The AG Department's New X-Factor

By Larry Guyette

The Agriculture Department at Mendocino College now has a director and a new instructor. His name is Jim Xerogeanes. But before you get scared away by the sound of his last name, let's learn how easy it is to say. The X, of course, has the 'z' sound and the 'g' in Xerogeanes is pronounced like 'y' in boy. So, just say, "zer . roy ' . ens" -with the accent on the second syllable. Xerogeanes is a Greek name. Jim's father Coscontino "Gus" Xerogeanes taught school in Ukiah in the late 50's prior to moving to the Bay Area. After years of teaching, Jim's father become a principle in the San Mateo School District. His mother Jo Xerogeanes was a homemaker and was for a few years a teacher in an adult-school.

James Xerogeanes instructing students

James Louis Xerogeanes was born in San Bruno, California where he spent most of his childhood. He moved from the Bay Area to the North Coast in 1980. A graduate of Humboldt State University, Xerogeanes earned his BS in Forestry Resources Management. Jim is not married, but he is quick to say he doesn't live alone. "I share my home with 'Ace' a beautiful Blue Healer, named for the tomato," he said. As a young person growing-up with both of his parents as educators, Xerogeanes was reared in an environment that valued learning and personal achievement, "Ever since childhood," said Xerogeanes, "I admired people who chose teaching as a vocation." He is happy to be a teacher himself.

Now, Jim has his own admirers, two such people are ag technicians Kathryn Green and Marilyn Friedman who have been propagating plants and working in the greenhouses for the college for many years. They are looking forward to a new era at the MC Ag Department.

Said Ms. Green, "Those of us who have been here awhile know how lucky we are to have Jim as the Ag director. We first became aquatinted with Jim's talents when he was a part-time instructor here and at the Lake Center (1990-93)," she explained. Those who have taken classes from him report that Xerogeanes is interesting, up-close and often funny. "He is a very effective instructor, and a pretty nice boss," said Ms. Green.

Last year Marilyn Friedman contributed to News from the AG Department -a regular feature for the Eagle. Ms. Friedman hopes to make similar contributions under Xerogeanes' direction this year. Said Ms Friedman, "The staff is looking forward to trying new ways of doing things around here. And," she continued, "we're anxious to begin a new era in the Ag Department."

Ms. Friedman explained, "Although I have been here for years, it feels exciting and brand new to be working here now. Currently, the Ag Department staff is in the process of redefining and clarifying their work roles. "The goal of the process," Friedman says, "is to enable us to perform our jobs more effectively and more efficiently."

Xerogeanes, who worked for the Mendocino County Department of Agriculture as a biologist for 12 years before heading-up the college's Ag Department this fall, hopes MC students and the agribusiness community can benefit mutually by the vocational training programs offered by the college.

While Xerogeanes was with County Ag he advised farmers and ranchers about regulatory compliance with the always changing state and federal laws on pesticide applications. His specialty was teaching farmers and ranchers alternate methods of controlling pests and weeds, by introducing plants or other bio-controls that choke-out the offenders. "We had particular success working toward controlling star thistle, which has become a serious problem to ranchers in Mendocino County," said Xerogeanes.

Xerogeanes expects that leaders in the North Coast Ag industry will view cooperation with the college as a mutually beneficial relationship that will create an opportunity to contribute to the process of research and development of innovative solutions to problems that challenge modern agriculture in this area. "We are lucky in Mendocino County," said Xerogeanes, "to have growers who are willing to allow us to use their farms and their expertise -to be effective laboratory facilitators of real-world agribusiness situations. That's a prospect that really excites me," .

One student who is very excited about learning Plant Identification and Soil Fertility from the new Ag teacher is Sher Patton, a second semester Horticulture student. Ms Patton has been attending classes at Mendocino College off-and-on-again since her daughter entered the third grade in 1984. She explained, "I wanted to learn new skills that could help me be a better single parent. I finished my first degree in May 1995, -an AA in Early Childhood Development." She continued, "I knew I wanted to work in a nursery. I thought it would be with children, but as it turned out I'm raising plants." Ms Patton plans to earn a second associate degree in agriculture before going to a four-year college. She says , "Jim really makes learning fun. His friendly personality makes approaching a new subject less threatening."

People who know Xerogeanes professionally report that among his best assets are the relationships he has built over the years. He has worked closely with all the big agriculture producers in Mendocino County as well as the mom and pop truck farmers.

The new Ag director said, "I want to build alliances with leaders in the agricultural business community and Mendocino College." He explained, "We will bring our students to the farms and ranches to see first hand the problems confronting agriculture and the solutions that modern farmers employ." There are plans to utilize more of the land surrounding the agriculture department for field-study activities, major ag projects and horticultural experiments. "We hope," said Xerogeanes, "that the things we do here will change the way people look at the study of agriculture at Mendocino College in the future."

Someone else who is very interested in the future of agriculture studies at Mendocino College, is the person who recommended Xerogeanes to the Board of Trustees for hire, MC president Carl Ehmann. Said Ehmann, " Jim's experiences and valuable community connections will enable the college to respond directly to the needs of the agricultural community in a way that we never could before." The president continued, "Jim will train students to meet the challenges that face those entering the work force and prepare students to excel when they transfer to the four-year colleges and universities. All of us here are fortunate to have Jim on our team."

Want to take an Ag class in the Spring? Plant Propagation, Pests, Landscape, Floral design II, Spring veg, and Plant ID will be offered.

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Last Update: 10/13/96