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Growing a career in Agriculture

By Donnie Lunsford, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist ♦ October 2020

Under a shade tree on Highway 281 in Premont, Texas, a little fruit stand and a childhood of hand-picking crops, planted the seeds to grow a bountiful career for Raul Ray Hinojosa, Zone 3 agronomist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Corpus Christi. Growing up in a rural community, he worked the fields, learned to ride and rope, mended fences, pulled calves, and did just about anything that needed to be done.

Read more about Raul Hinojosa in the ArcGIS Story maps or in the text-only version below.

“My parents, Raul and Yolanda Hinojosa, both came from agricultural backgrounds, and it was only natural that my siblings and I would do the same.,” said Hinojosa. “I learned to work hard selling watermelons at our fruit stand at eight years old. By 15 I was picking watermelons which allowed me to purchase a truck and began to run local roping events which helped me to leave town after high school and go work for a rodeo company.”

Hinojosa had a job but no real place to live. He was just rambling like an old George Straight song living the rodeo dream. He knew that life was temporary and needed more stability, so he decided to go back to school. College costs quite more than the cowboy wages with the rodeo company so he went to work the oil field to earn and save money for college.

In 2003, he began classes at Coastal Bend College while employed at the Texas A&M Experiment Station in Beeville. Assisting with research provided a more in-depth perspective into agriculture and it led him to continue his education at Texas A&M University – Kingsville (TAMUK). In 2005, NRCS gave a presentation to his class to announce on-site interviews for summer internships on the following day.

“I immediately requested an interview during class and was offered an internship in Aledo, Illinois. I had an amazing time in Illinois and when I returned to TAMUK I became an unofficial recruiter for NRCS and a student advisor,” explained Hinojosa. “In 2007, I graduated from TAMUK with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Science, making me the first college graduate within my extended family, and in 2010 my Master of Science in Plant and Soil Science.”

In 2009, while completing his graduate degree, he received a travel scholarship to attend the National Organization of Professional Hispanic Natural Resources Conservation Service Employees (NOPHNRCSE) conference in Philadelphia. This networking opportunity led him to a rangeland management specialist position in Woodward, Oklahoma, where he worked while finishing his master’s thesis at night.

While in Oklahoma, he hit the ground running, assisting with a technical committee revising specifications for multiple conservation practices. He also served on the Civil Rights Advisory Committee as the Hispanic Emphasis Program Manager. Since then, he transferred to four different NRCS field offices eventually landing as the zone agronomist in Corpus Christi. He also served as the Hispanic Emphasis Program Manager (HEPM) for Texas.

“My biggest joy as the HEPM is assisting students the way those before me did which led me to the NRCS,” said Hinojosa. “I owe much of my success to my family and the mentors who have guided me, and I think it is only fitting for me to continue to help others find a promising career even if they don’t come to NRCS.”

Hinojosa continued, “The most important part of myself is being a husband, father, son, brother, and a friend.  My career goals are to continue with NRCS and to become a Certified Crop Advisor within the next year. I owe much of my success to my family and the mentors who have guided me. My advice to all, find a mentor and become a mentor. There is always someone who would benefit from your experiences.”

man standing in front of a table