Not Interested in Agriculture? Artha Jonassaint Will Change Your Mind
FFA student and John Deere intern is introducing others to the business
Artha Jonassaint knew working in agriculture was her dream job as far back as middle school. Now as an adult she wants to spread her passion for ag to others who may not be thinking about it as a career.
Jonassaint grew up in Okeechobee, Florida, a community where cows outnumber people 4:1. The importance of agriculture was ingrained in her surroundings. Through the guidance of her mother and a middle school FFA advisor she became an FFA member.
During her FFA career, Jonassaint raised dairy cows and worked with the Florida Department of Health through their nutrition education program, helping others implement healthy dietary habits and teaching elementary school students about agriculture.
It was at this time Jonassaint began noticing she was the only student of color. Now, as an adult she is working to help introduce Black, Indigenous, and Latino students to agriculture.
“My service in FFA helped show students of these identities that there is a space for them in agriculture, and that their presence is not only invaluable, but necessary for agriculture to flourish,” Jonassaint said.
My service in FFA helped show students of these identities that there is a space for them in agriculture, and that their presence is not only invaluable, but necessary for agriculture to flourish,
Inspired to help others
As her involvement in FFA grew, Jonassaint met with several John Deere employees, opening a door to an internship with the U.S. Public Affairs team. As an intern she’s helped conduct legal research concerning emerging technologies, conducted research and data collection on alternative fuels, and assisted with John Deere’s farm bill priorities.
During her internship, Jonassaint had the opportunity to watch John Deere and Al Roker Entertainment’s new documentary “Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land” during a private screening in Washington D.C. The documentary spotlights issues with heirs’ property and the efforts of Black farmers and other landowners to keep their land.
Heirs property is land jointly owned by descendants of someone who didn’t leave a legal will, thereby leaving them without a clear title. The land is passed to surviving family members by way of fractional ownership – meaning any heir can divide or sell the land. It is the leading cause of involuntary land loss among Black landowners.
As an aspiring attorney and Black agriculturalist, the documentary hit close to home.
“I was inspired by the narratives shared in the documentary to seek litigious solutions and remedies for populations that have faced discrimination and, in turn, have been ostracized from one of the most fundamental industries to human prosperity,” Jonassaint said. “In that space and in those moments, I felt like I encountered my purpose. I knew I belonged at Deere, and I knew I belonged in agriculture.”
In that space and in those moments, I felt like I encountered my purpose. I knew I belonged at Deere, and I knew I belonged in agriculture.