College of Agriculture

Mitchell Billington

Crops, Horticulture, and Land Resource Management

Mitchell Billington is no stranger to long days with trees and bees. The senior agriculture major with an option in crops, horticulture, and land resource management spends most summers working in the orchards in Kingsburg, where he is from.

Formerly an exercise physiology major, Billington decided to switch into agriculture during his sophomore year of college.

“I still love going to the gym and being as active as possible, whether that’s taking my dog out or going snowboarding in the winter, but the major itself just lost its spark for me,” Billington said.

Billington credits his mentor, Ryan Jackson, for getting him started in agriculture. In 2011, Jackson gave him his first job in field maintenance, checking drip lines, working alongside crews, and other assignments. He worked his way to a middle management position driving forklift, managing crews, and helping the mechanic fix tractors and other equipment.

In the summer of 2016, Jackson learned of a position working with a pest control advisor (PCA) and encouraged Billington to apply for it. Through that job, he developed a strong connection with the people who helped spark his interest in a career as a PCA.

“I’ve gained such great experience,” Billington said. “PCAs work hard, but it’s work I enjoy.”

He learned how to look for insects, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies in stone fruit. The ability to recognize the signs of insects and diseases is crucial to save growers both time and money. His training included learning how to properly sample and interpret data.

Billington spends most days walking through the orchards looking for pests and other problems that come up when growing stone and pome fruit. He checks insect traps and collects fruit, plant tissue, soil, and water samples from the field. Billington also spends time in the office working on maximum residue limit reports, checking labels, interpreting data received from the lab, and working with field scouting software.

This past summer it led Billington to a project testing a growth regulator on apples, which allows the apples to stay on the tree longer and receive more coloring.

“It was interesting to run a hands-on experiment and be able to track useable data while communicating with other states about the progression of the experiment. [I’m] thankful Kingsberg Orchards let me be a part of the experiment,” Billington said.

It has not just been the field work that has inspired Billington to pursue a career with crops. Professor Garrett Liles has provided encouragement as well. Billington admits that Liles has really pushed him to do his best while taking Liles’ soil science and soil health quality classes.

“Professors are great resources, and there is an ability to build personal relationships with them, which is one of my favorite things about Chico State,” he said. “If you find something that strikes a chord, talk to someone who can help you dive in and get involved, because you never know where it can lead you.”

After graduation Billington hopes to travel to New Zealand, a personal dream of his since he was in high school. When he returns, his goal is to continue working in the orchards that brought him to the career he has grown to love.