Female #FoodHeroes

Nicole Rodriguez

Nicole is a dietician based in New York, USA.

What do you do?

I’m a registered dietitian with a passion for agvocacy. When I’m not working privately with nutrition, meal-prep, or personal training clients, I take every opportunity possible to learn where our food comes from via farm tours and immersion experiences. I share this information on my blog and social media channels.

Why do you love your job?

I love being an unconventional voice for modern agriculture and beef. Nothing warms my heart quite like having a beef producer pop up in my Instagram DMs (direct message) thanking me for spreading the good word about sustainability in their industry. I guess you wouldn’t really expect someone from the New York metro area to inject herself into the conversation, and I’m proud to do so.

How did you get here?

Nutrition is my second career; I was a beauty industry sales/education executive prior. I took the leap to go back to school at almost 30 years old and essentially start from scratch, which was a very humbling experience.
Somewhere along the way, I attended the New York State annual dietetics meeting and met the staff dietitian for the New York Beef Council, Cindy Chan Phillips. I thought, “Wow! This woman has made a career of beef?! Amazing!” A couple of years later, Cindy found a blog post of mine about shopping without shame and invited me on a farm tour. In the interim, I had been perusing #agchats and other relevant content on Twitter, and honestly becoming frustrated by the plethora of misinformation being distributed about the safety of our food system.
Speaking up and speaking out has gotten me “here,” but I still have a long way to go in spreading more facts – not fear – about agriculture!

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

If you’re on the path to becoming a dietitian, consider it due diligence to read beyond the headlines of what sustainability actually means within our food system. Base your recommendations on facts, not trends and fears, despite this sometimes being an unpopular viewpoint.

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

Rather than change, I hope biotechnology, specifically genetic modification, continues to flourish with less resistance from those who know nothing about what they’re protesting. As a mother, I think of impoverished children who could be positively impacted by the availability of crops that are resistant to drought and disease in areas where these issues are inevitable.
Continued advances in plant breeding will meet consumer demands and reduce food waste. The beef industry is more sustainable than ever. From my vantage point, the future of agriculture is filled with excitement and possibility. I’m extremely grateful to all the men and women who bring food from seed to plate.

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

Nutrition is a female-dominated field and I count a number of like-minded, female dietitians as mentors. As a self-proclaimed “agvocate,” I should make it my business to share the stories of women who are out in the trenches, so to speak.

Nicole 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.