Tanya Hodges to lead Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture as new Executive Director

April 4, 2024
Tanya Hodges

Equipped with over three decades’ experience in academia and the agricultural industry, Tanya Hodges will serve as the new Executive Director of the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture (YCEDA).

YCEDA is a public-private partnership launched in 2014 to provide fast-track solutions to high-priority issues identified by the desert agricultural industry, including increasing production efficiencies through disease and water management, maximizing crop yield and food safety, and developing new technology. 

Robby Barkley, Chairman of the YCEDA Advisory Council and President and CEO of Barkley Ag Enterprises, describes the center as "an investment in our future.”

“I know Tanya is going to be very capable,” Barkley said. “Her background in the industry and her background with the University of Arizona are big pluses for her ability to lead this program as the Executive Director.”

Hodges looks forward to working with stakeholders to tackle challenges surrounding water, soil and plant health, labor, and the increased opportunity for precision agriculture, while helping to broaden understanding of the national impact desert agriculture has in producing a safe, abundant, and healthy food supply.

“Agriculture is near and dear to me, and Yuma County’s precision agriculture is right up front and center,” she explained. “I'm very excited and know there's so much to learn. I look forward to working with our industry partners who have been so supportive throughout this process.” 

A homegrown leader

A Yuma native, Hodges’ family roots in Yuma County extend six generations. Growing up in a family deeply connected to farming, she developed a passion for the industry and its related business, science, and technology fields.

“I grew up in the eastern part of Yuma County north of Dateland. My dad was a farmer. I have family members still working in agriculture, and I met my husband when both of us went to the University of Arizona to study agriculture,” Hodges said. “I know the important role desert agriculture plays in feeding the United States.”

She brings 16 years of experience in the agricultural industry and another 16 years’ experience in agricultural academia to the role. Hodges earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Education from the University of Arizona, graduating from thCollege of Agriculture, Life, and Environmental Sciences. Subsequently, she earned her Doctor of Education in Innovation and Leadership from Arizona State University.

In her previous role, Hodges served as the Regional Academic Programs Manager and Director of Workforce Development and Grants for the University of Arizona Yuma Distance Campus. Within the past three years, Hodges and her team have been awarded nearly $4 million to provide support tools and resources for Yuma students. 

She also worked to bridge collaboration between the University of Arizona Distance Campus and the Yuma and Imperial Valley agricultural industries to create the Agriculture Systems Management degree, designed specifically to meet the region's workforce demands.

“Dr. Hodges is a proven entrepreneur and innovator in the private sector and academia. It is critical that YCEDA’s Executive Director knows what it takes to “make payroll,” there is no safety net,” said Shane Burgess, Vice President for the Division of Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension, and the Charles-Sander Dean of the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona. 

“I know firsthand what doing this takes in the private sector and academia, and so does Paul Brierley, our founding YCEDA director. It’s not easy” Burgess said. “I look forward to seeing the YCEDA build on its past exemplary and exceptional impact under Dr. Hodges’ high-energy leadership.” 

“I'm very excited for YCEDA to enter its next phase. I’ve worked with Tanya for many years, and I know she will carry it forward into the future,” said Paul Brierley, YCEDA’s inaugural director and current CEO & EDD of the Arizona Department of Agriculture. “One of the legacies I'd like to leave in my new role is to have more collaboration and partnerships between state government and universities. I look forward to increased partnerships and collaboration within YCEDA.”


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