Hundreds of people flocked to a lecture hall at California State University, Chico, on their free Friday afternoon to catch agricultural celebrity Dr. Temple Grandin speak on the importance of good stockmanship.
Grandin, an American academic and acclaimed animal behaviorist, visited the school to lecture on her work in animal welfare. Her presence filled up a lecture hall with more than 200 agriculture students, alumni, and faculty. Some attendees even had to stand due to the packed room.
The event organizers were animal science lecturer, Kate Moore, 33, and external relations director, Mackenzie Bressler, 28, both with Chico State’s College of Agriculture. Their goal with this event was to expose their students to notable leaders and different career opportunities in modern-day agriculture.
“It’s not every day that people get this kind of opportunity,” said Bressler.
“She is by far one of the leading female scientists in our industry,” Moore added. “She has done amazing things for people with autism, and she’s done amazing things in animal science, so our opportunity to bring her into real life and not just have her on a PowerPoint slide is way more valuable than anything I can do in the classroom.”
Grandin is also an animal science professor at Colorado State University, an activist for autistic people, and is the subject of a 2010 biopic titled Temple Grandin, which focuses on her upbringing and how she got her start in animal agriculture.
Among her many accomplishments and publications, Grandin is especially known for her groundbreaking discoveries in animal welfare and stockmanship. She addresses a variety of specifics, such as animal handling, cattle welfare, and selective breeding in Angus cattle. She lectured for 45 minutes, leaving 15 minutes at the end to answer questions.
She was asked how she got her start in cattle, her educational background, and how she could show off her inventions and designs.
One student asked what the biggest struggle in her career has been.
“Being a woman,” Grandin answered. “It was a big barrier, the autism was a non-issue in comparison.”
As both a woman and a neurotypical person, Grandin represents lots of people in the world, but just a small section of people in agriculture.
According to recent statistics from the American Farmland Trust and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women and people with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the agriculture industry, and disproportionately underemployed even outside the industry. Still, both numbers are far higher today than they were when Grandin was getting her start in ag.
To Moore’s pleasure, that lack of representation is starting to change. “When you look at the crowd today, you see we have a diverse population of students that we serve, now that we are seeing get into career positions that just didn’t exist back when she started in the industry,” she said.
Students were very excited about Dr. Grandin’s presence at their school. Many didn’t even have a class that day. But that didn’t stop them from going to school in their free time. Animal science and agricultural education major, Kate Price, 22, said this was an opportunity she never thought she’d have.
“Dr. Grandin’s presence in the industry is so important because she fought for her spot as a woman to be where she is today,” said Price. “It showed me as a young girl that I can do stuff similar to what she’s done as she’s helped pave the path for all of us.
College of Agriculture senior Zachary Machado, 21, an agricultural science and education major, weighed in.
“It means a lot to me because she’s someone I’ve always heard about in the livestock industry,” he said. “Her unique perspective on life and the industry has done a lot for us and has made us a more ethical and accountable industry, so having the opportunity to have her here is great. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I heard of it.
The event left students and guests pleased with their experience. Moore and Bressler were both satisfied with the turnout of this event and liked that it unified their students, community, and alumni, they said.
“We had a great combination of some local high school students, our current college students, and even some of our alumni come back to hear her speak today,” said Moore. “That’s just an amazing broad spectrum of people that we had here today, so it was fun to see some old and new faces.”
For many attendees, this will be a moment they will remember for a long time.
Saul Reyes served as the 2022 American Farmland Trust Agriculture Communications Intern at AGDAILY, with a focus on helping to amplify diversity and minority voices in agriculture. An FFA alum, Reyes is a graduate of California State University-Chico and double majored in plant and soil science and multicultural and gender studies, while minoring in intersectional Chicanx/Latinx studies and public relations. He can be found on Twitter @sreyes710.
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