What Makes Me Texan By Nature: Estela Lopez

Horseshoe Bend

Tag Archive: agriculture

  1. What Makes Me Texan By Nature – Estela Lopez

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    Rio Grande River
    Exit to the Rio Grande Valley

    I never knew the impact of growing up in the Rio Grande Valley had on me until I moved away for college. had always heard the saying “you know you’re almost in the valley when you take the exit in Corpus”, but I wouldn’t understand the emotional meaning of it until I drove home for the first time and took the exit myself.

    Ring Day 2022

    I was born and raised by two of the most hard working individuals I know, Rosa Maria Lopez and Fernando Lopez, in the not so little city of McAllen,Texas. I never knew the sacrifice my parents made for me until I started sharing my story in college. My mother was born in Mexico and courageously came to the United States with a dream and a prayer. She has been the greatest role model in my life and has always encouraged of all of my dreams. My m​​other and father did not have the opportunity to attend college, and always made it a goal of theirs to have their only child attend college. They sacrificed continuing their education to provide for their family, and now that I have the ability to attend college and pursue a higher education, I dedicate everything I do for them.

    Bougainvillea Tree
    Memories in Mexico

    Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley has been a blessing. It has given me the ability to appreciate the beauty it holds even though the weather is unbearable at times. The proximity to the border and the Gulf of Mexico blesses us with an abundance of biological diversity. The true beauty of the RGV is in the people and the culture. The Tex-Mex culture has always been a defining and influential part of my life. Most of my childhood was spent traveling to Mexico to visit my mother’s side of the family. My greatest childhood memories include spending time at the ranch in Mexico with my family and eating all the delicious food I could possibly consume prepared by the locals in my grandparent’s hometown. My favorite thing to do was ride around with my grandpa in his old truck listening to corridos and looking at all the cattle and the surrounding vegetation. One of the most beautiful aspects of the ranch is a bougainvillea tree that my great-great grandfather planted for his wife, Rosa Ramirez, who I get my middle name from. This tree has survived droughts, freezes, and the hardships that ranching families face. It shows the true power and perseverance that nature has. This tree has always been so symbolic in my family because if this tree can survive anything, so can we.


    Antelope Canyon

    Traveling and discovering the beauty of nature is one of my favorite things to do. One of my favorite quotes comes from John Muir, “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees”, and I couldn’t agree more. Traveling with my family across the U.S. has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. Pictures cannot describe the awe that encompasses an individual when you see first hand the beauty that nature graces us with.

    Antelope Canyon

    My time at Texas A&M University has afforded me the ability to learn more about the great state of Texas. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate education, so many professors have highlighted the diversity that Texas has. Through case studies and group discussions, it’s quite evident the pride that we all hold to be Texan. Nothing gives me greater joy than to tell my story and what it means to me to be from Texas. Walking into a room knowing that growing up in Texas has given me the strength, courage, and ability to conquer anything I set my mind to, empowers me to overcome any obstacle in my way. This is what makes me proud to be Texan by Nature.














  2. TxN 20 Industry Highlights — Agriculture

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    2022 TxN 20: Texan-led leadership in conservation for a sustainable future in Agriculture.

    The Texan by Nature team is excited to present the fourth annual list of Texan by Nature 20 (TxN 20) Honorees. TxN 20 recognizes outstanding work in conservation and sustainability from Texas-based businesses.

    It’s an opportunity to showcase innovation, commitment to conservation, and best practices from the industries that keep Texas running: Agriculture, Architecture, Financial Services, Food, Beverage, & Grocery, Technology, Energy, Healthcare, Municipal Services, Retail, Transportation, and Construction & Manufacturing. 

    Meet the 2022 TxN 20 Honorees leading sustainability in agriculture, Darling Ingredients, and Sanderson Farms.

    Nearly $10 million invested in energy and water efficiency improvements last year — 2022 TxN 20 Honoree Darling Ingredients

    Who is Darling Ingredients?

    Darling Ingredients is the largest publicly traded company turning edible by-products and food waste into sustainable products and is a leading producer of renewable energy.

    How does Darling Ingredients set the standard?

    Darling Ingredients invested nearly $10 million in water and energy efficiency in 2021. Their most substantial sustainable energy investment has been with Diamond Green Diesel, a renewable diesel that reduces emissions up to 85% compared to traditional diesel. Diamond Green Diesel is produced in partnership with Valero Energy Corporation, also headquartered in Texas. All of Darling Ingredients’ plants engage in primary water reduction practices limiting the demand for freshwater supplies across Darling operations resulting in 11 billion gallons of water returned to the environment per year. Darling Ingredients’ employees organized a recycling drive, collecting over 6,000 units of solid waste. In November of 2020, that same team planted 234 trees in the Mosquito River Basin region where their facility is located. 

    226,466 kWh of electricity saved in the calendar year 2021- 2022 — 2022 TxN 20 Honoree: Sanderson Farms

    Who is Sanderson Farms?

    Sanderson Farms is a Fortune 1000 company engaged in the production, processing, marketing, and distribution of fresh and frozen chicken and other prepared food items. Through efforts in conservation, recyclability, renewable energy, and fuel efficiency, Sanderson Farms demonstrates they are dedicated to producing quality, affordable chicken that is not only good for our customers but also good for the environment.

    How does Sanderson Farms set the standard?

    The company has 58 full-time employees company-wide dedicated to environmental and conservation efforts. The environmental services department consists of three managers of environmental services and an environmental coordinator, who are all responsible for monitoring the company’s usage of natural resources such as natural gas and electricity. Sanderson Farms utilizes energy-efficient LED lighting in select processing facilities resulting in 226,466 kWh of electricity saved in the calendar year 2021. Sanderson Farms generated 309,561 MMBTUs of renewable energy or biogas, which reduced the volume of natural gas purchased in their facilities. Sanderson Farms has reduced its water use intensity by 44% since 2008 and saves 1.3+ billion gallons of water annually.

    8,400 acres of land restored naturally — 2022 TxN 20 Honoree: Vital Farms

    Who is Vital Farms?

    Vital Farms’ purpose is rooted in a commitment to Conscious Capitalism, which prioritizes the long-term benefits to each of their stakeholders – farmers and suppliers, customers and consumers, communities and the environment, crew members, and stockholders. Today Vital Farms partners with over 275 small family farms. Every hen is humanely treated, every egg is pasture-raised, and they continue to elevate their own, and the industry’s, standards.

    How does Vital Farms set the standard?

    Approximately 200 family farms commit to Vital Farms exacting standards and the pasture-raised practices they believe are best for hens, cows, and land, resulting in 8,400 acres of natural land restoration. 

    Through Vital Farms’ conservation-minded pasture rotation practice, the land is naturally restored, and herbicides and pesticides are avoided in 300 farms. ZERO waste facilities: all excess egg product is used for other purposes, such as pet food. In addition, Vital Farms utilizes bio-retention features that clean and cool rainwater, provide for the recharge of local aquifers rather than runoff into storm sewers, and conserve over 700,000 gallons of water per year. 

    Why forward-thinking leaders in Agriculture matter

    80% of groundwater in Texas is used for irrigating crops, and according to the State Water Development Board’s 2022 Water Plan, Texas’ population is expected to grow by 70% by 2070. This increase in population means natural resources, including water and the agricultural products that put food on the table, will need to stretch further. To meet these needs while protecting the environment, it’s critical that the agriculture industry in Texas weaves environmental sustainability into its business model. Texas ingenuity in agriculture is helping produce more with less and increase environmental stewardship along the way.

    How TxN20 Honorees Are Selected Each Year
    To select the 2022 TxN 20 Honorees, the TxN Team evaluated submissions and conducted independent research across 2,000+ of Texas’ publicly traded and private companies in 12 key industry sectors.
    All companies were evaluated on a 17-point scoring system, from which the top 60 highest-scoring companies moved on to the final round of TxN 20. A selection committee of top industry leaders and experts was then formed to evaluate the top 60 companies and select the final 20 businesses recognized as TxN 20 Honorees.

    Honorable Mentions: Standouts in Sustainability

    In addition to this year’s TxN 20 honorees, here are three industry standouts for best practices in conservation and sustainability coming from companies across the agriculture industry.

    Industry Innovator: DOW Inc

    DOW Inc. is a leader in sustainability with its various initiatives to preserve natural resources. Notable efforts include executing optimization projects that have saved approximately 400,000 mT CO2 annually. Additionally, their efforts in renewable power surpassed their 2025 goals by obtaining 740 MV from renewable sources.

    Industry Innovator: Bayer & Bayer Crop Science

    Bayer & Bayer Crop Science incorporates sustainable practices into their business. Their unique efforts include using plant biotechnology to create herbicide-tolerant plants that reduce the release of GHG from the soil. The company also participates in purchasing electricity from renewable energies. In 2021, 24.7% of their electricity was sourced renewably as they are working towards 100% by 2029.

    Industry Innovator: Dairy Farmers of America

    Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) prioritizes sustainable efforts by aligning with UN SDG goals. DFA has approximately 200 on-farm renewable energy projects with plans to utilize more than 50 anaerobic digesters to convert dairy waste products into green energy. Additionally, DFA focuses greatly on soil health and regenerative agriculture to increase the longevity of soil life and health.

    Get Involved:
    Is your company at the forefront of conservation and environmental sustainability in Texas? Do you want to be recognized for your efforts? Contact Texan by Nature at programs@texanbynature.org.

    To be considered for the official TxN 20 list, companies must:

    • Have operations and employees based in Texas;
    • Share a demonstrated commitment to conservation & sustainability;
    • Showcase tangible efforts, impact, and data in conservation;
    • NOT be a conservation-based nonprofit (501c3).



  3. Conservation Partner: NRCS Texas Q&A

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    Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 105+ conservation organizations working to positively benefit Texas’ natural resources and communities through innovative approaches. TxN accelerates conservation by bringing conservation organizations and business together through programs that connect and convene diverse stakeholders and catalyze science-based conservation efforts and projects to accelerate impact.

    Learn more about TxN Conservation Partner, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and how they are supporting resource management and conservation in agriculture. 

    Brittany Anderson, Soil Conservationist, Pampa field office providing technical assistance in the field with mobile technology.
    Brittany Anderson, Soil Conservationist, Pampa field office providing technical assistance in the field with mobile technology.

    Q: Tell us about NRCS and its mission.

    A: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides America’s farmers and ranchers with technical and financial assistance to voluntarily put conservation on the ground not only helping the environment but agricultural operations, too.

    Our Mission: We deliver conservation solutions so agricultural producers can protect natural resources and feed a growing world.

    Our Vision: A world of clean and abundant water, healthy soils, resilient landscapes and thriving agricultural communities through voluntary conservation.

    Q: What is the history of NRCS?

    A: On April 27, 1935, Congress passed Public Law 74-46, in which it recognized that “the wastage of soil and moisture resources on farm, grazing, and forest lands . . . is a menace to the national welfare,” and it directed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) as a permanent agency in the USDA. In 1994, Congress changed SCS’s name to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to better reflect the broadened scope of the agency’s concerns.

    Land must be nurtured; not plundered and wasted.” – Hugh Hammond Bennett, NRCS’ first chief. 

    Cattle and Emery Birdwell on the Birdwell Clark Ranch in Henrietta, Texas.

    Q: How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience?

    A: NRCS helps America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources with free technical assistance or advice for their land. Common technical assistance includes natural resource assessment, conservation practice design and natural resource monitoring. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. NRCS offers financial and technical assistance to help agricultural producers make and maintain conservation improvements on their land.

    Soil Scientist Nathan Haile examines soil condition in soil samples taken in the pasture.
    Soil Scientist Nathan Haile examines soil condition in soil samples taken in the pasture.

    Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs? 

    A: Through NRCS’ financial assistance programs landowners and/or operators receive incentive payments to implement conservation practices on their land. Previously, an outside partner and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts provided additional incentive payments for conservation practice implementation to encourage greater participation and more conservation.

    NRCS provides financial assistance through Farm Bill Programs such as:

    NRCS uses Landscape Conservation Initiatives to accelerate the benefits of voluntary conservation programs, such as cleaner water and air, healthier soil and enhanced wildlife habitat. NRCS conservation programs help agricultural producers improve the environment while maintaining a vibrant agricultural sector.

    Programs like The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCCP) work with landowners and agricultural producers to meet conservation challenges collaboratively.

    Additionally, NRCS supports agriculturalists affected by natural phenomena with targeted funding. In response to recent wildfires in Texas, NRCS has made funding available through EQIP to assist with the cost of animal mortality and deferred grazing. Affected agriculturalists should apply by July 5. See counties eligible for assistance here.

    USDA Targets Funds in Texas to Help Landowners and Managers with Wildfire Recovery and Restoration
    USDA Targets Funds in Texas to Help Landowners and Managers with Wildfire Recovery and Restoration.

    Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects/programs?

    A: Benefits of NRCS programs include water quality improvement, nutrient runoff reduction, water quantity use/loss reduced, soil loss prevented, wildlife habitat creation and improvement, soil health improvement, and air quality improvement.

    Additionally, NRCS can partner with organizations to leverage financial assistance program funds and promote broader conservation practice implementation and natural resource improvements.

    Q: Tell us about the future of your organization. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or challenges ahead?

    Here’s a few of our exciting upcoming events in 2022:

    See a full list of upcoming NRCS events here.

    Farm Bill Program financial assistance is available yearly. Urban and small farm agriculture is a new opportunity for USDA. NRCS will be adapting conservation practices to provide valuable assistance in helping provide local health, food, and security.

    Cotton boll maturing on Bobby Byrd's cotton plant in Hale County near Plainview, Texas.
    Cotton boll maturing on Bobby Byrd’s cotton plant in Hale County near Plainview, Texas.

    Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about your organization?

    A: Follow and like NRCS on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

    Contact Rob Ziehr, Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships and Initiatives at Robert.Ziehr@usda.gov or 254-742-9888

    Texan by Nature is proud to partner with 105+ conservation organizations across Texas. Through our Conservation Partner network, we connect conservation organizations with the resources and relationships they need to extend their initiatives’ impact. Partner benefits include on-going features on social media, monthly media round-up, quarterly meetings, aggregated resources on fundraising, marketing/social media, and more.

    All photos and captions courtesy of NRCS Texas.