Bindu Poudel, Ph.D., is an Extension Plant Pathologist Plant Diagnostician in Yuma. So, in Yuma you’ll find Dr. Poudel covering all area as it relates to plant pathology, plant disease diagnosis, research, extension and outreach and even hemp research.
Known by some as the Hempress for her work with hemp, Dr. Poudel will come to your house or your commercial field (of course observing COVID19 Safety protocols) in Yuma and help you diagnose what’s ailing that poor lemon tree of yours. She loves what she does, and her enthusiasm shines through with her smile.
She might not be a generational farmer from Arizona, but she is a generational farmer from Nepal. She was caring for plants before she was even in school. And the rest is history. So, we asked Dr. Poudel a few questions.
She’s classically humble and insists we call her Bindu. But we must at least call her amazing and not just because she can speak three main languages (English, Nepali, Hindi and few local dialects of Nepal), but because she speaks the language of farming, a universal language.
What is your educational background (i.e. Degree(s), certifications, honors)?
I have a PhD in plant pathology. I work with the agriculture community in plant disease diagnosis and management. With my upbringing and my training, I have a mind of a scientist.
Tell us about your background? Did/does your family farm?
I was born and raised in a farm in Nepal where agriculture is a way of life more than a business. It is a small country with small size farms and lands. Other than in the cities, everyone has their own little piece of land/garden where they grow. I started growing flowers and vegetables when I was not even 5 years old. And I learned to pick Himalayan raspberries before I learned about candies. It was me and my sibling’s chore to take care of baby goats in the farm. I could not have asked for a better childhood.
What do you love the most about farming, ranching, or the agriculture industry in general?
Farming is freedom. It is believing in tomorrow, working hard, and sometimes dealing with unexpected circumstances but not giving up hope and starting over again with same level of enthusiasm.
What excites you about Arizona’s agriculture?
The diversity. Diversity in terms of crops grown, the size of farms from commercial farms to family farms, the camaraderie within the community and the people (growers, farmers, company reps, PCAs, home growers) I work with.
What do you enjoy doing, and what is one fact/achievement that nobody knows about you?
I love being the Yuman (transplant) plant doctor. I love field disease diagnosis. Clinical diagnosis is very important part of diagnosis, but site visits are equally important and fun. I love house visits to look at retired couples’ citrus plants in their backyard and hearing their stories. I love being agriculture extension personnel. As extension is not just about how much you know, it is also about how much you care, and I love representing University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.
One fact that very few people know about me is that I was 12 when I wanted to get a PhD and I was 18 when I wanted to be a plant pathologist. Also, I am fluent at 3+ languages.
Why are you a Farm Bureau member?
I first found out about Farm Bureau from our local farmer John Boelts [current Arizona Farm Bureau First Vice President]. As I learned more about Farm Bureau being the voice of agriculture, I decided to join the Bureau.
How will the next generation of agriculturalists have to operate?
We need new and young faces in agriculture, and we need to make more effort towards sustainable agriculture. And it makes me happy to see that the younger generation is striving towards it. Sustainability in terms on environment, resource use, and in terms of profitability. It is not just business; it is a livelihood.
Farmers, especially the new generation should be provided with incentives to continue farming. Every year, we are losing farming lands, we are losing people from the farming community. We must make a combined effort on making farming appealing for the new generation. We need agriculture advocates.
What is the best business advice that you’ve received and/or have given?
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” By Henry David Thoreau
Talk about Hemp in Arizona. What is it’s potential?
Hemp is a new crop to Arizona and the United States. It is going to take a few years for the crop to adapt and for us to understand the crop itself. Just like Yuma did not become the winter vegetable capital overnight, it will be a few years before hemp becomes a mainstream crop in Arizona.
With the limited experience we have in hemp production (do not believe anyone who says they are an expert in hemp), it is hard to say now what does the future look like for Arizona hemp. There is need of a lot of work and research on hemp. We need to find a stable variety that grows in the Arizona heat. And there is a need for more work in fiber/grain varieties of hemp. But the enthusiasm in the agricultural community for hemp production has been phenomenal, so I am hopeful.
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