NASDA Member Spotlight: Alexis Taylor, Oregon Department of Agriculture

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This week's spotlight is on Oregon Director of Agriculture Alexis Taylor, one of NASDA's newest and youngest female members.

How do you start your day?

I usually start my day with a (very large) cup of coffee and checking out the weather across the state, followed by listening to my local NPR station while I get ready for the day. I have about a 50 minute commute to the Capitol each day so I usually make a few work calls and listen to the national news on my drive.

What do you think is missing from the conversation when we don’t have women at the table and in leadership roles?

Women have long been farming and ranching across the U.S. Today 31% of farmers are women and in Oregon 39% are women, farming over 7 million acres. So it’s not that we aren’t involved in all aspects of agriculture. But when women aren’t serving in leadership roles we miss the voice and perspective of half the world’s population. The makeup of our farmers, ranchers and small agribusiness owners across the country is extremely diverse and consumers want to see that diversity. In agriculture as a whole, our messenger is as important as our message. Very few things are as personal as what we feed our families. Consumers want to be able to connect to who is growing their food and ultimately helping them feed their family. Having diverse voices, connecting to those consumers, showing that farmers are mothers, daughters and sister, just like them, make us stronger as an industry.

As the newly appointed Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, where do you hope to see your department in five years?

I’m lucky to lead a great state agency. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is as diverse as the industry we support in Oregon. Being new to the job it’s hard to grasp the breadth and depth of our work to support the 225 (plus) crops grown in the state. In five years, I hope ODA has continued to evolve, as the agriculture industry will certainly have. I hope we are flexible enough, as new crops, production practices and markets come about, to serve this dynamic industry.

What is the most unique career in agriculture that you have heard of?

There are too many to count! More and more people are coming to the realization that there are exciting jobs in agriculture and we, as an industry, need talented people to work in them. It’s not just about farming and ranching (that’s obviously a key part!). But you can be a journalist, veterinarian, accountant, biologist, teacher and work in agriculture. USDA and Purdue University recently conducted a study that showed, each year over the next five years, we will only have enough college graduates with agriculture specific degrees to fill 61% of openings for the sector. That means the industry is going to need to attract people without farm backgrounds or degrees. That’s an exciting opportunity for young people looking for a career. When I was growing up on my family farm in Iowa, I had no idea that my career in agriculture would take me to over 20 countries around the globe.

In seven words or less, what is some advice you would offer your fellow agriculturalists?

Challenge yourself and others to think differently.

Oregon Director of Agriculture Alexis Taylor poses with Kiara Single, Oregon's Dairy Princess, at the Oregon State FFA Convention.