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Students Recognized for Excellence in Support of Ag Industry

Four Fresno State students in the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology were recognized with ag scholar awards at the Jordan Agricultural Research Center.

Plant science graduate students Margaret Fernando (of Ames, Iowa) and Bianey Medina Garcia (Salinas), plant science senior Kiera Searcy (Hanford) and agricultural business senior Ashleigh Sorensen (Sanger) were selected for the honors based on their passion, growth and innovation in various industries. The awards were presented at a ceremony on April 21, when each student received a $500 scholarship from 23rd District Assemblyman Jim Patterson.

Fernando has published her master’s research on cover crops as a weed management tool and her oral presentations won first place among graduate student entrants at the 2022 Central California Research Symposium and third place at the 2022 California Weed Science Society conference.

Her emphasis on sustainable agriculture led her to a biological science technician position at the USDA Agricultural Research Service station. At the Parlier research station, she has studied ways to improve soil health, weed pressure, grapevine development and crop water dynamics in a vineyard cover crop project. She has shared her agronomy experience with others through the FFA pruning contest, UC Master Gardner’s workshop and Avenal State Prison Insight Garden Program. She has also been active in community outreach efforts that share produce with community and campus food shelters. She will pursue a doctoral degree in soil and water science with a focus on agroecology at the University of Florida.

Medina Garcia has shared her experience raising strawberries and other vegetables in the Salinas Valley to help her fellow campus Plant Science Club students to grow produce to donate to campus and local food cupboards. She worked with local companies to donate many of the seeds, irrigation equipment and other materials. Examples of the club’s professional development and community and industry outreach efforts helped it win the President’s Trophy at the Students of Agronomy, Soils and Environmental Sciences national convention.

She also shared her agronomy experience with Fowler Lone Star 4-H students learning to raise vegetables, then shared a related recipe and emphasized the importance of good nutrition. Born in Michoacán, Mexico, she remembers seeing her immigrant parents work long hours in the fields in the Salinas Valley starting at a young age, and she said she is equally committed to helping feed the world. After an internship with FMC Ag Science studying field applications, she now works for Nutrien as an assistant research technician and studies technologies, tools and products that improve plant and soil health, which include various adjuvants that are part of her master’s research.

Searcy has conducted research comparing chemical and no-chemical weed control methods for lavender plants in a nursery lathe house, and her poster presentation won first place in the 2023 California Weed Science Society undergraduate competition. She has also assisted in research with plant science faculty examining chickweed herbicide resistance in the Central Valley. As a campus horticulture nursery student assistant, she has helped propagate 3,000 to 4,000 seedlings for a Sierra Club Merced Chapter milkweed project to increase monarch butterfly forage areas.

She has also been a part of community outreach programs tied to the Insight Garden Program at Avenal State Prison, Amendola Family Student Cupboard, 4-H groups and student tours at the campus nursery. A national tri-society student recognition recipient, she has shared her agronomy experience as a campus irrigation club treasurer, FFA Field Day volunteer, and member of the campus soils club, Plant Science Club and arboretum task force. This summer she will travel to the University of Kentucky to start a graduate program in weed science.

Sorensen, who is a third-generation stone fruit, almond and citrus farmer, has analyzed the latest trends in nearby land choices for the nation’s leading farming area for her Jordan College Honors Cohort research project. She has identified correlations between acreage, production and total value for a recent, 20-year range to help policymakers better understand how technology, environmental conditions and technology advancements are affecting the production of various commodities.

The 4.0 student has also served as a campus ASI senator and Agricultural Business Club outreach coordinator, and as a member of the Smittcamp Family Honors College student board, Jordan College Student Leadership Council and Ag Ambassadors. The former intern for Farm Credit West, Family Tree Farms and Wagon Wheel Farms looks forward to working as the director of business for California Berry Genetics after graduation.

For more information on the awards, contact Alisha Gallon at Alisha.Gallon@asm.ca.gov or 559.446.2029.

Fresno State Jordan College Dean Rolston St. Hilaire at Ag Scholar Awards presentation on April 21, 2023, Jordan Agricultural Research Center (photo by Geoff Thurner).

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