Two CSU College of Agricultural Sciences graduate students named inaugural FFAR Fellows

Universities and industry leaders collaborate to provide interdisciplinary training for the next generation of food and agriculture researchers

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has announced 17 inaugural recipients of the FFAR Fellow award. Two of the 17 Fellows, Abby Barker and Mary Ortiz Castro, are from Colorado State University.

As part of the program, the graduate students from across the U.S. gathered at North Carolina State University for a weeklong training course designed to prepare them for successful careers in food and agriculture science.

Abby Barker in her lab
FFAR Fellow Abby Barker

Abby Barker

Barker is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management Department at CSU. Her research project aims to understand herbicide resistance in weeds and develop recommendations for sustainable herbicide management practices. Barker’s industry sponsor is Valent U.S.A. LLC.

“I am honored to have been chosen as part of the inaugural cohort of the FFAR Professional Development Fellows,” said Barker. It is wonderful to be part of a program so committed to giving us the soft skills required for our futures.”

Read more about Barker’s research here.

Mary Ortiz Castro

Ortiz Castro is a Stipend and Professional Development FFAR Fellow also in the Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management Department at CSU. Her research seeks solutions to combat bacterial leaf streak in corn by understanding the ecology of the disease and creating an integrated management program. Ortiz Castro’s industry sponsor is the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee.

Mary Ortiz Castro standing among corn stocks
FFAR Fellow Mary Ortiz Castro

“I am excited to be part of the first cohort of graduate students in the Stipend and Professional Development portion of the FFAR Fellowship,” said Ortiz Castro. “I think this is a great opportunity to develop my skills as an integral scientist aiming to make a positive impact in the life of growers in our state, country and the world”.

Read more about Ortiz Castro’s research here.

Future of agriculture

“The future of agriculture relies on training a strong scientific workforce,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey, Ph.D. “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to support the next generation of food and agriculture researchers and I am excited to see how the FFAR Fellows will grow through this program.”

The $2.7 million FFAR grant was matched by a consortium of industry leaders dedicated to preparing the agricultural workforce to optimize impact on the future of agriculture science. The program will award two additional cohorts of students in 2019 and 2020.

A team at North Carolina State University manages the FFAR Fellows program.

“Selected from over 100 wonderful applicants, the 17 FFAR Fellows are an impressive group of Ph.D. students who we know will have a lasting effect on food and agriculture,” said John Dole and Rebecca Dunning of North Carolina State University. “The FFAR Fellows program will give them the tools and training to hit the ground running and make an impact from day one in their future positions.”

FFAR Fellows Program

The FFAR Fellows Program pairs doctoral candidates with academic and industry mentors to equip students with the skills needed to facilitate their transition to the workforce. Awards were granted in two funding categories. Stipend and Professional Development Fellows receive fully-funded support for three years to pursue research projects and interdisciplinary training. Professional Development Fellows have support secured for academic studies and will use the FFAR Fellow award to participate in the three-year interdisciplinary training program.

Learn more about the program and how to apply to be a 2019 FFAR Fellow at