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Meet Our Team!

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Dr. Tammy Gray-Steele
Founder/CEO of National Women In Agriculture Association
Founded in 2008 by Dr. Tammy Gray-Steele

NWIAA was founded in February 2008, by Dr. Tammy Gray-Steele who is the founder and Director. The organization is headquartered in Oklahoma City, OK. NWIAA is an agriculture outreach organization fueled by sisterhood and diversity.  

Our vision is to provide vital opportunities for rural and urban communities to sustain themselves through agriculture. We have made it our mission to increase the number of minority participation in the agriculture sector. We believe if we equip our youth for tomorrow while engaging them today, we can increase the number of minority youth going into agricultural careers. NWIAA’s Grass Root innovative and sustainable at-risk-youth programs will build capacity within and at 1890 Land Grant Universities’ Motivate Education Achieve Program (“MEA”).

We also have partnerships with The USDA Programs and 1890 Land Grant Universities. There are 45 NWIAA Current & Pending Chapters.  This number includes sub Chapters within various states.

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Mary Gray
Sustainable Science Academy Director

Mary Roberts-Gray, born in 1950 in rural Seminole County, OK, grew up on her family farm, allotted by The Dawes Commission. Her parents, George and Margaret Roberts, cultivated a variety of crops and tended to livestock. Mary, a member of the Black Seminole Tribe, actively assisted the National Women In Agriculture Association since its establishment in 2008. As an original member, she played a key role in outreach events, providing technical assistance to connect minority women farmers with USDA resources. Mary served NWIAA in various roles, including outreach assistant coordinator, bookkeeper, and financial coordinator. She also contributed as the Childcare Director at Sustainable Science Academy in Oklahoma City, the only Agriculture Childcare Center in the area.

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Rhonda Spencer
Human Resources

Rhonda Spencer, a native of Brooklyn, New York, is a married mother of two, an educator, and an entrepreneur. Her career in education began in 1999 in the New York City Public School system, where she taught in The Bronx and Manhattan. She received her Master’s Degree in Education and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership from Cambridge College in Boston, Massachusetts. Later, she became an adjunct professor and student teacher supervisor at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.

In 2010, Rhonda's interest in agriculture began with her first summer food garden at her home in Pennsylvania. Within the same year, she and her family moved to Virginia for a land and farming opportunity. Although this opportunity did not materialize as expected, in 2020, after relocating to Oklahoma, Rhonda revisited her quest of growing her own food and her interest in farming and agriculture.

Rhonda continued her agricultural journey by growing food on her back porch. With news reports predicting a food shortage and the challenges of obtaining healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables during the coronavirus pandemic, she grew food not just for leisure but to address the growing uncertainty of food access.

This endeavor presented many challenges, especially in an urban setting. Her desire to learn more about urban gardening and educate her community led her to start the live virtual workshop series “From Seed 2 Harvest.” Initially focused on gardening, the show quickly expanded to cover various stages of growing and storing food, including food preservation, freeze drying, hoop houses, greenhouses, aquaponics, and animal husbandry. The series featured seasoned farmers and gardeners like Kwame Mboya, a local farmer and founder of the NEOKC Farmers Market Incorporated, as well as international guests from as far away as Zambia, Central Africa. The virtual format allowed the show to reach larger audiences and forge relationships with farmers and food sovereignty advocates worldwide, placing "From Seed 2 Harvest" on the global scene. Just as we cultivate to grow fruit, vegetables, and flowers, this is only the beginning for "From Seed 2 Harvest."

In December 2021, Rhonda co-hosted "The Mentoring Klinic" on WOLB AM Radio 1010 in Baltimore, MD, discussing "Community Preparation for Food Shortage/How to Prepare." As Rhonda continued to engage with various groups and study, she realized that farming is a lost art. She believes it is important for our youth to reconnect with the earth and learn the art of growing food. She believes this is the key to sustaining a good quality of life, taking charge of our lives through cultivating good, wholesome, life-sustaining food.

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Kiera Esparza
Social Media Manager
Administrative Management

Kiera Esparza holds a degree in graphic design and runs her own successful graphic design and art business. With a keen eye for aesthetics and a passion for creativity, she has built a reputation for delivering visually compelling and impactful designs for her clients. Her entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to her craft have allowed her to grow her business and make a significant mark in the industry.

Beyond her professional achievements, Kiera is a staunch advocate for building a sustainable future for the next generation. She believes that sustainability is not just a goal but a necessary way of life. This conviction has driven her to become actively involved in various initiatives aimed at promoting environmental conservation and sustainable living practices.

Having been exposed to agriculture through her family, Kiera has a deep appreciation for the vital role that farming and sustainable agricultural practices play in society. She understands firsthand the importance of agriculture in providing food security, supporting local economies, and preserving the environment. The mission of the National Women In Agriculture Association (NWIAA) resonates deeply with her, as she has witnessed the tangible benefits of sustainable farming practices and community involvement.

Kiera is passionate about making a positive impact in the Oklahoma City community. She loves being able to contribute to initiatives that promote sustainability, education, and empowerment. Her involvement with NWIAA allows her to combine her love for graphic design with her commitment to creating a better future. Whether it's through designing promotional materials for NWIAA events or participating in community outreach programs, Kiera is dedicated to making a meaningful difference.

In addition to her professional and advocacy work, Kiera is also a mentor and role model for young aspiring graphic designers and entrepreneurs. She believes in the power of mentorship and strives to inspire the next generation to pursue their passions and make a positive impact in their communities. Through her work and her advocacy, Kiera Esparza is committed to building a brighter, more sustainable future for all.

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Elisa Joseph is the Founder / Director of The Maternal Society

 

Nonprofit Mission: Dedication to Maternal Infant Child Health and wellness through a community-based approach of lactation services, perinatal care, health literacy and child development.

 

They envision a premier continuum of healthcare and social support that safeguards African American Maternal Infant Child Health and wellbeing. Together we can, and we will.

Elisa Joseph
Founder / Director of The Maternal Society
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Qadira Muhammad
International Affairs Coordinator

Qadira Muhammad is deeply committed to advancing causes centering peacebuilding, spiritual upliftment, and economic development, particularly within BIPOC communities and for the upliftment of youth. 

 

Even as a teenager, she worked on initiatives that supported BIPOC youth, such as organizing mental health seminars for her peers. Her college years would then become a pivotal time, as her research opportunities and participation in programs such as “NewGen Peacebuilders” (a Rotary Club Fellowship, where she studied graduate-level peace studies and worked on a peace project that aimed at reducing youth recidivism in several local communities in her state) would shape her understanding of what it means to engage in peacebuilding and what it truly takes to work toward sustainable economic development.

 

Qadira graduated at the top of her class with the highest academic and student honors her alma mater had to offer, including Phi Beta Kappa; Omicron Delta Kappa; Omicron Delta Epsilon, an economic honors society; and the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, which recognizes a college senior for her virtue and service to her campus and community. In 2019, Qadira graduated with a B.A. in political science and a double minor in religious studies and peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

 

She is currently a youth representative for the International Youth Leadership Institute (IYLI) at the United Nations, where she serves as Coordinator for the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent International Civil Society Working Group Youth Sub-Committee. With aspirations to become a polyglot, she is conversationally fluent in German (B2/C1) and studies Japanese (JLPT N4). Qadira has also traveled to over 16 countries to date, with the purpose of much of her travels focusing on academics or research highlighting social issues in that area. 

 

Her passion for travel, peacebuilding, and youth empowerment has led her to align with organizations whose mission serves our most vulnerable communities, and whose actions transcend peoples, cultures, faiths, and borders to the betterment of humanity, such as the National Women in Agriculture Association.

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Hilari Vargas
NWIAA Ambassador

Hilari Vargas is a sixth generation Texan, with a strong background in agriculture, law and policy. As one of the less than 2% of lawyers in the U.S. who are Hispanic women, Hilari is passionate about ensuring that the growth of opportunities for minorities in agriculture, is prioritized at all governmental levels. She received her law degree from Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she focused her studies on agriculture, environmental regulations and public law. While attending law school, Hilari continued volunteering for various projects and efforts, from assisting in research on goats at the S.U. Agricultural Research Station, to fundraising and distributing livestock feed for those affected by natural disasters. She remained involved in ag, not only through volunteer work, but also by working for the Livestock Brand Commission of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry. Prior to law school, Ms. Vargas grew up in 4-H and FFA, and spent time on her family’s small farm in west Texas. This prompted her to study agriculture at Texas Tech University, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Upon graduating she built a career in agricultural communications, working in the produce and cattle industries. While completing her last year of law school, she was awarded Legislative Fellowship with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, at the Texas House of Representatives, for the 2023 Texas Legislative Session. As a Legislative Aid, she worked closely with legislators, constituents and stakeholders to pass legislative measures. She was also tasked with attending hearings of the Environmental Regulations and Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee's, and the meticulously review of every bill under their consideration.  

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Emmanuel Opde
NWIAA Ambassador

Emmanuel Opde is a community leader and youth mentor who is passionate about women and youth empowerment through agriculture. He believes agriculture is the antidote to poverty reduction in rural communities in Africa. 

In 2007, he started the Centre for Behavioural Change and Public Enlightenment, a non-profit organization, and officially incorporated it in Nigeria on April 1, 2021, to empower youth and women in underserved communities.

Emmanuel Opde began farming early in childhood, at age 9, assisting his family in cassava and palm cultivation, processing, and marketing. His early years were spent working on their family cassava and palm plantations in the Akpororo-Sogho Community. Emmanuel has had a long-standing interest in agriculture and has been involved in farming until he met Dr. Tammy Gray-Steele during the 6th US-Africa Business and Policy Forum on June 24, 2021. The African Chapter of the National Women in Agriculture Association (NWIAA) was initiated and incorporated on August 2, 2022, under the name Tammy's International Women in Agriculture Empowerment Association (TIWAEA) with over 20 chapters across Africa.

Emmanuel Opde graduated top of his class with an Upper Credit Division Diploma in Legal Studies from Rivers State Polytechnic (now Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic), Bori. He also graduated top of his class with Honours (Second Class Upper Division) in Psychology from the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Emmanuel was a recipient of the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Excellence Scholarship Award by the Federal Scholarship Board (2016-2019).

Emmanuel has served in various leadership capacities, including Assistant Director of Projects for the Impact Leaders Club at the University of Uyo (2017-2018), Youth President of the Methodist Church Nigeria in Rumuigbo, Port Harcourt (2007-2013), and Advisor and Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee for the Nigerian Association of Psychology Students (2019-present). He is a researcher, entrepreneur, gifted writer, grassroots mobilizer, and community leader with a strong passion for youth and women empowerment.

Emmanuel has attended many conferences, workshops, and seminars such as the Capacity Building Workshop organized by the Rivers State Ministry of Youth Development for Youth NGOs/Organizations in 2011, the Scientific Session of the 2019 Nigerian Psychological Association Congress in Uyo, and the 15th Anniversary of the National Women in Agriculture Association (NWIAA) in Oklahoma City, USA (February 2023), where he received an award of excellence in leadership as Africa Chapter Leader of NWIAA. He was also given special recognition and an award for his contributions to mental health in Nigeria by the Nigerian Association of Psychology Students in 2021.

Emmanuel holds certificates in conflict management, youth organizations, management and leadership, and impact leadership. He has taken his social and behavioral change advocacy campaigns—such as those against mental illnesses, drug abuse, gender-based violence, and suicide prevention—and youth and women empowerment to several radio and television stations. He has featured on programs such as "Let’s Talk About It" and "Feminine Fancy" on Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, "Treasure 98.5 FM," "Mind, Body and Soul" on Nigeria Info 92.3 FM, "Radio Rivers 99.1 FM," "Rhythm 93.7 FM," "You and Your Health" on Atlantic Television Network in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, "Sharing Life Issues" on Inspiration FM 105.9, and "Well-being" on Spectrum TV in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Emmanuel has held various roles in different organizations, including Litigation Officer at Anoakule Chambers (2007-2015), Logistics Officer (Undergraduate Intern) at Multidigital Nigeria Limited (2018), and Sales Manager at De Prince Collections (2007-2008).

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Boluwatife Onipede
NWIAA Ambassador

Boluwatife Onipede is a Legal Practitioner with five years’ post-call experience in corporate commercial law and dispute resolution. She bagged her LLB Degree from Osun State University, Nigeria in 2018, and was a recipient of the Brain Box of the Year Award both from
the Law Students’ Society, and the Yusuf Ali's Liberty Chambers in 2017 and 2018 respectively. She also graduated in the top five percentile of her Set (College of Law), emerging the 3rd Best
Overall in the College of Law, Osun State University, Nigeria. She attended the Nigerian Law School, and got called to the Nigerian Bar in 2019. After her call to the Bar, she worked as an Associate in the Law Firm of PISTIS PARTNERS LLP, a full-service commercial law firm, where she advised clients on a wide spectrum of corporate law cases including business ethics and legal compliance. She also represented foreign and local clients in complex corporate and civil matters alike. She thereafter joined the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) in September 2022, where she worked as Legal Officer in the Organisation’s Legal, Regulatory and Taxation Department. NECA is the foremost Umbrella Business Membership Organisation in Nigeria, and has in the past 60 years, been the voice of business on varied and diverse issues that aim at
improving the environment for enterprises to survive and flourish. At NECA, she advised member-companies across diverse sectors of the economy on regulatory compliance and corporate governance principles to improve efficiency in operational management, attended various sessions, public hearings and stakeholders’ engagement at the National Assembly to provide guidance and present positions on variant of issues likely to affect businesses under the Organized Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN), amongst other things. She was the youngest of the three Nigerian Delegates that represented Nigeria at the Effective and Inclusive Tripartism and Social Dialogue Workshop, by the African Regional Labour
Administration Centre (ARLAC), Harare, Zimbabwe. She is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree at Oklahoma City University, with an expected end date of May 2025.
As a childhood hobby, Boluwatife started planting Oranges and Guava in her compound and has now grown to love agriculture with a goal to support minority women and youth in Agriculture to become economically empowered. In her free time, she loves writing and using natural events to teach lessons, mentoring and counseling.

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