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 Food and Agribusiness Institute Celebrates 40 Years

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Food and Agribusiness Institute at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, which has launched the careers of hundreds of leaders in winemaking, commercial farming, packing, and food processing.

The FAI celebrated the milestone at a Nov. 16 gala at the University’s Paul L. Locatelli Student Activities Center.
The institute was launched in 1973 as the Institute of Agribusiness, with an MBA degree program that focused on production, marketing, and management in the agribusiness industry for students who intended to go into the business of farming, food production, winemaking, food packing, or related fields.

The FAI was launched with a generous gift from Joseph Naumes, ’34, and his family. After beginning college during the Great Depression, Joe’s family hit upon hard times. He returned to Santa Clara University to complete his degree after accepting an offer of financial assistance from the Jesuit faculty. After college, Joe began a successful career in nut and fruit production in Oregon, Washington, and California.

“At the time, the South Bay was a thriving agricultural region known as ‘The Valley of Heart’s Delight,’ and the institute was started to prepare leaders for agribusiness both locally and throughout California,” says FAI’s current director, Naumes Family Professor Greg Baker.

Early students included Jeff Goshorn, ’80, currently the COO at the Santa Clara-based Diana Fruit Co.; Greg Pruett, ’84, now the CEO at Los Banos-based Ingomar Packing Company; and John Hasbrook, ’83, owner of SunWest Wild Rice in Winters, Calif. Lawrence Yee, ’83, the former Department of Agriculture program leader in food marketing systems innovations and member of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, is also an alumnus.

Before long, the institute was attracting a core group of international students who wanted to learn about advanced management principles that could be applied back home in their own countries, many of which were heavily dependent on agriculture. Students like Armando Gonzalez, ’87 came to the FAI from Costa Rica to learn how to increase the profitability of his family’s coffee plantation. A management program for executives from developing countries, which ran from 1989 to 2009, also solidified FAI as a leader in international agribusiness education.

As the field of agribusiness became more complex and globalized, the institute broadened its mandate in 1999 to become the Food and Agribusiness Institute, focusing more heavily on global, social, and environmental issues connected to the food system.

The FAI program was opened to undergraduates in 2009 with a “pathway” series of classes called, Food, Hunger, Poverty, Environment. Classes including Feeding the World; Resources, Food, and the Environment; and Environmental and Food Justice are taught in the pathway. Also an immersion course was introduced that has taken students to Ghana, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Burma/Myanmar.

In recent years, the FAI has launched hunger-related initiatives such as the Hunger Index and the “Cost of a Healthy Meal” project, and played host to countless speakers on sustainability, food safety, and food security.

“Over time, the role of the FAI has focused not only on educating tomorrow’s leaders in commercial food production, but also on anticipating the future challenges for meeting food needs both locally and globally,” says Baker.

At the graduate level, the food and agribusiness program has evolved into a concentration within the MBA program and most recently, in 2013, to a three-course specialization within the MBA program. In addition, since 2007, FAI’s MBA students can attend an annual international student case competition sponsored by the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association, where they compete to develop solutions to food-industry business problems. SCU’s team won the competition in 2009 and again in 2013, when they beat out 21 other competitors in Atlanta to take home top honors.

The FAI recently teamed up with the business school’s Contemplative Leadership and Sustainability Program to learn, reflect, and take action on global agricultural and sustainability issues—including a Jesuit perspective that seeks social justice for impoverished nations and others most affected by global climate change.

DIRECTORS OVER THE YEARS:

Ronald Stucky, 1974–79

James Niles, acting director,1979–80

Eric Thor, 1981

Mario Belotti, acting director, 1981

Charles French, 1982–88

Mario Belotti, 1988–96

Drew Starbird, 1996–2000

Greg Baker, 2000–present

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