Raymond Watje’s roots at Cal Poly Pomona run deep. The 1959 agronomy graduate’s dedication to plant science keeps him very much committed to the university — and its students.
Watje’s appreciation for agriculture started at a young age. He was raised on a ranch in Riverside, where his family grew alfalfa, corn and beans. When it came time for college, studying crop production seemed a natural fit.
“When I attended the old Voorhis campus, it was an all-male school, there were only about 300 students, and it cost only about $49 per quarter,” he says. “Times have definitely changed.”
After graduation, Watje did custom farming for L & S Farming Company, which grew alfalfa and tomatoes in the Riverside and Chino areas. In 1964, he began working for Toxo Spray Dust Inc., a major company in the pest control business for the booming citrus industry in Southern California.
Watje formed Evergreen Farm Supply in 1985 with another Cal Poly Pomona alumnus, Tim Hays (’76, fruit industries). The company was successful in adapting to environmental standards and being on the cutting edge of innovation.
Over the years, Watje’s commitment to plant science students has remained strong. He was named Distinguished Alumnus in 1998 and has been providing annual student scholarships since 1992, both as an individual and through his former company, Evergreen Farm Supply.
“I chose to support Cal Poly Pomona because it helped me quite a bit when I got started, and I just figured it was the right thing to do,” he says. “It’s a simple and practical way to help students get started in their new careers. I get a lot of personal satisfaction knowing that I’m helping somebody.”
One scholarship recipient is Courtney Habegger, who was awarded Watje’s scholarship two years ago. Today, she is a fourth-year plant science major with a focus on agronomy, and she works part time as a farm manager at Cal Poly Pomona’s Spadra Ranch.
“When you’re going to school full time and working part time, it’s such a relief to know that your tuition is at least partially covered,” she says. “This scholarship definitely lifted some of the financial burden off
Another recipient was alumnus Chad Cleveland, who was awarded Watje’s scholarship for two years starting in 2002. After graduation, he went to work as the farm manager for Cal Poly Pomona’s West Wind Ranch in Chino. He now interacts with Watje almost daily.
“I purchase all of our seed and supplies from Wilbur-Ellis Co., where Raymond Watje happens to be our account manager,” Cleveland says. “He’s semi-retired but continues to support a few of his favorite accounts, like Cal Poly Pomona.
“It’s such a small world,” he adds. “I received student scholarships from Raymond years ago, and now I actually do business with him, so it’s come full circle.”
Over the years, Watje has contributed to other plant science department initiatives. In the late ’90s, he supported AGRIscapes, which broke ground in June 2000. Today, it includes a learning center, the Farm Store, nurseries and surrounding fields. The 40-acre site serves as a central destination for Southern California residents to learn about agriculture, landscaping and the environment.
“This project was designed to bring all the disciplines within plant sciences together,” says Dan Hostetler, plant science department chair. “Raymond’s financial contributions were valuable in our early
fundraising efforts, particularly in helping to build our current Farm Store. We’re so grateful for all of Raymond’s support through the years.”
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