College of Agriculture

Suzette Turner

Star Student in Crops, Horticulture & Land Resource Management

The 2017 Star Student in crops, horticulture, and land resource management has traveled the world learning about agriculture. Suzette Turner, a Utah native, spent several years as a vegan, which ultimately triggered her journey to agriculture through vegetables and other plants. She began to develop a knack for plant cultivation while living in Humboldt County. Here she fell in love with plant husbandry, which led her to find her true passion of soil health and quality.

In 2011, she moved to Nevada City, where she came across a woman who was looking for someone to help on her small organic goat and rabbit farm. Turner stayed there for two years before deciding to try agriculture abroad.

In 2013, Turner volunteered abroad in Europe to work on a variety of farms for eight months. She began her excursion working on farms in Italy, where she learned about biodynamic grapes in Tuscany. She made her way to the thick forests near Siena, surrounding the Castello di Spannocchia, where she helped raise heritage breed pigs for the Spannocchia Foundation.

"It was working at that pig farm that made me come to reality of where our meat comes from. I also grew an appreciation for the handling of the animals, because I knew everyone I was working with made sure they were cared for, and though it doesn't make the harvesting process any easier, it made it a little less overwhelming for me," Turner said.

She also traveled to Denmark, where she was able to be involved in a self-sustainability school, which led her to Germany, where she gained experience with organic vegetables and dairy. After working with so many different farmers, Turner discovered that almost all of agriculture and the food we eat is dependent upon soil. From this point, Turner decided to dedicate her studies to learning as much as she could about soils.

Shortly after entering Chico State, Turner found her own research niche with professor Garrett Liles and fellow student Laura Boots. The team investigated biochar and compost applications' effects on crop growth and soil health.

The process involved a learning curve for Turner. She was able to teach herself how to use new research equipment, as well as decipher a process to which the research could be best conducted.

"One thing I was not quite prepared for is how slow research is. There is a lot of communication, and working with other people as well as their schedules that I had never really took into account," Turner said.

It is because of this experience that Turner values how open the College of Agriculture is to students' individual interests. She was thankful that all she had to do was talk to a professor, and he helped set her up for research that should be finished in the next year.

After graduation next spring, Turner plans to travel with her boyfriend to Europe and begin biking through as much of it as possible. She will continue her road to a master's degree in soil science. However, her dreams don't end there; she plans to continue her rabbit husbandry and add a small vineyard, while also raising children of her own and teaching them how to maintain sustainable food systems where it all starts—with the soil.

Suzette Turner