College of Agriculture

Allison Rose McDonald

Senior Allison Rose McDonald can’t remember a day that she wasn’t surrounded by agriculture. Her great grandfather, Aubry Amator, started farming in Durham 75 years ago, and now the agricultural business major looks forward to carrying on the family legacy by owning her own farming operation upon graduation.

Growing up in Durham, McDonald saw the ins and outs of production agriculture from a young age, and 4-H and the Future Farmers of America (FFA) became important parts of her life. Competing in speaking competitions and serving as a sectional and regional officer, McDonald realized that FFA was much more than raising animals and Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects. A visit from Chico State agriculture education professor Brad Dodson drove that home.

“When Dr. Dodson came to help our student teacher at the time, he really opened my eyes to agricultural education and everything FFA was,” she said.

McDonald graduated from Durham High School in 2016, all set to enter Chico State. With her tuition paid and dorm deposit down, she was ready to pursue a degree in agricultural education. However, a call from the Butte College softball coach offered her the opportunity to follow her athletic career to the local junior college. With teammates that felt like family and a love for the game, McDonald cherished her year playing softball. But a life-altering tragedy soon changed everything.  

In May 2017, McDonald’s beloved father, Steve, passed away after a short and brutal battle with cancer. Steve’s passing shook the entire agriculture community, but none more so than his family.

“I really began to evaluate my priorities and what I wanted to do in my life,” McDonald said. “Growing up, he was always involved, volunteered for everything he could, and formed relationships with the community so that today, the community has done nothing but support us.”

Two days after his passing, community members showed their support at the Silver Dollar Fair in Chico, where a pen of meat rabbits sold a record seven times to commemorate McDonald. Each time, the buyer donated the pen back to be sold again, with the funds going to support his family and establish a scholarship in his name be given to Durham High School seniors each year.

“My dad went to the junior livestock auction every year, so even though it was hard, my mom and I went in his place,” she said. “We didn’t know about the rabbits and that it was going to happen so we left at one point to grab lunch, and we got a FaceTime call while the whole thing was happening. It was amazing to see the love and support from our community. It’s the random acts of kindness that mean the most, and people don’t realize the impact that they’ve made.”

Getting back to a new normal in her life, in fall 2018 McDonald made her way to Chico State, where she has become involved with the Butte County Young Farmers and Ranchers and the Collegiate Farm Bureau while obtaining internships in agricultural business. In 2018, she interned with Central Valley Ag Products, shadowing Lindsay Willadsen, the Sacramento Valley representative who was hired to fill her father’s role, while learning how to build long-term relationships with almond and walnut growers and beginning to understand statewide issues for nut farmers. Her current internship as a sales assistant for Debbie Matthews has allowed her to work with Kimes Ranch, Sharon Camarillo, and Barrel Racing Super Store.

“It’s been a great experience working with strong, independent business women. [With Mathews] I’ve been able to put on a barrel racing clinic, learn more about horses and tack, and manage online business,” she said. “I grew up seeing the men run the farming operations, and doing a great job, however I know that that’s something I can and want to do on my own now.”

For incoming students in the College of Agriculture, McDonald recommends taking classes outside of your major, getting out of your comfort zone, and getting involved, because new experiences bring new perspectives.

Although she no longer plays softball, McDonald coaches the 10-and-under Lady Ace’s team in Chico and runs her own pitching lessons. Although she’s the one that’s supposed to be teaching the girls, McDonald says they have made the biggest impact on her.

Carrying her love of the game and her family’s legacy a step further, McDonald and her mother, Cinnamon, have begun to complete her bucket list item to visit all of the major league baseball stadiums in the United States.

“We always talked about doing this with my dad and didn’t get the chance, so now my mom and I are traveling and making it happen,” she said.

“AllyRose’s dad would be so proud of her,” College of Agriculture External Relations Director Sarah DeForest said. “As a Chico State alum, Steve was one of our most ardent supporters. He volunteered every year for the Superior Ag Golf Classic, and usually brought his family along to help out. To see AllyRose excelling at the college that he loved, I can almost hear him bragging about her now, as he has always done.”