College of Agriculture

Kurt Sheppard

Student smiling at camera

Kurt Sheppard is a fourth-generation rice and walnut farmer from Biggs. He transferred to Chico State from Pepperdine University in Malibu because he missed the culture and farming environment in Northern California. Sheppard is graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business. He has also been named the 2022 College of Agriculture’s Star Student for agricultural business.  

Advocating for the agriculture industry is a true passion of Sheppard’s. In high school, he was an active member in his Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter and in student government. Committed to a path of leadership and advocacy, he now serves on the Butte County Young Farmers and Ranchers officer team and the Butte County Farm Bureau (BCFB) Board of Directors. In these roles, he has volunteered for fundraisers, sat on advisory committees, and lobbied state legislators to advocate for California’s No. 1 industry.  

Sheppard also created the first Young Farmers and Ranchers scholarship for graduating high school seniors in Butte County who would like to pursue a career in agriculture. Through his fundraising efforts, he has had a tremendous impact on the BCFB and on the lives of high school students who share his passion for farming.  

Sheppard chose to focus on agricultural business because he enjoys learning about economics, marketing, and relationship building. Growing up, he understood the logistics of production farming, but he wanted to learn about the business and marketing side of the agriculture industry.   

Sheppard currently works for his family farm back in his hometown of Biggs. He is also expanding his own personal farming operation in Richvale to farm rice. He is looking forward to expanding his operation and education in the future. Sheppard is interested in pursuing a master’s degree in business administration and learning more about political science and international trade.  

Outside of his academic and work life, he enjoys reading, playing sports, and outdoor activities like hiking. He has been on the dean’s list multiple times throughout his college career and he competed in the USDA Foreign Agricultural Market Export Challenge where he participated alongside two other students against 13 other schools in a virtual competition that used the case study method and role play to examine ways to reduce methane emissions in cattle. Chico State was named both regional and national champion.  

“By competing in this program, a whole new set of opportunities have opened up to me and I am able to better understand the tireless effort and hard work that the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service provides to the agricultural industry,” Sheppard said. 

Sheppard has accumulated a variety of experiences at Chico State that relate directly to his future career plans, including participating in group projects and developing his communication and organizational skills. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when classes were conducted online, Sheppard showed his resilience by adapting to the new format and making an effort to build connections and friendships over Zoom, as Sheppard wanted to ensure he didn’t miss out on the college experience. 

“One of the key factors that make the learning experience unique at our college is the fascinating insights some of the students bring into the class based on their agriculture and family business backgrounds,” said Tatevik Avetisyan, professor in the College of Agriculture. “Kurt was one of the students who proactively shared his industry experience in class. He is hardworking and purpose-driven, and he demonstrated outstanding knowledge, commitment, and leadership.” 

Some of Sheppard’s favorite classes were “Introduction to Soil Science” and “Advanced Agribusiness Management.” Additionally, he loved classes that were located at the University Farm because he was able to see the correlation between the production and business sides of the industry.  

“Classes at the University Farm provided me so many more experiences than a regular classroom,” Sheppard said. “The farm has so much to offer students because of the diversity ranging from the livestock units to the plant and soil science area.”  

One of Sheppard’s biggest role models was his grandfather, Charles Sheppard, who started the entire family’s farming operation from the ground, up. His grandfather was well-respected within his community but he never asked for recognition, and he persevered hardship and adversity by making difficult economic decisions.  

Through Sheppard’s excellent academic record and strong work ethic, he has made his mark on the College of Agriculture. He is excited to graduate and to see what his future holds. Sheppard’s current goal is to continue to advocate for the agriculture industry while expanding his own farming operation.