Precision Ag
Farm of the Future - Meet Our Faculty

David CastilloDavid Castillo is currently serving as interim director of the West Hills College Coalinga Farm of the Future. He has been an employee of West Hills Community College District since 2007. During that term he has served as director of a number of programs including the Westside Institute of Technology (WIT), Transitions, Tech Prep, contract education, after-school programs and special grant programs. All but the after-school program emphasize job related skill-set building and technical trainings.

David has extensive background in business and local workforce needs with more than 25 years of farming and transportation business manager experience. He still farms with his family in the Dos Palos area. His teaching experience includes welding, automotive, landscaping, academic remediation and residential construction. As director of WIT, David works with local schools, city and county governments, and businesses and industry leaders to focus directly on building skill-sets for workforce development and jobs. These vocational programs have been focused on janitorial, security, welding, forklift, truck driving, energy efficiency, maintenance mechanic, residential and industrial electrical, programmable logic controllers, and over the past five years have expanded into the “Green Workforce” needs with residential and industrial solar applications.

David and his wife, Doreen, have three children.

Contact David via email at or by phone at 934-2166.


Chris ChaneyChris Chaney, who has been a welding instructor at Farm of the Future since 2011, was raised in San Joaquin on his parents’ dairy and farm. He has been involved in agriculture since he was born, learning the importance of hard work and family. After graduating from Kerman High School in 1999, he attended West Hills College Coalinga where he earned an A.S. in Crop Science and his commercial driver’s license. He graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with a degree in agricultural systems management in 2006. In 2007, he married his wife, Kimberly, and became the father to two boys, Josh and Caleb.

Contact Chris via email at or by phone at 934-2177.


Clint CowdenClint Cowden graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in agricultural systems management with a concentration in irrigation engineering and a minor in agribusiness. Clint worked his way through college at many jobs including a primary job with Environmental Care, Inc., in San Jose, Calif., (now Valley Crest) which is one of the largest landscape and golf course management companies in the United States. Upon graduating from Cal Poly, he moved to the Sonoma Valley where he worked for Gallo Vineyards -- first as an intern and then as director of special projects (irrigation and vineyard design). 

After Gallo, Clint moved to Wyatt Irrigation in Napa, Calif., where he was the branch sales manager and the head designer for vineyards in the Napa Valley. While working, he decided to return to Cal Poly, where he completed all of the coursework for a Master’s degree in precision agriculture. Upon leaving Cal Poly, Clint and his wife, Joy, started Cowden Advanced Agriculture in Coalinga, specializing in irrigation design, scheduling and agronomic decision making in the Central Valley. After a few years of having their own business, Clint and Joy were offered positions with a larger consulting firm, J.M. Lord, Inc., and moved to La Quinta, Calif., (Palm Springs) working on one of the largest water litigations in history. J.M. Lord was hired by the Coachella Valley Water District to quantify water savings due to their growers instituting scientific irrigation scheduling and management. While in the desert, Joy and Clint monitored and consulted on over 75,000 acres on soil fertility, irrigation scheduling, drainage and integrated pest control. During this time Clint sat on the advisory committee for WHCC’s Precision Ag program. When WHCC decided to create a new Precision Agriculture academy-style program, Clint was asked to help create the program. Clint decided that he would come for three years, create the curriculum, get the program started and return to industry. That was in 2003.

Clint and Joy have twin daughters.

Contact Clint via email at or by phone at 934-2701.


Dr Tim EllsworthDr. Tim Ellsworth joined West Hills College in August 2013 as an agriculture technology instructor. In addition to agriculture, he also teaches geology and environmental science courses. His primary academic areas of expertise are soil science, with a focus on precision agriculture and nutrient management, and distance education. Tim currently serves on the advisory board for the Canadian Biochar Consortium.

Prior to joining WHC, Tim worked for 23 years as a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where part of his duties included serving as the faculty director of the online master’s program for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science. Tim obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University, a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside. In addition to working at the University of Illinois, his prior work experience includes serving as a soil scientist with the USDA U.S. Salinity Laboratory, a visiting faculty member at the Centre for Water Research, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Western Australia in Perth and a senior scientist performing hazard assessments and hazard evaluations for the U.S. Army with regard to management of the U.S. Army Chemical Weapon Stockpile.

Tim and his wife, Jennifer, have three daughters and a son.

Contact Tim via email at or by phone at 934-2711.


Sherri FreemanSherri Freeman joined the ag faculty at WHCC in August 2013. She was born in Fresno. Her family was very involved in the beef cattle industry, which led them to many ranches in Nevada and finally settling in the Imperial Valley. Sherri was very involved in her high school agriculture program and fell in love with agriculture education. She attended California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, and graduated in 1983. She also received her teaching certificate and master’s degree at Cal Poly in 1998. She was able to develop a new agriculture program at Warner High School in San Diego County, where she taught for 17 years. During her time in Warner Springs, she taught a wide variety of courses and was able to develop a four-year pathway of UC-approved agriculture science curriculum. She is currently enrolled in the Doc@Distance doctorate program with Texas A&M University and Texas Tech, majoring in agriculture education and communication. Her passions include spending time with family (which includes two sons and a daughter), riding horses and mules, leatherwork and packing in the Sierra.

Contact Sherri via email at or by phone at 559-934-2709.


Bruce HuntBruce Hunt has been the rodeo head coach at West Hills College since 1982. A member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys’ Association since 1972, Hunt has brought his expertise and rodeo knowledge to the over 500 rodeo athletes who have been part of the West Hills rodeo team. Many have gone on to become National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association champions and some have been national finalists and world champions in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys’ Association.

Under Coach Hunt, West Hills rodeo teams have won 10 regional championships, been runners-up to the national champions twice, ranked third in the nation twice and placed fourth three times. West Hills has been the most dominating force in the West Coast Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association for the last two decades, making Coach Hunt the most successful rodeo coach in the West Coast Region in recent years.

Coach Hunt is a product of college rodeo and stresses the importance of education. Competing for Utah State University and later for Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Coach Hunt qualified for the College National Finals four years and was the West Coast calf roping champion in 1974. He graduated from Cal Poly with an undergraduate degree in journalism and a Master’s degree in agriculture. After college, Hunt had a successful career in professional rodeo in Canada, where he was raised, qualifying for the Canadian National Finals Rodeo.

Bruce and his wife, Liz, have two daughters and a son. Liz is a former California High School state all-around champion, and both of their daughters attended and competed for the West Hills College Rodeo Team. Their oldest daughter, Nora, is a two-time world champion roper.

Contact Bruce via email at or by phone at 559-934-2702.


Norman OilarNorman Oilar joined Farm of the Future faculty in August 2013. He started teaching agriculture education in 1996 in Northern California and has taught many diversified areas of agriculture including agricultural mechanics, animal science, agricultural business, natural resources and leadership. He has 25 years of experience in the construction trades industry. He taught students to become certified welders in the agricultural mechanics program at Greenville High School and Feather River College. Additionally, he has three years of experience in the livestock sales and service industry, which included business management and marketing. He has provided consultation services for a variety of agricultural producers, and he has been involved with his family’s commercial cattle operation.

Oilar earned a Master’s degree in agriculture education at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and holds teaching credentials and a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from California State University, Chico. He started his college education at Shasta College, where he earned two A.A. degrees in agriculture and general education.

He has held leadership roles for 4-H, Future Farmers of America and California Agriculture Teachers Association including an American FFA degree and other honors from the CATA. He was a member of the 1991 California State University, Chico, Collegiate Livestock Judging Team.

Contact Norman via email at or by phone at 559-934-2710.


Merlin WelchMerlin Welch has run the heavy equipment program at West Hills College Coalinga for many years where his students learn not only the operation of many types of equipment but also surveying, hydraulics and machinery repair. They experience construction projects. He has served as the national president of the Land Improvement Contractors of America (LICA), which named him Contractor of the Year. He received a California Agriculture Teachers’ Association Teacher of Excellence Award in 2010 and served as that organization’s community college division chairman.

Merlin retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2006 after 33 years of service in the U.S. Army and the California National Guard with much of that time spent in logistical operations. He also served as the state liaison officer for the Office of Emergency Services and Crisis Action Center.

A graduate of Santa Paula High School, he earned an A.A. at Ventura College, a bachelor’s in agricultural mechanics and a Master’s in agricultural education from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Merlin earned certificates from a number of professional and educational organizations including John Deere, Texas A & M, the University of Wisconsin, Associated Builders and Contractors of California and UC Berkeley.

He and his wife, Jacqueline, have four sons.

Contact Merlin via email at or by phone at 559-934-2707.

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Student Success

"The time I spent at West Hills College in the Precision Ag program has been very beneficial and the lessons learned there have been useful in my everyday life."

Kerri Birdwell,
Pacific Coast Field Support Technician
Ag Leader Technology, Iowa

Farm of the Future

Strategic Plan