Monday, May 1, 2017
Scouting Cotton & Alfalfa Fields Paving a Career Path in Ag
He drove tractors for Lapenta Farms. He repaired, welded and hauled farm equipment for San Juan Ranch.
That is how Damien Jelen spent his summers and free time outside of classes at Merced College. “I enjoyed the farm environment. I had a good mix of jobs,” the Dos Palos resident says.
His farm experience cemented his interest to pursue a career in agriculture. “I became interested in becoming a PCA (pest control adviser) when I heard about the career while working for San Juan. I knew Ag was for me after this job I had,” he says.
Today, Damien is honing his skills further as the new alfalfa and cotton field scout for the San Joaquin Valley Sustainable Farming Project, which is part of the Sustainable Cotton Project (SCP) in the Valley.
As a Dos Palos resident, he grew up in the heart of the state’s farm basket. His family roots, though, aren’t planted in agriculture. His father is a police officer and mother is a nurse.
“I wanted to be a police officer in high school,” Damien says. In fact, he went on police ride-alongs to get a taste for the law enforcement profession. He opted to explore agriculture, becoming an equipment hauler for San Juan Ranch and later a chemical applicator for Lapenta Farms. While working for the farms, he has a chance to meet PCAs and agricultural chemical company representatives.
Pest Control Advisers (PCAs) are state licensed professional production consultants. An Ag PCA specializes in pest management and servesas an important resource for famers on production issues related to plant health. They will write down pest management recommendations for growers and provide advice on pest management products and their use, including worker safety and environmental impact.
Damien is intrigued by the idea of a PCA seeing the results of his pest management recommendations on a crop. He says his field scouting experience will offer good preparation for obtaining his PCA license.
Currently, Damien is working on his associate of applied science degree in crop science at Merced College. Next year, he plans to transfer to Fresno State University and major in crop science.
Meanwhile, Damien will be providing another set of eyes for local alfalfa and cotton growers participating in the SJSF project. He’ll give us weekly updates on pests in the field and crop development throughout the season.
“I like going to work outdoors. I find it interesting looking for bugs,” he says.
SJSFP and SCP Director Marcia Gibbs says Damien has a good foundation for the field scout position. “Damien brings some good knowledge of cotton and alfalfa and is really looking forward to working with growers,” she says.