What if you had the opportunity to take your work outside? Not just for those monthly coffee dates with your supervisor, but every day? For fourth-generation farmer and professional educator Angela TenBroeck, that dream scenario is her every day.
TenBroeck’s family has farmed hydroponically — meaning that they grow plants in sand, gravel or liquid — in North Florida since the 1970s. Though TenBroeck has 15 years of experience teaching high school and middle school, her passion for sustainability and community outreach led her to launch the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Excellence and Conservation in 2013. Right now, her main focus is running her own company: THF Hubery.
“My job is simply to build the next generation of farmers and farms,” TenBroeck said. “We help future farmers and current farmers look at the land or space they have and design, build and integrate concepts that will work for their future goals.”
With her non-profit and entrepreneurial work, TenBroeck has a lot to balance. Fortunately, she loves what she does and the variety that it provides.
“My job has me up before daylight,” she said. “It is something different every day. We may use a tractor today and be inside a greenhouse seeding tomorrow. Some days, I spend all my time in my office working with others to streamline an approach we have designed or doing math.”
TenBroeck uses her entrepreneurial spirit to tackle real-world problems. As an expert in food safety, water and soil conservation techniques, she believes that we could be doing more to combat issues of hunger and poverty in our own backyards.
“I am concerned about food security as I have been hungry,” TenBroeck said. “No one should ever go without a meal.”
One of the projects that TenBroeck initiated to help with this global issue? Traders Hill Farm, a sustainable aquaponic farm whose produce grows faster and lasts longer. The farm’s techniques started out as a general idea in TenBroeck’s mind, but once those techniques were applied in the real world, the results were clear.
“We went from 5,000 plant holes of growth to 125,000 plant holes in just five short years,” TenBroeck said. Under her leadership, Traders Hill Farm became the largest farm in the region and was able to grow food year-round in all environments.
Despite all this success, the road hasn’t always been easy for TenBroeck. “There are days when I realize that I am not ‘one of the boys,’” she said. “They refer to me differently, with words like ‘young girl.’ Many times, people are astonished when I work beside them, get the job done and know the scope as well — if not better.”
Thankfully, TenBroeck has passed her expertise down to women she’s mentored. While she oversaw Traders Hill Farm, TenBroeck primarily hired women. “But to that end, I try to encourage women wherever I go to get involved in non-traditional roles,” she said.
Women shouldn’t hesitate to follow in TenBroeck’s footsteps. “Don’t worry about stereotypes,” TenBroeck said. “Just do it. Go work in the area, work hard, learn the game and go after your ideas.”
Today, TenBroeck’s work is proof that following your passion can have a global impact. She has worked with facilities in multiple locations across the world, and still gets excited to talk about (and do) what she loves.
“It is always fun to listen to people talk about aquaponics,” TenBroeck said. “The opportunity to be involved in the early days of commercial aquaponics is exciting as I believe it is a way to end hunger in many areas of the world.”
Regardless of what you’re interested in, women across all industries can benefit from TenBroeck’s biggest piece of advice. “Live your passion every day, and when your passion changes — listen to it!”
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