One cannot help but notice Ava Alcaida’s intense concentration as she is fed an almost unmanageable amount of information about the Cotton Research and Promotion Program as part of the orientation process for her new appointment as an adviser to The Cotton Board.
Alcaida was appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to an advisory position as part of The Cotton Board’s initiative for diversity and inclusiveness. She traveled to Memphis, Tenn., to attend the orientation program and participate in her first meeting at the beginning of March, but she is not new to the cotton industry.
‘We Like Growing Cotton’
With her husband, Ray, Alcaida farms about 5,000 acres on Colorado River Indian Tribes land in La Paz County, Ariz. Ava is from the Mohave tribe of eastern Arizona, while Ray’s heritage is Chemehuevi, part of the Colorado River Indian Reservation Tribes south of Parker, Ariz.
“We took over the farm from Ray’s dad about 30 years ago,” says Alcaida. Cotton was part of the mix on the farm at that time. Their current mix of crops includes cotton, hay, wheat, corn and onions, as well as a couple hundred head of cattle. They have not always grown cotton, though. There was a time when it did not make economic sense to produce cotton, but they added it back to the rotation when prices increased.
Now, even with lower prices, they plan to continue cotton production on their land.
“We like growing cotton,” she says. The area in which they farm is known for being a highly productive cotton environment, with turnouts ranging from 4 to 5 bales per acre.
Industry, Community Involvement
Alcaida is very involved in the Farm Bureau, currently serving as the La Paz County Farm Bureau president. She also serves on the Arizona Farm Bureau’s Financial Review Committee, National Governmental Affairs Committee and Arizona’s Ag in the Classroom initiative. She is a member of the Arizona Cotton Growers Association.
“I just like being involved,” she says. Outside of her work in the agriculture community, she serves as the secretary/treasurer of the Poston Rotary Club. Her husband, Ray, is a past president of the club, and they sponsor the local Little League, as well as other community events and organizations. Alcaida is looking forward to her involvement as an adviser to The Cotton Board.
“We received a lot of information at the meeting, and it’s good to see the direction Cotton Incorporated is taking the industry,” she says. “It’s also nice to see that The Cotton Board is made up of such a diverse group of people from within the industry.”
The Cotton Board is fully invested in an effort to bring more diversity to the membership of its board, which is made up of cotton producers and importers. “We believe that diversity is smart business,” says Cotton Board CEO, Bill Gillon. “We’re not seeking a diverse membership solely for the sake of checking a box.”
Gillon believes that increasing the diversity of the board improves the input and scope of knowledge of the organization, building a broader base by which to make decisions that move cotton in the market. In March 2015, The Cotton Board voted to include two advisory positions specifically to increase diversity on the board.
In addition to Alcaida, the Secretary of Agriculture also appointed Haywood Harrell of Halifax, N.C., as an adviser to the board. And, of five open Cotton Board positions, four were filled by women or minorities. Alcaida says that she is grateful for the opportunity to serve in this advisory capacity.
I can’t wait to get into full swing and hopefully make a difference in the cotton industry.”
Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communications Manager for the West. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.