Female #FoodHeroes

Georgina Gutierrez-Rodriguez

Georgina is a farm manager in Hidalgo, Mexico.

 

What do you do?

I am a fifth generation dairy farmer, my family farm is in the central region of Mexico (Hidalgo state). We currently milk 460 cows and have 340 calves and heifers along with 120 bull calves on a feedlot.

The farm is 53 hectares with 40 hectares in crops. We grow corn, barley and triticale – a wheat/rye hybrid on rotation with corn and rye grass the following year. All of the crops go into silage for the cattle. We produce around 65% of the crops we need to feed our livestock.

On the farm, I work with my father, a veterinarian who is in charge of animal health and nutrition; and my brother, an agronomist, who takes care of the crops. My late grandfather was also a veterinarian. I have been involved in the operation fulltime since 2008, taking care of human resources, finances, purchases, and so forth.

I’ve been sharing insights about dairy and farming since 2015, and I have 30,000 followers on Facebook. I’m the first female columnist for Ganadero magazine and a member of the Global Farmer Network.

Why do you love your job?

I never thought I would love it as much as I do, actually, but it is truly an honor to be able to take care of life. From planting to harvesting our crops, seeing newborn calves every day and watching them grow, is just magnificent. And on top of that, we produce one of nature’s best products: milk, that is part of family’s diets all over the world.

In 2015 I started advocating for farming, with special attention to dairy production and nutrition. Nobody was doing it in my country, so I decided to go for it and share why milk is so great and what dairy farming is about. I’m so in love with this, because it has opened so many doors for me and giving me more learning experiences that I could have ever imagined.

How did you get here?

I didn’t live at the farm, because there were no schools around, but I did spend weekends and vacations there. I wasn’t that interested in it while I was growing up.

When I was at university in business school, I thought I would get a job in the city (Mexico or Queretaro), so I focused a lot on marketing. In 2007, my dairy cooperative celebrated its 35th anniversary and I attended the events, and by talking to other farmers I realized that I didn’t need to look for a job, I already had one. With one semester to go, nobody believed that I wanted to farm, so I sent my dad my resume, CV, and a written application to show him I was being serious.

I started working fulltime when I graduated in May 2008. I have a business degree and a marketing diploma, so I focused on managing the business part of it, and that’s why I now have a Masters in Corporate Law – to have a better understanding of what an agriculture company is, its relations with government, and with our legal systems. I hope all of this will also help me to get involved in our cooperative.

 

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What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?

My advice is simple, love what you do.

Without passion, it won’t matter how much you studied and prepared yourself, you won’t be able to overcome all the obstacles there are, and sadly, I think there are still more for women. It doesn’t matter if you studied agriculture or not, there is a lot of room for people that want to learn, work hard, and share ideas. So another advice is not to be silent, because we can all do our part.

How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?

We will face many challenges in the future:

  • Produce more with fewer resources: we need to embrace new technologies and better practices.
  • Attract young people: farming is getting old; it’s not attractive enough for younger generations because it’s hard work for little money. Shifting the value of agriculture and food production in general is necessary if we want those new ideas for technical improvement.
  • We have to be more conscious about life itself, having respect for ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Policy making: from on-land regulations and trade deals, to nutritional guidelines, we need people that actually know what they’re talking about and leave a little bit of the politics behind, so we can all work together and get food in every plate, starting with farmers’.

I would invite everybody to speak up a little more. In times of social media, it’s important to have more strong voices that support agriculture. People need to understand that we are working very hard to put food on everyone’s table while we take care of our livestock, crops, and the environment.

What’s one challenge you face as a woman in agriculture and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?

The biggest challenge I face is that no matter how involved I am, or how passionate, interested, curious, willing or attracted I am to food production, agriculture and farming, my voice is almost non-existent.

You’d think having a grandfather who was so involved in policy making and procuring better conditions for farmers in our country, and having a father that is rock star veterinarian, would have made things easier, but people look at me as the little girl they met in the past. I admire these two gentlemen so much, but I hope that someday I won’t have to introduce myself to so many men as the “daughter / granddaughter of Dr. Gutierrez” because right now, they don’t seem to remember that I have a name and that I’ve built something on my own too.

 

Georgina is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.