June 8, 2015

Contact: Jay Thompson

Cal Poly Receives One of the Largest Land Donations in its 114-Year History

Santa Maria couple to donate 450-acre avocado and lemon ranch near Arroyo Grande valued at $11.3 million

SAN LUIS OBISPO — A Santa Maria couple has agreed to donate to Cal Poly a 450-acre avocado and lemon ranch in southern San Luis Obispo County valued at $11.3 million — one of the largest private land donations in the university’s history.

Stuart “Stu” and Jan Bartleson and university officials made the announcement at a press conference held at Bartleson Ranch on Los Berros Road, three miles south of Arroyo Grande.

The donation of a working and income-producing avocado and lemon ranch increases Cal Poly's agricultural land holdings to more than 10,000 acres, including the 6,000 acres adjacent to the San Luis Obispo campus, and the 3,200-acre Swanton Pacific Ranch and 600-acre Valencia property, both in Santa Cruz County.

“We are extremely grateful for this donation and its far-reaching potential for future generations of Cal Poly students,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “It is through the generosity and foresight of donors like Stu and Jan Bartleson that we are able to continue providing the Learn by Doing educational experience for our students.”

The donation will vastly expand the 11 acres of lemons and 15 acres of avocados already growing on campus. Both crops are used to enhance students’ educational experience. The new ranch has 104 acres of avocados and 131 acres of lemons.

“The Bartlesons’ generosity will enable longer-term research projects, provide numerous internship opportunities for students and facilitate income-producing industry partnerships for the college,” said Andrew Thulin, dean of the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences. “While the core of our hands-on, Learn by Doing education will still take place on campus, I’m excited about the opportunities this provides for expanding the learning and research programs for our students, faculty and staff.”

Stu Bartleson was thrilled at the possibility of donating the land to Cal Poly.

“It’s exciting to think about this being kept as ag land and carrying our name in perpetuity,” he said. “I’m also excited to think that the ranch will help prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s ag industry leaders.”

Jan observed that when Stu purchased the land in 1985, it had been used as a feedlot for cattle with only the occasional oak peppering the gently rolling landscape.

“It just makes him feel so good that the avocadoes and lemons will be able to continue on,” she said. “It’s very important to him that it stay the way it is, and the right place to donate it to is Cal Poly.”

The couple are well known for their philanthropic efforts and were honored in 2011 by Celebrate Philanthropy, a local nonprofit that singles out outstanding achievements in service and betterment of the lives of people in the community.

“Whether supporting education, animal welfare, youth or senior citizens, there are few philanthropic projects in the Santa Maria Valley (to which) Stu and Jan Bartleson have not contributed,” the organization wrote. “With little or no fanfare, support was given to many agencies who would have struggled to provide services or operate in tough economic times without the Bartlesons’ generosity.”

The couple has been major supporters of organizations that provide “vital services and programs” that benefit area residents, the organization said.

Since the 1960s, Stu Bartleson has been a major contributor to service organizations and local nonprofit agencies, providing important services and programs that benefit area residents. He has also served on the Allan Hancock College Foundation Board of Directors.

Born and raised in Southern California, he enlisted in the Navy Seebees in 1942 and served in the South Pacific until the end of World War II. In 1958, Bartleson and his partner, Slim Minor, came to the Santa Maria Valley and developed the first of several housing developments for construction workers and personnel stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base as the area grew.

The partners, who formed the Atlantic and Pacific Co., also developed shopping centers and a mobile home park in the area as well as housing subdivisions throughout the state.

Jan Bartleson moved to Carpinteria in 1960. She was hired as head of the Carpinteria Chamber of Commerce in 1965. She moved to Santa Maria in 1978.

She was a real estate broker and a partner in the Point Sal Dunes project in Guadalupe. She co-developed Casa la Cañada in Lompoc, Bakersfield, Paso Robles and San Bernardino.

Stu and Jan have been married 20 years.

Bartleson Ranch At a Glance

The donation of Bartleson Ranch to Cal Poly by Stu and Jan Bartleson is valued at $11.3 million. It is the largest private land donation within San Luis Obispo County to Cal Poly in the university’s 114-year history.

The property covers 450 acres of rolling ranchland off Los Berros Road, three miles south of the city of Arroyo Grande.

The ranch was formerly a cattle feedlot, at one time feeding up to 5,000 animals, mostly cattle and some sheep.

Stu Bartleson purchased the land in 1985 initially hoping to develop a hotel, 18-hole golf course and subdivision. He planted the first lemon trees to prove the property had water. He also planted Asian pears trees before exclusively committing the land to agriculture and adding thousands of additional lemon and avocado trees.

The ranch includes 131 acres of Lisbon lemons and 104 acres of avocados, which are mostly of the Haas variety.

Bartleson Ranch currently has 18,572 lemon trees and 8,842 avocado trees.


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Note to editors: Photo attached. High-resolution version available upon request.