Bakersfield College Celebrates Grand Opening of Regenerative Agriculture Education Center with Ribbon Cutting

BC administrators and representatives standing behind ribbon for ceremony

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Bakersfield College hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony November 14, 2023 to celebrate the grand opening of the Regenerative Agriculture Education Center at the Bakersfield College Delano Campus (1450 Timmons Ave., Delano, CA). This space aims to promote sustainable agriculture practices through community education, opportunities for student research, internships, workforce development, and demonstration of emerging technologies.

Following the ribbon cutting, there was a special presentation hosted by the California Renewable Energy Laboratory (CREL) on the proposed renewable energy demonstration project including the development of an Agrivoltaics educational project. This session was led by partners from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) who are providing technical guidance to CREL on its renewable energy initiatives.

The Regenerative Agriculture Education Center was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2021 and was made possible by a collaboration between the Ravi and Naina Patel Foundation and Bakersfield College’s Agriculture Department, as well as community partners such as the White Buffalo Foundation and TomKat Ranch. This Center is the first of its kind in Kern County, and it aims to provide rural ag students with access to state-of-the-art agricultural technologies and practices.

“We are proud to support Bakersfield College and the Kern Community College District in their efforts to build pathways to prosperity for Kern County residents,” said Amar Patel, Chief Philanthropy Officer for the Ravi and Naina Patel Foundation. “The Regenerative Agriculture Education Center at the Delano Campus allows rural farmworkers and their families to leverage their experience into highly technical, high-paying careers in mechanical and regenerative agriculture.”

BC dean speaks at ribbon cutting ceremony
attendees at ribbon cutting ceremony

Some features of the center include a solar greenhouse, no-till farming, a composting system, biochar demonstration, and smart irrigation systems. The center also plans to obtain organic certification, making it the only community college regenerative and organic center in the state. Electric vehicles make up all the farming equipment at the facility, and the Center also includes an EV charging station.

“The intent of the Regenerative Agriculture Education Center at BC is to provide space for students to answer questions of sustainability in agriculture and energy generation while still allowing for hands-on student engagement and investigation,” said Dr. Jalisca Thomason, a professor of Forestry and Natural Resources at Bakersfield College. “The location of the farm is equally important, as we are able to showcase methods and techniques used on crops grown in Kern County and under the specific growing conditions of the Central Valley to provide relevant information to our community.”

Through the Regenerative Agriculture Education Center, CREL aims to empower the public to learn more about the potential of Agrivoltaics in Kern County as well as analyze the economic tradeoffs, panel configurations, suitable crops, and soil impacts. Kern County communities can look forward to educational opportunities in student research, internships, and workforce development through Bakersfield College and CREL’s energy courses. CREL and Bakersfield College will also facilitate educational workshops and field visits to help increase awareness of agricultural and solar energy production.

Reperesentatives from BC and Kern CCD standing in front or area where farm will be built

“The environmental benefits of regenerative agriculture can be vast and include things like improved erosion control, water conservation, climate resilience, and biodiversity” said Brittany Staie, Agrivoltaics and Food-Energy-Water Nexus Researcher at NREL, who are an important technical advisor to the project. “Regenerative farming also shows potential to provide socioeconomic benefits through strengthening rural economies, improving food security, and providing educational opportunities.”

Approved by the KernCCD Board of Trustees in the Winter of 2021, the Regenerative Agriculture Education Center at BC’s Delano campus stands as the first of its kind in Kern County. Following its approval, plans have been set in motion to incorporate Agrivoltaics within the space, which integrate solar energy generation with agriculture, providing a dual-purpose solution that creates energy while supporting crop growth, grazing, and habitat conservation beneath and between the solar panels.

“CREL is leading efforts to provide education and explore viability of emerging technologies to address the impacts of climate change,” said Lora Larkin, Dean of instruction at the California Renewable Energy Laboratory. “We are excited to observe how this pioneering approach can offer both economic and ecological advantages to agricultural lands. This will allow us to provide hands- on education and options to our industry partners as they begin exploring integration of new technologies into existing operations.”

Currently, the farm is undergoing extensive planting of a variety of vegetables, with a focus on soil
replenishment to create an ideal growing environment. Dr. Thomason’s class has been actively planting a pollinator garden, a crucial step in supporting local ecosystems and biodiversity. The involvement of BC’s students in the development of this space not only enhances their education but reinforces the Center’s role as an experiential learning space, fostering hands-on involvement from the students in sustainable agriculture.