Milagro Berhane speaks on her career in Agriculture during Women’s History Month

Milagro Berhane speaks on her career in Agriculture during Women’s History Month


Baton Rouge, La. – Milagro Berhane, or Mila as she is affectionately known, has been employed at the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SU Ag Center) for 32 years. The Senior Research Associate and adjunct professor in the College of Agricultural, Human and Environmental Sciences wears many hats and says that her career in agriculture began by accident. In her own words, she explains her love for her work and the field of agriculture.


Why did you select a career in Agriculture?

I was hired to be a lab manager for Southern University’s College of Agriculture and my supervisor was working in Sustainable Agriculture. I started helping and that made me switch completely to agriculture. That happened more than 30 years ago, and I still love it! I still do some lab work related to sustainable Ag. It (working in the field of agriculture) was by choice because I wasn’t supposed to do agriculture, but I really liked it and that’s why I ended up switching and of course, I’m married to a farmer.


What is one of the proudest contributions that you have made in Agriculture?

One thing that made me stay longer is teaching students. My students have been getting really good jobs and being successful. Every semester I say this is the best class. That has made me so proud. To see that whatever I’m teaching they are learning and passing it along. Some of them are now extension agents working for the government and in private industry. These are recent students and so many of them are going to graduate school. I think that is something that you can see on a regular basis and, in the past, we did community gardens. Working with the homeless and in the prisons. It just depends on what period in my life. There is something that made me proud. Probably right now it’s starting the honeybee program and having the tree orchards is something that has me excited. We have 140-something hives and we are planting fruit trees. So that is something that is going to last for a long time. I hope when I come back in 20 years, they are going to be producing fruit. It depends on what point in my career at Southern University that has brought me joy. And of course, there is Extension work, every time I meet a person who has come to our workshops, they talk so well about what a great job we do, and not just me. It’s a team.


What advice do you have for women who want to have a career in Agriculture?

It is a good field! When I started working at Southern there were not too many women. It was a male-dominated program. And throughout these years I have seen a big evolution of more women getting involved in agriculture. There is no reason why not to get involved in agriculture. As I said it’s a male-dominated field but not only here, but everywhere else women are the ones doing agriculture. There were countries where women were raising the food so why not here? It’s good to see that there are so many women right now in agriculture. So go for it! There’s no difference. Whatever advice I can give to other females is to don’t try to depend on somebody else. Do the job yourself because sometimes we are left alone. We have to learn what we are doing. Anything related to equipment or working in the field or teaching or something. It’s a good feeling for me. That’s the reason I switched, having the challenge and producing something. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing those vegetables coming up in the field.


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