Land of Opportunity
- Major: Agrigultural Economics
“ We want children to learn about the connection between farming and food ”
Jim Hicks made his living in agriculture, so it comes as no surprise that he is a big proponent of agricultural education.
It’s a passion that he wants to share with others — so much so that the retired businessman and his wife, Neta, donated $800,000 to the College of Agriculture earlier this year to expand educational outreach programs and to create an endowment to support plant science and agribusiness students. It’s the largest single gift ever given to the college.
“We depend on agriculture to provide our food, and we must not take that for granted,” says Hicks, the former president and CEO of Jim Hicks & Co. in Brea, a wholesale distributor of commercial fertilizers. “We must continue to educate the public on the importance of agriculture so future generations will continue to have stable and sufficient food supplies.”
The bulk of the Hicks’ donation will go toward improving the “heritage discovery farm” at AGRIscapes. The farm promotes agricultural literacy through field trips for schoolchildren, who learn about farming and food through fun and interactive activities. The donation will support facilities including a barn, windmill and outbuildings, which hold a petting farm, store crops, and house antique tractor and farm tool displays.
“We want children to learn about the connection between farming and food,” says Hicks, whose son was a student at the College of Agriculture. “We want to get them interested when they’re young and hope they will grow up to study agriculture in college and become industry leaders.”
The gift also will create an endowment to help plant science and agricultural business students with tuition fees, books, housing and travel to internships.
Hicks has long championed agricultural education. He is a staunch supporter of the California Agriculture in the Classroom program, a nonprofit dedicated to educating youth about farming.
Since 2009, he has provided scholarships for College of Agriculture students and helped fund the expansion of the university’s AGRIscapes complex. He also funded the Jim Hicks International Scholarship program, which sent College of Agriculture students on an internship to India last summer. More students will be interning abroad this summer.
In recognition of his efforts, the college presented him with the first Jim Hicks Agricultural Achievement Award at the inaugural Spring Harvest Farm 2 Table dinner. The college presents the award annually and has named it in his honor.