IRVINE, CALIF. — To celebrate International Women’s Day March 8, the California Avocado Commission (CAC) shared the stories of four women who work in the avocado industry.
“The Commission is happy to celebrate International Women’s Day and the many women involved in the California avocado industry,” said CAC online marketing director Zac Benedict. “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 grew up on her family’s avocado farm and joined the industry after her father passed in 2020. Her mother Joanna Axell owns the family ranch, Rancho Rodoro, and Tara supports her mother’s work running the avocado farm.
Jessica Hunter was the first in her family to work in the avocado industry after graduating from college. Now with 20 years of experience, she is the CEO of her family’s San Diego growing and packing company Del Rey Avocado. Hunter is also a member of the executive committee of the CAC’s board of directors.
Catherine Pinkerton Keeling comes from a family that has been growing avocados for more than 50 years. Instead of becoming a farmer, she chose to join the Peace Corps in Costa Rica after graduating from college. Her work focused on helping women in rural areas become economically independent. Later on she became a licensed social worker in the Midwest of the United States. In 2017, the Thomas Fire destroyed 70% of her family’s avocado ranch, along with her parents’ home. She decided to rebuild the family farm and is now an alternate on the CAC board of directors. She also now serves on the board of directors of the United Water Conservation District as of November 2022.
Hilary Kitzman Wilkie was raised on her family’s avocado grove and got a college degree in computer science before homeschooling her four children. Her father retired in 2016, and she took over the Kitzman Fair Haven farm. She has incorporated many sustainable practices like using natural leaf mulch and solar energy.
“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.”