Host Aaron Alejandro and Lora Conzalez Eckerle discuss where public speaking skills and passion for growing food can lead
The National FFA Organization works to strengthen science and agricultural educational opportunities for students across the country. The Texas FFA Association and Texas FFA Foundation are the largest state organizations in the country.
On this episode of the Growing Our Future Podcast, Aaron Alejandro introduces Lora Gonzalez Eckerle, Business Development Manager for Central Market. From the Rio Grande Valley to New York City and beyond, Eckerle has built a varied and dynamic career in Agriculture. Her success as a state FFA officer and branding and merchandising specialist for companies like Purina and Central Market stems from the skills she developed through agricultural science education and FFA leadership development opportunities.
The Future of Food
“It really does all go back to the earth and the ground,” says Lora Gonzalez Eckerle, Business Development Manager for Central Market. Eckerle focuses on merchandising in categories like Healthy Living, Hispanic and Kosher at the store she calls “a whole new experience of grocery shopping”, ensuring customer access to healthy food.
Eckerle grew up in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, where her father, who has a Masters in plant and soil sciences, taught her the importance of agriculture from a young age.. As a high school student, she was active in her FFA chapter: raising hogs and steers, becoming involved in Citrus production, and “dabbling” in mechanics. Eckerle pursued veterinary science first at Texas A & M, and later in Grenada, before realizing that her passion was for food.
Watch Full Interview:
As her career in agriculture blossomed, Eckerle moved from Southern California to New York City to Colorado and beyond–always ready to pack her bags and jump on a plane or a bus for an opportunity. In retrospect, she says, it could be scary. “You kind of have an ‘Oh no’ moment,” Eckerle says. Alejandro agrees that Eckerle’s ability to trust her instinct and go after her goals has gotten her to where she is today. “You were willing to be a little bit vulnerable,” he says.
To land her current position at Central Market, Eckerle leveraged her unique perspective as a hispanic woman with a background in agriculture. She believes that FFA got her where she is, and will continue to assist in her career. For example, Eckerle intuitively understands how the rising cost of corn and wheat will impact her business.
“Every little action that happens around the world is affecting the dollar and how you choose to spend it,” she says.
“You Don’t Have to Know it All”
According to Eckerle, the presentation and communication skills she learned in FFA allowed her to articulate her clear vision early in her career. “You don’t have to know it all,” she tells young people. But having a strong sense of values and goals will make prospective job seekers stand out to employers.
Eckerle also believes in planning, and prioritizing what helps us “move the needle.” She says, “There are so many things we can be doing with our time–but what’s really going to get us to the next step?” As Eckerle’s personal experience proves, taking healthy risks is key to developing a career in agriculture. Alejandro admires Eckerle’s ability to “really grasp at opportunities”, despite the uncertainty that can come with big leaps.
“You don’t get successful by just sitting on the sidelines,” Eckerle says. “If you fail, you will have an arsenal of things you learned from.”
The Texas FFA Foundation’s purpose is to strengthen agricultural education and the Texas FFA program, so each student can develop their potential for personal growth, career success and leadership in a global marketplace..
Learn more about the Texas FFA Foundation at mytexassffa.org.
Learn more about Central Market at www.centralmarket.com.