Q&A with Dr. Kemba Marshall

Kemba Marshall with her arm resting on a white fence.Name: Kemba L. Marshall

Title: Veterinarian and Founder, Marshall Recruiting Consortium

What is your background and how did you find your way into the ag industry?

At 8, I told my parents I was going to become a veterinarian, and I completed my veterinary degree at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. While I had several great years in private practice, I found my home within population-based/herd health medicine.

Why is diversity important to you and your organization?

Diversity is important to me personally because less than 2% of veterinarians are African American. This impacts the way in which the profession provides veterinary care. As the demographics of the U.S. population change and minorities make up the majority of citizens, we have to ensure both the practice of veterinary medicine and the clients that we serve understand the impact that race and ethnicity have on animal health. I am also concerned about the sustainability of the profession. We need diversity of thought, lived experience, age, and ability to drive the innovations we need in veterinary medicine. 30% of pets in the U.S. are not seen by a veterinarian. That means 30% of pets may have zoonotic diseases, like intestinal parasites and rabies, that may impact human health. Through the lens of One Health Medicine, we need veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and laboratory and kennel assistants to address human, animal, and environmental health.

What current diversity initiatives do you have planned or ongoing?

In 2020, I started my company, Marshall Recruiting Consortium (MRC), to bring talented, diverse individuals together with animal sciences and agricultural employers. We have both a lack of diversity in agriculture and a lack of inclusion. My company was built to bring that diversity to these industries. On its face, MRC functions as a job board. At its core, MRC gives professional development training to job seekers by partnering with employers. That professional development is what keeps individuals on the MRC platform. Job seekers are looking for companies that do not just speak about diversity and inclusion, but walk the walk. Companies are looking for venues to highlight their core philosophies. The Marshall Recruiting Consortium platform is my personal introduction to the industries and individuals who are looking for one another.

In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing happening in the industry currently?

The slow process of raising awareness around agricultural inequalities is exciting. I think everyone has a role to play in the long-term sustainability and profitability of agriculture. Regardless of age, ethnicity, physical ability, or gender we can all agree on the importance of wholesome and nutritious foods fed to people and animals.

What is your vision for the future of agriculture?

My vision for the future of agriculture is one where we start with the youth in urban, rural, and suburban cities and describe the joys and wonders of water, land, and animals. We then layer on technologies to teach those same youth how to work with water, land, and animals. We turn those youth loose and say, “Now that we have given you foundational principles, how can we be more efficient?” Children and adults need to understand crop, milk, meat, egg, and fiber production. Certainly, there is room to question why, but you cannot have that dialogue until you understand how. My vision for the future of agriculture is that everyone understands both the art and science of it.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your organization or the agricultural industry?

Things are changing at such a rapid pace in society, because of COVID-19, economic uncertainty, and a renewed call for social justice. Agriculture is long standing. In order to meet the demands of our customers and employees, this industry has to respond with innovation in products, processes, and personnel management. While this seems daunting, there is also no better group to address these uncertainties. In agriculture, you wake up thinking you know what the weather will be but planning for what the day brings. The day has brought us a new set of challenges, and it is up to us to respond accordingly.

About Together We Grow

Together We Grow is an agribusiness consortium with members that include major agricultural commodities companies, educational institutions, government agencies, and others committed to improving and expanding diversity in agribusiness. The consortium sponsors research and provides a platform to share best practices for building future workforce capacity; it will have its permanent home at the Spur Hydro building. For more information, visit twg.csusystem.edu.

About Spur: CSU System at the National Western Center

Coming in 2022: CSU System will open Spur, where innovative ideas and unforgettable experiences come to life at the National Western Center. Spur’s three buildings at the center of the landmark project in north Denver will ignite and fuel new ideas around water, food, and health and their impact on our lives and our world. Spur is where learning is open and accessible to all. Where researchers tackle the world’s most pressing problems around water, food, and health. Where art and culture challenge and surround you. Where rural and urban, local and global intersect. Learn more at csuspur.org.