Black Farmers in Agriculture

February is Black History month, so it got me thinking and interested in learning more about the history of black people and their involvement with agriculture. I was able to dig up some interesting facts and discovered that black people have made some significant contributions to the history of agriculture and their inventions still have impacts on how things are done today. In addition to learning about some great innovators I also learned a lot about the struggles that black farmers still face in today’s society.

An agriculture census performed in 2012 revealed that black farmers make up 1.4 percent (44,629 black farm operators) of the United States 3.2 million farmers, which was a 12% increase from the previous 5 years. Ninety percent of the black farmers live in twelve southern states. [1] Texas has more black farmers that any other state, the black farmers in Texas account for 3% of the farmers in Texas. The top commodity produced by black principal operators is beef cattle, which accounts for nearly half of the black farm operations.

Henry Blair was born a free man in 1807, he was the second African American to be issued a United States patent. [2] Mr. Blair was a successful farmer and the two inventions he patented was a corn planter and a cotton planter. Both of these inventions helped to increase efficiency by limiting the amount of labor and time needed on the farm.

George Washington Carver was an educator at Tuskegee University and he wanted to learn about revitalizing southern soil that had been stripped by cotton. Cotton is a nitrogen depleting crop, Mr. Carver developed a crop rotation method that rotated the cotton crop with legumes and other corps such as corn that helped fix the nitrogen loss. By rotating these crops, not only did it help improve the soil it gave southern farmers additional produce they could sell beside the cotton. [3]

Frederick McKinley Jones created an invention that is still used daily in the agriculture world, the refrigerated truck. In 1940 Mr. Jones patented a refrigeration system and he became the co-owner of the company Thermo King[4]. Due to Mr. Jones invention, perishable foods could now be shipped to further distances, his invention was eventually added to trucks, boats, planes and boxcars, which now allows fresh seasonal produce to be enjoyed around the world throughout the entire year.

John W. Boyd Jr. is a farmer from Virginia, Mr. Boyd has become a leader in campaigning for civil rights for the black farmer. In 1995 Boyd founded the National Black Farmers Association[5] after he had talked with many other black farmers who all had shared similar stories of discrimination. Mr. Boyd continues to advocate for minorities rights and you can read more about his story and his work at https://www.johnboydjr.com/about

Additionally for more information about what black people are doing in the agriculture community head on over to https://blackfarmersnetwork.com – there you will find a wealth of information about what black farmers are doing today, and also you can read about the struggles that the black farm owner still faces in today’s society and how they are working hard to combat racial inequality.


[1] https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Highlights/2014/Highlights_Black_Farmers.pdf

[2] https://www.farmproject.org/blog/2017/2/4/hikqys8igvv0bo368aco3mrb1rv7d1

[3] https://www.farmproject.org/blog/2017/2/4/hikqys8igvv0bo368aco3mrb1rv7d1

[4] https://www.farmproject.org/blog/2017/2/4/hikqys8igvv0bo368aco3mrb1rv7d1

[5] https://www.agdaily.com/lifestyle/black-history-month-african-americans-farming/

Advocacy vs Arrogance – Promote your beliefs without shaming your target audience

When it comes to advocating for a cause you believe in there is a fine line where a person goes from being an advocate to becoming arrogant. One of the key components to promoting your industry is to educate people without shaming them. The minute your tone becomes condescending and you place yourself on an elevated pedestal you are no longer being an effective advocate for your cause, in fact you are creating more harm than good.

One of my long term goals in advocating for the agriculture industry is to work on closing the gap between the consumer and the agriculture industry. This challenge is much deeper than I realized it to be when I began this journey. One of the problems on the agriculture side is the perception that city people do not like farmers, and that city people are uneducated about where their food comes from. The perception on the consumer side of the “farmer” covers a wide range of topics, many of these topics stem from large amounts of bad information that is spread across social media platforms by people who do not understand the agriculture industry. While some of these perceptions are semi accurate there are many exceptions to the rule.

It’s been a long time practice for both sides to feel attacked by one another and the normalized response is to retaliate back with a message of why the other side is wrong or why your side is better than the other side. These types of attacks and retaliations do not do any good, they only further divide the two sides and in the long run further spread more misinformation and bad perceptions about each other.

One of the latest examples that comes to mind was I saw an advertisement for a “Farm Mom” shirt, the words on the shirt basically described what every mom is regardless of what industry they are in, and it’s great to recognize a farm mom because they are truly some hard working people, but all in all lets face it, most moms work very hard for their family whether they go to a job in the city, work from home, or they are a farm mom. The shirt creates a perception that not all moms are as great as a farm mom, which is fine if that is how you feel, but how is that message perceived by a non-farm mom? If I was a non-farm mom I would feel a bit turned off by that message and it certainly would not drive me to seek more information from you as an agriculture advocate because you do not see me as an equal, your message seems to say “I am superior to you and here is why”.

So how do we fix this? One of the ways to fix this is for both sides to think about their message before they send it. Is your message creating an opportunity to open the lines of communication and provide useful information, or is your message more of a condescending tone that tells me you feel superior to me and you are out to prove you are more superior? The most effective way to advocate for your cause is to open a two way communication with your target audience. One of the worst things to do is take someone’s opinion from social media and apply that as a blanket statement that all farmers believe this or that all consumers believe that. Those types of blanket statements tell me you have not done your homework on how to effectively communicate to your target audience.

From the consumer side of things, if a consumer wants to learn about what it is that a farmer does or why they do something a certain way then that becomes a great opportunity to explain the why, the how and the who to the consumer, but do so in a warm, compassionate and inviting environment. Make the consumer feel wanted and welcome, show them you appreciate that they are seeking information from the source and not from social media, and the same holds true for the consumer. If you are a consumer and a farmer asks you a question about why you live in the city, be warm and appreciative that a farmer is reaching out to you so that they can better understand your wants and needs.

One of the next steps that needs to happen is to start hosting conversations between both sides of the isle. There is a real need for both sides to open up and listen to each other, we have to much talking at each other, but not enough actual listening to each other, both sides need to be willing to understand a problem and work towards a solution, as it is today, we like to tell the other side “here is why you are wrong….”, but instead of that dialogue lets change that mindset to “help me understand why you feel that way”, or “help me understand why you live the way you do”.

As an agriculture advocate when was the last time you asked a consumer why they live in the city, or asked them what are their thoughts on how meat is raised or how crops are grown, and then actually listened to their response? If you have had this conversation was it so you can learn about them and better understand them, or was it your goal to think about how your reply is going to be you explaining to them why their thought process is wrong? The end goal of educating the consumer about yourself is the same but how you construct the conversation can make a huge difference in how that conversation will have an positive or negative outcome of the consumers perception of your reality.

In closing, if you like purple tractors, a good sales person would be one that can change your mind and show you how a neon tractor would be more beneficial to your operation without once saying one negative thing about the purple tractor. A great sales person will listen to you and learn about you so that they can best match up their product with your needs, a poor sales person is the one who ignores your feelings and explains to you that you don’t know what you want and they are going to give your opinion because they are the expert. That same theory applies to advocacy, educate me on your beliefs without making me feel uneducated or less special than you. The more that both sides begin to engage with each other the more we can help stop the spread of misinformation and help stop the arrogant perception we may have towards one another.

Is beef really too expensive?

Here are 10 foods that are more expensive per ounce than organic, grass-fed beef.

  • Snickers
  • Duchess Chocolate Donuts
  • Morning Star Farms Black Bean Burgers
  • Tofurky Deli Slices
  • Beyond Meat “Beefy Crumbles”
  • Daiya Dairy Free Cheddar “Style” Cheese
  • Strawberries
  • Vegan Pure Protein Powder
  • Goji Berries
  • Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies

If you’re interested, you can see the price breakdown and read the whole post by following this link: https://sustainabledish.com/grass-fed-beef-elitist-10-foods-expensive-less-nutritious-grass-fed-beef/

5 Things you should know about stress

I was browsing the National Institute of Mental health website and stumbled across the below publication. I thought it does a good job of summarizing facts about stress. If you are interested in more information I have attached the link at the bottom of the article of where this information was found at, if you follow the link it will lead you to several more resources about mental health.

1. Stress affects everyone

Everyone experiences stress from time to time. There are different types of stress—all of which carry physical and mental health risks. A stressor may be a one-time or short-term occurrence, or it can happen repeatedly over a long time. Some people may cope with stress more effectively and recover from stressful events more quickly than others.

Examples of stress include:

  • Routine stress related to the pressures of school, work, family, and other daily responsibilities.
  • Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness.
  • Traumatic stress experienced during an event such as a major accident, war, assault, or natural disaster where people may be in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. People who experience traumatic stress may have very distressing temporary emotional and physical symptoms, but most recover naturally soon after.

2. Not all stress is bad

In a dangerous situation, stress signals the body to prepare to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, and your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival and in response to stress. In non-life-threatening situations, stress can motivate people, such as when they need to take a test or interview for a new job.

3. Long-term stress can harm your health.

Coping with the impact of chronic stress can be challenging. Because the source of long-term stress is more constant than acute stress, the body never receives a clear signal to return to normal functioning. With chronic stress, those same lifesaving reactions in the body can disturb the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems. Some people may experience mainly digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger, or irritability.

Over time, continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.

4. There are ways to manage stress.

If you take practical steps to manage your stress, you may reduce the risk of negative health effects. Here are some tips that may help you to cope with stress:

  • Be observant. Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
  • Talk to your health care provider or a health professional. Don’t wait for your health care provider to ask about your stress. Start the conversation and get proper health care for existing or new health problems. Effective treatments can help if your stress is affecting your relationships or ability to work. Don’t know where to start? Read our Tips for Talking With Your Health Care Provider.
  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and improve your health.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy and relaxing activities.
  • Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
  • Stay connected. You are not alone. Keep in touch with people who can provide emotional support and practical help. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations.
  • Consider a clinical trial. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and other research facilities across the country are studying the causes and effects of psychological stress as well as stress management techniques.

5. If you’re overwhelmed by stress, ask for help from a health professional.

You should seek help right away if you have suicidal thoughts, are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, or are using drugs or alcohol more frequently as a result of stress. Your doctor may be able to provide a recommendation. Resources are available to help you find a mental health provider.

Link to National Institute of Mental Health https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health
NIH Publication No. 19-MH-8109

You don’t need expensive food to eat healthy

Part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle involves doing several things. Things like diet (the things you eat), exercise or daily activity (depending on what type of job you have) and lastly, mental health, keeping your mind healthy is just as important as eating good healthy foods to keep your body functioning properly.

A few years ago I assumed that if you shopped at those expensive health food stores then the food has to be automatically healthy, and no way food from a place like Walmart could be good for you, after all aren’t we told by the experts that cheap food is not good for us. Most of the time I never would read the label as long as the packaging was blasted with the latest buzz words like non-GMO, or gluten free, or organic, and I assumed you can pretty much eat all of that stuff because it has to be healthy for you if it has all those neat and exciting words on the packaging.

I often would talk to people about the food they eat and many times I heard the same thing, well I can’t afford to eat healthy because it is so much more expensive to shop at those health stores. As a young father with 6 kids I felt the same way, sure wish I could afford to buy all that healthy stuff, but since it’s expensive I will continue to buy all this convenient processed food because it saves me time and money.

When I got sick I had to learn how to eat better and make better choices. With the help of a nutritional practitioner I started to dial in what types of food I needed to eat to repair my body and also to start maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For me the best diet plan involved eating meats, fats, and green vegetables. These were the foods that my body responds well to. Not each person is the same, my body has a hard time processing sugar where as other people have no problem processing sugary food or high carb meals, and so a diet consisting of mostly meats, fats and greens may not be the best option for them.

So basically I worked with my nutritional practitioner to come up with a plan where I focus on whole foods, almost like a modified paleo diet. This meant I started buying foods that had minimal processing, basically was this something I can grow or raise in my backyard. What I learned next was I could still shop at Walmart for my food, I didn’t need to buy beef from a health store at an inflated price, and I was able to buy beef and vegetables at a price I could afford from Walmart. Every now and then I like to venture over to the expensive stores to get some ingredients I cannot get at Walmart, but I find that I typically go there just to get those few items.

If you are a person that is needing or wanting to make changes to a healthier diet don’t feel you can’t do it because you are under the impression that only the expensive food is healthy, that is a false narrative that has been created by the health food industry to lure you into their stores to purchase their products. I am a prime example you can still eat clean and healthy and still buy your food at a regular grocery store.

If you want to learn more about nutrition make sure to check out Jason Medows and his Ag State of Mind podcast, this month Jason is focusing on the role nutrition plays in our lifestyles. You can find him at www.agstateofmind.com

Also if you are interested in what a nutritional practitioner does head over to www.sarahbouse.com and check out her website, she has done so many wonderful things for my health and nutrition.

Cattle Terminology

If you did not grow up around the beef industry but you are interested in learning about beef you will quickly learn there is a lot of terminology you have to understand to be able to follow along with what cattle people are talking about. I have attempted to compile and explain in layman’s terms some of the more common terms used in the beef industry

Bull is an intact adult male meaning it is still capable or producing off-spring

Bull that has been castrated is a steer

The female counterpart to a bull is a cow

An adult female that has had a calf  is a cow.

Sire – a male parent

Dam – a female parent

A young female before she has had a calf of her own is called a heifer

Young cattle of both sexes are called calves until they are weaned

Weaned – an offspring that is removed from the care of it’s dam (mother)

Most beef animals are castrated as calves to reduce aggressive behavior and prevent unwanted mating

The vast majority of male cattle are castrated and slaughtered for meat before the age of three years

Cattle raised for human consumption are called beef cattle

Cattle bred specifically for milk production are called milking or dairy cattle

Purebred – A beef animal whose parents are of the same breed and are recorded with the registry association

Registered – An animal whose name, along with the name and number of its sire (father) and dam (mother), has been recorded in  the  record  books  of  its  breed  association.  The  association gives the animal a number, known as a registration number. The association gives the animal a certificate known as a registration certificate showing that the animal has been registered

Breed – a stock of animals within a species having a distinctive appearance and typically having been developed by deliberate selection

Herd – a group of a single species of animal

Artificial insemination (A.I.) – The technique of placing semen from the male in the reproductive tract of the female by means other than natural service.

Photo Credit: Jonas Koel

The trucking industry: It needs our support

Every day in the United States of America truck drivers move over $700.4 billion worth of goods. The trucking industry is a very critical component to keep the U.S. economy moving. There are over 55,000 pharmacies in the United States, within just a few days, those pharmacies would quickly run out of medicine if there were no more truck drivers. Truck drivers are essential workers, when a natural disaster strikes the United States, it’s the truck driver that is one of the first groups to leap into action to begin providing resources to the emergency rescue and relief efforts.

Truck drivers are 5th on the list of highest risk for work related suicide. The stress factors for a truck driver are extremely high, for many, their paycheck depends on them getting a load delivered on time.  If the truck driver experiences a mechanical breakdown, a flat tire, or bad weather conditions, these types of events can upset the schedule of the delivery. If you are an owner operator and you blow an engine that can easily be over $20,000 you have to come up with to get back on the road, if the wheels aren’t spinning you aren’t earning. Sometimes a trucker can get a rental truck to move some loads while his / her truck is in the shop, but again that is another expense. Also some truck drivers live in their truck, if your truck is down for a week due to an engine replacement, where are you going to live? Do you have a way to get home, do you have to live in a motel for a week, which again would be another expense on top of the truck repairs, and these are all stress factors truck drivers face each and every day.

When it comes to maintaining mental and physical health the truck driver is at a rather large disadvantage. Due to truck drivers always being on the move finding and accessing quality healthcare is a real challenge for most. Another disadvantage for the truck driver is the lack of a good support system, many truck drivers can spend days on the road away from family and friends, they work and sleep irregular hours, and all of these factors play into the difficulty of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle while trying to earn a dollar.


I found some interesting numbers from a study done in 2012 – here is a link to the article that I read: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22757596/

Data was collected from a random sample of 316 male truckers between the ages of 23 and 76 at a large truck stop located within a 100-mile radius of Greensboro, North Carolina. They used a self-administered 82-item questionnaire. Surveyed truckers were found to have significant issues affecting their mental health: Loneliness (27.9%), Depression (26.9%), Chronic sleep disturbances (20.6%), Anxiety (14.5%), other emotional problems (13%).


Another article I found about a different study conducted on the trucking industry summarized the following results. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23324711/

Respondents were mainly full-time, long-haul drivers with over 5 years of experience, and who spent over 17 days on the road per month. While almost 75% described their health as good, 83.4% were overweight/obese, 57.9% had sleeping disturbances, 56.3% fatigue, 42.3% musculoskeletal disorders, and about 40% cardiovascular disease concerns. About 33% had no health insurance, 70% had no regular healthcare visits, 24.4% could not afford insurance, and 42.1% took over-the-counter drugs when sick, while 20.1% waited to reach home for medical care. The conclusion of the study determined the trucking occupation places drivers at high risk for poor health outcomes. Prospective studies are needed to delve into how continued exposure to trucking influences the progression of disease burden.


Below are some snippets from an article I read about how fleets can support the drivers mental health awareness. The article can be read for further detail at this link: https://www.ttnews.com/articles/fleets-can-support-drivers-mental-health-through-awareness-communication

The article states that medical professionals are seeing the depression rate among truckers is nearly double the national average. “That alone is alarming because depression is correlated to suicide, and suicide is a leading cause of death.” said Kirleen Neely, psychotherapist and CEO at San Antonio-based Logistics Mental Health. “Suicide is especially a concern for male-dominated industries such as trucking because nearly 70% of people who die by suicide are male”, Neely said. “Suicide rarely occurs because of one issue, but mental health conditions are a factor, CDC reports. Depression and anxiety are top issues among truckers, closely followed by post-traumatic stress disorder.”


Sadly the trucking industry is not getting enough attention when it comes to a driver’s safety and overall health, there is a lot of work to be done to advocate for the trucking industry to make sure the truck drivers are taking care of their physical and mental health. Truck drivers are just like all of us, they are someone’s father or mother, someone’s son or daughter, they have feelings too, they feel pain, they grieve the loss of a loved one no different than we do. So the next time you see a truck driver maybe lean over and offer a kind word to them, let them know you appreciate what they do for all of us. A smile and a kind word has never hurt anyone, but I bet it’s saved a life, or has offered a sliver of hope more times than we know.

Additional Reference and Resources for this article: https://www.pridetransport.com/news-and-events/to-end-it-all-american-truck-driver-suicide

Moving to Assisted Living? These Tips Can Help With Major Home Decisions

Moving to Assisted Living? These Tips Can Help With Major Home Decisions

When you need to leave your home to move into an assisted living facility, it’s easy to let emotions get the best of you. After all, this is a huge transition that signifies the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another in your life. Before the emotions of this major move overwhelm you, though, you need to spend some time making more practical choices. One of those choices is how to handle your home before the move. It’s a major decision that can have a big impact on your move into assisted living, but these steps can make it a little easier:

Start By Figuring Out Your Assisted Living Needs

Your home is one of your most valuable financial assets. So before you decide what to do with it, you need to figure out how much your new life in assisted living will cost. Comparing and touring facilities is important because each community may offer different amenities that can create totally different living environments. As you finalize your new budget, you should also factor in other ways you plan on covering assisted living expenses

Decide Whether You Should Rent, Sell, or Gift Your Home

Now that you know how much assisted living and long-term care will cost you in the future, you can make a better decision for how to handle your home. If you need to pay for assisted living with your home, selling it can be a smart choice so long as you have enough equity. If your mortgage is paid off or down, or if your home has gained a lot of value, you may have the needed equity to make your home profitable. To get a more accurate idea of the profits you can expect, you also need to factor in other fees like agent commissions and any taxes. Paying additional taxes can be a burden when you sell or gift your home, especially if your transaction is subject to capital gains tax. Avoiding capital gains tax, whether you sell or gift your home, can be tricky, but it can help you and your relatives save a small fortune. Another way you can use your home to earn extra money for assisted living costs is to turn it into a profitable rental home.

Find Professionals to Help Handle Your Property Transition

Whether you decide to sell, rent, or gift your home, it’s nearly impossible to handle any of these real estate transactions on your own. So if you want to sell your home, contact a realtor ASAP who will be able to help with the tiny details that can help your home sell faster? You may need to interview several agents before you find the right one to list your house, but that extra time and effort will be well worth any added profits or reduced stresses. Does renting your home make more sense? Then consider looking for a property management service to take the headache out of transitioning from homeowner to landlord. Property managers can take care of all of the details needed to ensure maximum profits on your new rental. Finally, if you want to gift your home to relatives, you may need a real estate attorney to help with the paperwork and to help you and your family members avoid penalties and unnecessary costs.

The move to assisted living can be an emotional one. What’s important, though, is to keep those emotions from clouding your judgment when making other important choices, like selling, renting, or gifting your home. That way, you can make decisions that will help you thrive after your move.

Article written by: Rhonda Underhill with Getwellderly.com

For information about mental health awareness and agriculture advocacy, check out the HankWade blog.

Photo Credit: Rawpixel

NIMH Answers Questions about Suicide

Q: How common is suicide in children and teens?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10–24. Although these numbers may make suicide seem common, it is still a rare event. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors are more common than suicide deaths and are signs of extreme distress. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are not harmless bids for attention and should not be ignored.

Q: What are some of the risks factors for suicide?

A: Risk factors vary with age, gender, or ethnic group and may change over time. Some factors that increase an individual’s risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors are:

  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Chronic pain
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Firearms in the home
  • Having recently been released from jail or prison
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others, such as family members or peers

It is important to note that many people who have these risk factors are not suicidal.

Q: What are the warning signs?

A: The following are some of the signs you might notice in yourself or a friend that may be reason for concern:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill oneself
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online
  • Buying a gun, or stockpiling pills
  • Feeling empty, hopeless, or feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from family or friends or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Saying good-bye to loved ones, putting affairs in order.

Seeking help is a sign of strength; if you are concerned, go with your instincts and seek professional help.

Reaching out to a friend you are concerned about is also a sign of strength.

What can I do for myself or someone else?

A: Immediate action is very important. Here are a few resources:

Thania Damaris Avelar

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.