What do you love most about your work here at Ag Innovations? 

The diversity of different projects that we get to work on, from food systems to water projects. It really helps stretch my understanding and knowledge on natural resources. 

So I get to learn a lot about water and relevant water issues. I really love that it’s essentialized to California because I get to know more about the state that I was born and grew up in. 

Also, I just love that this organization really values and encourages growth in the different areas of interest that I have. So, if I am interested in outreach, there’s a deliberate training to help increase those skills. If I’m interested in facilitation, they’re willing to find facilitation trainings and up my skills that I’m interested in expanding. 

 

Now, let’s take a further step back: what brought you into this line of work? 

Before Ag Innovations, I worked with the Napa Resource Conservation District for about four years. I was a leadership coach for youth and taught them how to be stewards of the community and how to do environmental stewardship projects. So with that experience, it was very clear to me that that was the area that I wanted to build a career in — something that had to do with natural resources. But also, work with and create that intersection where the natural resources world meets the community and being able to bridge that. 

And so when I read the description of what Ag Innovations does, it was right up the pathway of where I wanted to go. 

 

What got you interested in ag and natural resources? Was there anything growing up or in your family values that drew you to it? 

I did not grow up being a very outdoorsy person. I don’t think I really was able to expand into enjoying nature until I was around 18 and had my own vehicle and I could just start exploring more natural places and the outdoors. 

In nature was where I felt most in the moment and most at peace. And so I knew I wanted to work in some area where I could be either protecting that or having first-hand involvement with something that had to do with plants and nature.

I graduated from UC Davis, and received my bachelor’s of science in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. When I thought about the type of lifestyle I wanted to live, I knew that I wanted to be able to sustain myself and live somewhere where I could build this type of lifestyle. 

 

Is there any insight you could provide to people on the importance of community outreach, especially in EJ communities? 

It’s super important with the work we’re doing in natural resources. I think one of the things that has been kind of overlooked is bringing in more hard-to-reach communities, and a diversity of communities that have different language speakers and getting them involved in processes. 

It’s really important to provide as many opportunities as you can to increase that access of knowledge, especially if different natural resource projects are going to affect certain communities. It’s important to get all the communities that will be affected by these processes involved, and be able to help them come to the table in a way that’s accessible. 

And also, to be welcoming — meeting people where they are. 

 

Now switching gears, if you could tell me about a moment where you felt you best represented the Ag Innovations mission, what would it be? 

Ag Innovations facilitates collaboration among diverse groups to develop holistic solutions to California’s most complex agricultural, natural resource and environmental challenges.

When I think about our mission, I feel like it does come back to the outreach events that we do in the Delta for the Delta Conveyance Project EJ outreach. 

We’re creating space for people to give their opinion about the Delta Conveyance Project. A lot of times, even before these community members get to the table, I can see the passion they have and their eyes light up as they’re approaching.

I’ve had multiple situations where people have come to speak with me, very emotionally charged, and very ready to give their opinion about what they feel about the Delta Conveyance Project. And many times I’ve been able to speak to them in this unbiased manner and have them feel heard and listened to, to be able to just de-escalate the emotion to the point where they understand that I am only a messenger and here to give them an avenue to participate in this process. 

So that’s one of the ways I feel like I’ve been able to embody our mission and be able to facilitate these spaces to create dialogue and have people express what they feel. By the end of it, they can feel like, “Okay, I got something out of it, I got the knowledge I need to channel this energy about my opinions about this project.”

 

What is one issue or topic in the environmental, natural resource, or ag space that you are most interested in?

I’m really interested in fire resiliency, both in seeing what direction Ag Innovations decides to take it but also on a personal level. 

I like to learn more about the benefits and how prescribed burns work, and how to utilize livestock like goats to keep lands maintained, especially now that I live in a place where I feel this responsibility to be a steward of the land that I live on. (Lupe lives in Pollock Pines, California in the Sierra Nevada, located east of Sacramento.) 

 

And for the final question, can you share any hobbies, books, TV shows, or other activities that are interesting you right now? 

I’ve been a ceramist for over 10 years, so I really love to make ceramic sculptures and I do that for fun. I’m in the works of hopefully building a kiln on this property in the next few years. 

Another hobby I’m getting back into is hula hooping and doing hula hoop tricks and dances. I just do that on my own as a hobby. Put some music on, give me a hula hoop, and I can bust a move for you.