CSU, Chico

Suzette Turner, Crops, Horticulture, and Land Resource Management

Suzette Turner, Crops, Horticulture, and Land Resource Management

Suzette Turner has lived and worked on farms in Italy, Denmark, and Germany; has traveled across California planting trees in communities and elementary schools; currently interns with the Natural Resource Conservation Service as a soil conservationist; and continues to dedicate her studies to soil, pursuing her dream of rebuilding soil in local and international communities. 

A senior in agriculture with an emphasis in land resource management, Turner is originally from Elk Ridge, Utah. She graduated from high school with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in science as part of an accelerated high school program, the Utah County Academy of Science.

Turner’s interest in agriculture began in 2012 when she moved to a small organic goat farm and rabbit operation. Her experience was pivotal. The farm inspired her to continue to learn about agriculture and food production. With a newfound appreciation for agriculture and a desire to travel and learn, Turner sought out an experience that led her to an eight-month stay in farms throughout Europe.

She started her work in Tuscany, Italy, caring for heritage-breed pigs on a farm that grew and harvested olives for olive oil and grapes for wine, while also producing pigs for artisanal salumi products and cattle for veal. A typical day for Turner would be feeding the animals, walking fence lines, and helping with day-to-day chores. From there, she headed to Denmark, to work on a family farm and self-sustainability school. There, she learned about biointensive methods of farming within a short growing season, and she cared for the chickens, cattle, and high-density vegetable gardens. Moving on to Germany, she stayed on an organic dairy Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, where she planted and harvested vegetables, worked with the dairy cattle, and learned how to make cheese.

Turner’s time in Europe was central in solidifying her desire to study agriculture. At the conclusion of her eight months abroad, Turner returned to the United States with a goal to obtain her degree and continue her work with soil.

Before diving into her studies, Suzette took time to volunteer for Common Vision, a nonprofit group that travels throughout California planting fruit trees at elementary schools and community centers. Common Vision teaches about sustainable food systems and fruit-tree care, and helps teachers integrate the orchards they plant into their curriculum. Turner says the organization’s goal is to spread knowledge among youth about how to start and care for a sustainable local food system.

“These amazing volunteers taught me how to work selflessly for a love of food, education, and children,” Turner said. “They gave me so much hope for the future of California and all the children we worked with.”

Turner continued her education at Sierra College in the fall of 2014, eventually transferring to Butte College and finishing her general education requirements.

While at Butte College, Turner joined the Symbiotic Solutions Club, which encourages students to look deeper into the world of mushrooms and mycelium and their role in the ecosystem. Wanting to learn more about building diverse design in food systems, she also became a certified permaculture designer through Permafunk at Butte College.

After Butte College, Turner transferred to CSU, Chico, where she is finishing her bachelor of science degree. With the guidance of soil science professor Garrett Liles, Turner is working on a soil incubation experiment using locally produced bio-char and mushroom compost to examine the effects of these amendments on soil respiration and nitrogen dynamics. In addition to her studies, Turner interns with the Natural Resource Conservation Service as a soil conservationist, which allows her to learn directly about soil and soil building.

She also volunteers time teaching children about growing food with the Dorothy Johnson community garden, supports the annual Weaving Women’s Wisdom Gathering, and is a member of the Spannocchia Foundation, which focuses on sustainable agriculture education and the slow-food movement.

For Turner’s success and growth through a broad diversity of educational experiences, she credits many individuals, including Kaliko Wright, the owner of the small goat farm that got her started in agriculture, the various farmers that gave her work opportunities across Europe, professor Liles, and individuals from Common Vision. Turner is also thankful for her mother’s support of all her dreams, no matter how lofty they are.

The culmination of Turner’s experiences has continued to shape her decision to study soils and pursue a career regenerating soils.

 “After working with the land for several years, it all came back around to soil,” Turner said. “I decided after coming to this realization that soil is what we all rely on, that I would dedicate my life to learning as much as I could about this little-understood universe beneath our feet. Through better understanding soil, this would lead to healthier food systems and a healthier global community.”