CSU, Chico

Gabrielle Hathaway, National Student Exchange

Gabrielle Hathaway, National Student Exchange

Sophomore Gabrielle Hathaway, a dairy science exchange student from Iowa State University, came more than 1,500 miles to get a new experience in dairy production.

This spring, Hathaway started her first semester at California State University, Chico through the National Student Exchange (NSE) program. The NSE program allows students to spend a semester or a year at one of 174 member institutions throughout the United States, including CSU, Chico. “I had only planned to come here for one semester, but Chico swooped me off my feet within the first month and I extended the exchange for another semester,” Hathaway said.

Hathaway’s strong interest in organic dairy production drove her search for a university with a dairy program that differs from Iowa State’s new conventional system.  

“When I was researching different schools to go to, the Chico State Organic Dairy Unit sold me,” said Hathaway. “When I saw that the College of Agriculture converted some of the University Farm to organic production, which is run by students, I was immediately interested.”

At age 15, Hathaway began working at Radiance Dairy, a local organic dairy a few miles from where she grew up in Fairfield, Iowa. Most of her work was directly with the cows, which she milked, fed, and had many other responsibilities. In the summer of 2011, after completing her freshman year at Iowa State, Hathaway turned her work experience at Radiance Dairy into an internship, taking on management aspects such as finances, marketing and breeding. “My extremely knowledgeable boss, Francis Thickie, taught me how to artificially inseminate and do pregnancy checks,” Hathaway said. “I also learned how to assess a pasture and know when the cows were ready to graze.”  The experience convinced her that she wanted to pursue a career in organic dairy management, and she found the opportunity to further enhance her skills through a yearlong exchange in California. 

At CSU, Chico, Hathaway enrolled in Agriculture 110, Directed Work Experience, and secured a part-time job at the Organic Dairy Unit, where she is a member of the dairy management team. “One of my favorite things about the dairy unit is that it is run by the students who work there, and we all provide input into the day-to-day operations,” she said.   

This summer, Hathaway will continue working at the dairy while taking on responsibility at the sheep and goat unit as well. Since she knows that pasture management is such a large part of organic dairy production, she approached Associate Professor Celina Johnson, who manages the sheep and goat unit, to learn more about it. Hathaway will help develop a grazing plan and will assist with basic management of the pastures at the Sheep and Goat Unit. “She will work with the team to build a more efficient grazing program,” Johnson said.

As Hathaway’s advisor, Johnson has helped her with selecting courses that meet her degree requirements and career goals and always invites her to stop in at her office. Hathaway loves the fact that she can call professors in the College of Agriculture by their first name. “Celina is especially great because she is always there for me whenever I have a question, and she tries to find hands-on opportunities I can learn from,” Hathaway said.

In addition to her duties at the farm, Hathaway has also been helping Professor Cindy Daley put together the calf section of the Animal Science 398 course, Organic Dairy Production and Management, which will be offered in the fall. She is also taking advantage of opportunities on campus and is on the Chico State Wakeboard Team.

Though she is not certain where she will go next spring, Hathaway plans to study abroad after her time at Chico State. After graduating from Iowa State, she wants to start her own organic dairy and serve as a consultant to organic farmers or those who want to convert their farms to organic.  Her time spent at Chico State during her National Student Exchange has helped her get closer to meeting her goals. “At Chico State, I will learn, and have already, how to get the most out of my herd in the way that I want to farm, which is organic pasture fed,” Hathaway said. “I could not experience this production system at Iowa State.”