CSU, Chico

Alesha Turner, Agriculture Education

Alesha Turner, Agriculture Education

Not many people care enough about an issue to take on city hall, but that’s what senior agriculture education major Alesha Turner did. The San Diego native spent her teenage years successfully lobbying the city council in her home town of El Cajon to legalize the ownership of backyard chickens. What started as a young girl’s garden hobby, sparked a love of agriculture and food production that led one non-traditional agriculture student to CSU, Chico.

Helping in her family’s garden starting at age nine was Turner’s path into agriculture, when her neighbor helped Turner get a garden started. She says both her neighbor and her gardener encouraged her to further her education in agriculture, suggesting she take courses in agriculture after seeing her interest and love for her own garden, along with her parents who have always encouraged her to follow her passions.

Growing up in urban San Diego, Turner and her local community didn’t have much exposure to large-scale agriculture operations. When she was a teen, the 10-foot sunflowers flourishing in her backyard began to attract attention as passersby would often stop by to see what was happening. Turner loved sharing about her garden.

“Eventually I added some chickens, which were illegal at the time,” she said. “Over several years of fighting and attending city council meetings, I was able to help legalize chickens in my hometown. Many people driving would stop their car in the middle of the street and reverse to get a view of everything.”

Her local community’s reaction to her garden and chickens fueled her desire to educate and help others start their own coops and began giving workshops at local churches, schools, and daycares. Through her efforts, Turner helped to establish a strong community in her own neighborhood. She’s worked with adults and children, helping children become interested in healthy foods through the process.

In her pursuit to gain the skills to start her own farm back in San Diego, Turner thought a degree in agriculture with an emphasis in education was the perfect route.

“I have a strong passion for getting people together as well as teaching people about food, and urban agriculture seems to be a great tool to do that with,” Turner said. “I may not need a degree to do this, but I felt that coming to CSU, Chico would allow me to learn more so that I can be the best at what I want to do.”

Turner says that the College of Agriculture’s 800-acre farm drew her to CSU, Chico.

“I knew that I would be surrounded by agriculture as well as get some hands on experience,” she said.

In addition to her classes and laboratories at the University Farm, Turner also manages the variety trials at the Organic Vegetable Project. The variety trials measure various characteristics, growing habits, and taste attributes of different varieties of vegetables. Turner says they run these trials so that local farmers will have access to information on what kind of vegetables grow best in the area and which are most productive.

Turner hopes one day to open a small urban farm, along with teaching others about where their food comes from.

“I hope to provide a place for people to rest and take a break from busy life,” Turner said.

Turner’s time at California State University, Chico has taught her that, “Even though I may not fit a mold, my uniqueness is still good and will be just right for wherever I end up someday.”

Turner’s path in agriculture may not have been the most common, but that has only given her more opportunity to push the limits and break down barriers in agriculture, starting in her own community.