Sarah Hovinga

Banana Babble

Bananas are the coolest crop. From their biology, to the way they’re farmed, to the way they’re shipped around the world from tropical places, finally landing in cereal bowls of children in places where it snows.

I have the opportunity, and pleasure, to work in agriculture. I wasn’t raised on a farm, but in my job I am able to see and speak with the people that do, and am constantly amazed at the intricacy, science, and love involved in growing food.

Who am I? My name is Sarah and I am a microbiologist at Bayer Crop Science. I am a native Californian, from the beautiful redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I went to college at UC Davis, received two bachelor’s degrees there, one in general biology with a minor in plant biology and another in Spanish, and I received a master’s degree in biochemistry from Sacramento State. I have held roles in plant pathology, microbiology, and chemistry research, also field development, and most recently product support research. I love spending time with my family and friends, enjoy the great outdoors, and I love agriculture. I currently reside in Sacramento with my husband and our two dogs and cat.

Weren’t we talking about bananas? Oh, yes. Commercial bananas hooked me from the first time I stepped foot on a plantation in Davao, Philippines. Since then, I’ve been able to also see banana production in Australia, Ecuador, Jordan, and Costa Rica. They are a crop that grows year-round, produces an immense structure (called a pseudo stem) with enormous leaves, and in 7-9 months yields a giant bunch of fruit that is harvested and packed for export. The “mother” plant that produced the bunch dies back naturally, and makes way for a sucker plant to grow to repeat the same process.

Sarah Hovinga
Sarah Hovinga
Sarah Hovinga,
Senior Scientist, Biologics Project and Product Support, Disease Management, Bayer Division Crop Science

Commercial banana plantations are humid places compared to Sacramento, California. Rainy and abundant in insects and plant diseases, the hot sun beats down on your body, and the humidity seems to squeeze water out of you like a sponge. These are harsh conditions that reflect the amount of care needed to maintain a banana crop.

In general, crop science and cultivation is the side of agriculture that most people don’t see, are misinformed about, and are afraid of. In my job, I know my work impacts this industry for the good, if only a tiny bit, but this motivates me to push where I can and contribute to feeding the world.

I want to tell you about why I love a career in agriculture, how protecting and cultivating plants is a lot like human medicine, why we need more sustainable agriculture versus organic agriculture, a scientist’s view of GMOs, and how to be your own food detective. Most importantly, I would like to give you a personal perspective from a human being who truly cares about what they do, and allow you to open your mind to the benefits of modern agriculture. I hope this blog series can serve as credible information, from a scientist’s point of view, about why I do what I do: emotionally, environmentally, and scientifically. Check back soon and see you next month!

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All Comments

March 02, 2017 - 04:36 PM

I can't wait to read more and share this blog with others. Thanks for your work Sarah.

Current Readers´ rating (2)

Sarah Hovinga
March 09, 2017 - 05:59 AM

Thank you for your support Kiny! I'm glad to share and appreciative of the opportunity!

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Tim Magnuson
March 01, 2017 - 04:46 PM

Looking forward to the banana adventure! Having eaten said banana this morning, the stories you will tell will be great!

(friend of uncle Bill, btw)...

Current Readers´ rating (2)

Sarah Hovinga
March 09, 2017 - 06:01 AM

Thank you Tim! I'm glad to be able to post about what I do and why I do it. Glad that you want to read more. I'll get crackin' ;)!

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Thriving for Change - Championing Agriculture for a New Generation