state’s largest beef cattle ranches, told Cal Poly a solo lecture would provide Pollan with a soapbox for anti-agricultural views.
Barbara Martin, who writes a blog called Dairy Goddess and operates an 800-cow dairy in California with her husband, Tony, called the panel format that includes Pollan a perfect compromise.
“As a parent and a taxpayer, I’m satisfied that students will be exposed to all sides of farming practices and agricultural decisions,” wrote Martin, whose son attends Cal Poly.
Cal Poly’s agriculture program is also under fire by critics for reducing its teaching herd of dairy cattle from 150 to 30. The cut is an economic necessity, according to officials.