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Chico State

Chico State College of Agriculture Names New Director for University Farm

Ricardo Orellana

The College of Agriculture at Chico State has hired Ricardo Orellana as its new director of the University Farm, with confidence his international background, leadership and diverse agriculture experience will strengthen partnerships and support the program in meeting the needs of agriculture in the 21st century.

Orellana comes from Cornell University, where he served as an extension associate for the Produce Safety Alliance program, overseeing and coordinating regional, national and international training programs related to compliance regulations and market demands for food safety.

“I am thrilled to have Dr. Orellana join our College as the director of the University Farm. He has a breadth of knowledge and understanding of agriculture trends and markets as well as food systems, and public engagement,” said Patricia Stock, dean of the College of Agriculture. “The Farm plays a critical role in our educational mission as a living laboratory that provides hands-on experiences to students, thus, I am convinced that under Dr. Orellana’s administration, we will not only expand existing programs and projects but will take them to the next level to meet the needs and demands of our state, expand partnerships with our stakeholders and provide solutions to the challenges that agriculture faces in the 21st century.”

Throughout his 22-year career, Orellana has overseen diverse agricultural operations, with expertise including cover crops, fruit trees, and vegetable production, high tunnel and greenhouse production, and livestock, dairy, and poultry production. He has led multicultural staff and professionals, and managed multi-year projects and contracts with national and international companies in agriculture market access, education, training, produce safety, and climate-smart practices.

Orellana has also managed competitive funds (small and multimillion budgets) to promote smart sustainable agriculture, new business, technology innovation, agribusiness, soil and water conservation, and natural resources management. And he has worked with diverse donors from the public and private sectors at international levels, including USAID, World Bank, International Bank for Agricultural Development, Inter-American Development Bank, and The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

A native of El Salvador, he brings a breadth of international expertise. Orellana earned his PhD in plant and soil sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He also holds a PhD in rural development from Bolivarian University, Chile, where he also received an MS in sustainable human development. Additionally, he received an MBA from the Institute of Economics and Business Administration in El Salvador, and bachelor’s degrees in both rural development and agriculture, and agronomy and forestry from Zamorano University in Honduras.

“I am grateful to all of you, and I feel privileged to join your team. I look forward to continuing with the mission and vision of the College of Agriculture in providing opportunities for hands-on experiences for our students at the Farm,” Orellana said. “I also look for opportunities on working shoulder-to-shoulder with faculty, staff, the private sector and the Chico community to expand technology and infrastructure and contribute to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities.”

The University Farm was established in 1960 through the efforts of its namesake, Senator Paul L. Byrne. Spanning more than 800 acres off Hegan Lane in south Chico, the facility supports classes in agriculture as a living laboratory while also serving as the most unique, productive and diverse farm in Northern California. Whether participating in class labs or working as part-time employees, thousands of students have engaged with the University Farm, as well as thousands of grade-school students who tour it annually—many experiencing live farm animals and farming hands-on for the first time.

Additionally, farmers and ranchers benefit from research conducted on the Farm, and its produce and meat sales have long been popular in the Chico community. Retiring professor Dave Daley has served as its director for the last 13 years. A fifth-generation cattle rancher and proud alumnus, his impact on the Farm will continue for decades to come.

Dr. Orellana will begin his tenure as director May 15.