Haley Imhof comes across as a person who understands the meaning of an honest day’s work.
Imhof grew up on her family’s cattle ranch in Pleasanton, California, not far from San Francisco Bay. There they raise 250 head of beef cattle and grow the crops that feed them.
“It was lots of work,” says Imhof. “I didn’t have a lot of free time to myself. I worked with cows all of the time, moving them from pasture to pasture.”
With the spare time she did have, Imhof found success in 4-H. One of her goats earned Supreme Champion at the Alameda County Fair. She also showed dairy cattle and eventually realized she had more interest in dairy than beef.
When it was time to look at colleges, Imhof settled on studying Animal Science at Chico State. During her senior year, she received an email from her department announcing that a representative from Cal Poly was coming to campus to discuss a new dairy-related Masters program.
“I went to the meeting, and it wasn’t all about raising cattle,” says Imhof. “It was more about what happens after the milk leaves the farm and goes to a plant to be processed. I knew a lot about feeding and milking, but I didn’t know much at all about the processing side. It really interested me to learn more about it.”
In September, Imhof arrived on Cal Poly’s campus with 16 other MPS students to begin a one-year academic journey. The students now spend their days together, taking all of the same classes and attending the same labs. Imhof immediately noticed that her history was different from those of her classmates.
“Everyone has such diverse backgrounds,” says Imhof. “We have people from Food Science, Nutrition, Chemistry, Engineering, Forage – also, where they come from is so varied. I have learned so much by watching how the students from different cultures interact with the instructors and and all of us.”
On her first day in the program, Imhof had the opportunity to speak with representatives of a dozen companies on campus for the the program’s quarterly advisory committee meeting.
“There’s such a great connection between companies and students,” Imhof says. “Almost everyone I talked to was interested in getting a couple of interns for the summer. They were already talking about job opportunities. There doesn’t seem to be a limit – it doesn’t seem possible that we could come out of this program and and not have a job.”
For now, Imhof is focused on her coursework – she says it keeps her on her toes – but she’s anxious to get into the creamery and learn about making cheese. She’s also excited about some upcoming tours of large-scale dairy processing facilities. The class will tour a Leprino Foods mozzarella plant and a Dreyer’s ice cream plant in the coming weeks.
“I have never been in a large plant, only on dairies and farms,” says Imhof. “I picture them as big and full of machines – and very clean. I hear they’re huge.”
Imhof says she likes San Luis Obispo’s beautiful weather and loves being close to the beach, but there are times when she misses her cows back home in Pleasanton. Fortunately, the university maintains a 250-cow dairy farm across the street from the MPS teaching facility.
“The cows are so close to where our classrooms are – if you want to go hang around with them, they’re right there. It keeps me in touch with my Animal Science side. I might take some of the other students over there and teach them a little about it.”