In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, the California Avocado Commission is sharing profiles of female avocado farmers.
Many California avocado growers come from multigenerational farming families. With generational transitions happening, women are taking on avocado grove management and agriculture industry leadership roles.
“The commission is happy to celebrate International Women’s Day and the many women involved in the California avocado industry,” said Zac Benedict, online marketing director.
“This month our public relations team conducted outreach to consumer media outlets to share stories of a few of these hard-working farmers.”
Tara Axell Rosenthal is a fifth-generation California farmer and third-generation avocado grower. She grew up on the Axell family avocado grove but it wasn’t until 2020, after her father’s passing, that growing avocados became her profession. Her mother, Joanna Axell, is the owner of the family ranch, Rancho Rodoro.
Jessica Hunter was the first third-generation family member to join the family business after college. After 20 years, she is CEO of Del Rey Avocado, her family’s avocado growing and packing company located in San Diego County. Her daily duties include managing the procurement team and the operations of the packing and distribution centers on the West Coast. She also manages more than 100 acres of the company’s avocado groves. Jessica serves on the executive committee of the California Avocado Commission’s board of directors and is an active spokesperson for the industry.
Catherine Pinkerton Keeling’s family has been growing California avocados for more than half a century. In late 2017 when the Thomas Fire destroyed about 70 percent of their avocado ranch, Keeling helped her family rebuild the farm. An advocate for California avocados and sustainable agriculture, she serves as an alternate on the California Avocado Commission board of directors.
Hilary Kitzman Wilkie was introduced to growing avocados on her parents’ avocado grove in Morro Bay, California. She received her degree in computer science and then home-schooled four children. In 2016 when Hilary’s father decided he was getting ready to retire, Hilary and her husband Andrew started learning to grow California avocados. Today, they manage day-to-day operations of the family avocado farm, Kitzman Fair Haven.
“The stories of these four women are helping to highlight the roles of women in agriculture,” Benedict said. “With more female California avocado growers being available and willing to share, CAC is able to feature their stories on CaliforniaAvocado.com, social media, in marketing materials and retail programs.”
Benedict noted that the California Avocado Commission’s forecast for this year is 257 million pounds. There was light harvesting in February and volume is expected to ramp up in March with peak availability from April through July.
Created in 1978, the California Avocado Commission strives to enhance the positioning of California avocados through advertising, promotion and public relations. California avocados are cultivated by about 3,000 growers in the state. The commission serves as the official information source for California avocados and the state’s avocado industry.