I had the distinct pleasure of being able to interview a young woman by the name of Thania who is the Greenhouse manager for the Arbor Day Foundation. Thania is a woman who works in the agriculture industry, but like many women, she has to work extra hard to prove herself in a space that is typically a male dominated world. Check out what Thania has to say about where she came from and listen to her views about being a woman in the agriculture industry… oh and don’t let her fool you, she may only be a whopping 5 foot tall, but this gal is into Crossfit and she can definitely take care of herself…..
Tell us about yourself, a little background on there you grew up, did you go to a college or any kind of trade school?
My name is Thania Damaris Avelar, born and raised in the smoggy city of Los Angeles, California. The City of Angels is a lovely mega city where there is little Agriculture and many of us are influenced by the larger than life ideas. I was no different than many of the kids I grew up around except for one thing, I was privileged enough to have had parents who were educated as immigrants to the states. Both of my parents are Agronomists and had obtained their degrees in El Salvador located in Central America. As a child I was fascinated by the outdoors and always recall planting large numbers of varying plant species with my mom. I had a large influence from my parents as to what I wanted to study not because they pressured me into doing so but, because of my fascination for plants. I attended the University of California, Santa Cruz where I received my degree in 2013. There, I was able to really focus on what I loved, plants and soils. I was able to work with a wonderful soil professor who reminded me that soil was such an undermined resource that sooner or later would be essential to its conservation and preservation. I was able to research soils for 3 years, I designed my graduating thesis on how conventional and organic farming depleted the amount of Nitrogen in the soil. My first job after graduating from college was as a Naturalist in the Angeles National Forest, there I learned how the natural world is largely affected by humans and what we do in our regular lives.
What is it that you do for a living and how is it connected to agriculture?
Now, I am the Greenhouse Manager for Arbor Day Foundation whose mission is to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. Here my main focus in cultivation and procurement of trees. My job now plays a role in agriculture because many of the trees that are cultivated in our space require the same growth and expertise. Meaning, that although they are not directly used for the consumption of food or textiles that are still grown in vast quantities to be distributed throughout the United States. Our main consumers of the trees themselves are farmers who are looking to have larger trees on their properties.
As a woman in the agriculture world what are some of the struggles you have faced?
My biggest struggle being a woman in the agricultural world is complex and sometimes difficult to pinpoint but the biggest struggle I come across is not being valued with the knowledge I have. I still have to learn and understand how crops are grown in mass quantities and knowing that I am able to bring knowledge without making the counterpart feel belittled, the same is not always reciprocated. Another struggle is that they see me as a physically weak individual, I do stand a whopping 5′ feet tall, where they think I am not capable of lifting, moving or working out in the field. Coming from California also poses a big struggle, here in the Midwest farmers believe that they have a better understanding of what is going on and that I am unfamiliar with processes that they have done for many years. I know that not everything is learned through books but having the knowledge and will power will never stop an individual from reaching their goals.
What would you like to see change towards women in Agriculture?
Changes are always hard to make but never impossible. One of the changes I would like to see change for women in Agriculture is to see more of them. Our society has created a stigma that only men should be in this field and understand it. This is not at all the case as we learn more about our planet and how we are depleting our sources we need to have a larger diversity in this field. Allowing women to feel more empowered in the work space, knowing that they are more than capable of using machinery and giving them the trust that they will complete a task. The biggest changes for women in agriculture will come from acceptance that a female can take the lead in production.
If you or someone you know would like to share their story please send them my way, I am looking for people in the agriculture and mental health industries that I can showcase here and help share their great stories for others to read about and hopefully learn from.