In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are taking a moment to talk with prominent women in agriculture about their lives, their ideas about leadership, and how their day gets off to a good start.
“The women I know (and work with) are strong, decisive and “take charge” women,” says Anne Alonzo. Anne Alonzo is the Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. She is a respected global leader who has forged a successful career in the public, non-profit, and corporate sectors, including significant experience in trade and diplomacy. She has an MBA from the University of Chicago and a JD from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Although she grew up as a city kid, Anne’s experiences have given her a deep appreciation for agriculture.
How do you start your day?
I start my day by feeding a growing group of city sparrows stationed outside my front door. I’ve been feeding “my” birds for several months now and they are conditioned to meet me at the same time and place. They trust me to be there every morning with seed. When I am traveling, I get my husband to feed them. I love animals!
What do you usually have for breakfast?
Cereal. On Fridays, though, I splurge and stop at a French pastry shop for a really great almond croissant!
What are you reading and watching?
I read a lot of current news including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Sunday’s New York Times and, of course, The Hagstrom Report and Agri-Pulse, among several others. Now that the Academy Awards are over (and I watched every best picture contender), I will let up on the movies and read some more!
Imagine you could host a dinner party with anyone – living or dead. Who would you invite and why?
It would be an eclectic group for sure. I would love to see my best friend Martha again who died young and over 25 years ago. As to those alive, I think actor Ryan Gosling is very interesting (and handsome). I would also invite my husband Wolf (who might not like Ryan being there), a few local friends and, for good measure, I’d fly my parents and 2 brothers in from Chicago!
What’s the view outside your window and how does it influence your work?
The view outside my window is that of a busy Independence Avenue with lots of buses and cars. It’s bustling and I’m a bustling person so it’s very much in sync with what’s going on in my environment.
What do you think is the biggest myth to bust about the role women play in agriculture?
A myth about women in agriculture is they may not be as strong or confident as men. I found the exact opposite to be true. The women I know (and work with) are strong, decisive and “take charge” women.
Who are your heroines in agriculture?
In a previous role as the Chair of the World Cocoa Foundation, I met many African women cocoa farmers who worked really hard manually picking cocoa at cocoa farms and worked as hard to raise their families. My hats off to them! My Chief of Staff at the AMS, Sara Eckhouse is also a hero. Sara produces excellent work (and often selflessly operates behind the scenes). She makes the trains run on time and very much cares, supports and counsels many different agricultural stakeholders. Finally, I think Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden is a hero (and role model) to many women with her grace, thoughtfulness, and passion for women in agriculture.
Do you consider yourself a woman leader in agriculture?
Others do, so I guess I’ve been coming around. Smile. Practically, I am a leader of an Agency comprised of several thousand employees who are advancing critical programs impacting the agricultural sector on a daily basis. I view my responsibility and privilege very seriously particularly since my folks are on the front lines. Their fulfillment and motivation is our key to success. Increasingly, I also see myself as a leader of the growing body of Latinos in agriculture—in and outside of USDA.
In 7 words or less, what is some advice you would offer to the next generation of women in ag.
“Agriculture is our future, let’s lead it!”
Is there a leading woman in agriculture you would like to hear from? Send us your suggestions using #womeninag or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.