Digging In

“Umm… you look different?”

“Umm… you look different?”

By Shefali Mehta on Tuesday, 09 April, 2019 During our first-ever public Summit, I had the chance to meet many different people and the chance to hear their interest in soil health and this work. The Summit provided a chance for me to introduce the full (and new) team that now shapes SHP and discuss the refresh and reset that has taken place over the past seven months. On multiple occasions, people paused to tell me that they noticed something different about SHP. They said that we “looked different and felt different from others” in this space. I was not sure how to respond, and they would then continue by noting our energy, culture and the women.

Yes, SHP is different from the organizations that typically comprise the ag and conservation space on numerous levels:

  • We are mainly millennials
  • We are a STEM team with many members with advanced degrees in STEM
  • Several SHP staff are active farmers and others grew up on farms and remain close to those roots
  • 62% of SHP are women (71% if you include our contractors) which is well above the average for an agricultural organization, a STEM organization, a data organization or an on-farm group
  • Despite being a small team, we have experience in over 15 different agriculture and science disciplines
  • We are a fully virtual team based across 8 states with a flexible work environment that allows individuals to shape their time as they best see fit
  • The team is led by a majority female staff including the Executive Director and Lead Scientist who are both women PhDs

I am lucky. I’ve had the chance to work in agriculture in all continents (except Antarctica) and have been part of or helped over 30 different organizations. I have yet to lead a team like this or be part of one. I have spent my life in agriculture looking for a culture and group like this, and I am honored to have the opportunity to lead it.

Diversity of perspective, compassion, empathy, passion and expertise - these are the attributes that come through on this unique team. Time and time again, when people ask me what environments work best for women or people of color, my answer is the same: strong environments that allow ALL people to be themselves, give their best and evolve. They are inclusive, freeing and productive.

Yes, SHP “looks different” and we are looking forward to the day when we are not the difference but the norm.