Staff spotlight: Diego delivers a wealth of rural experience in his new role

Small Towns

From Venezuela to Nebraska, Nicaragua to Alaska, and finally American Samoa, Diego Ayala has lived and worked in a variety of rural areas. Moving back to Nebraska to be closer with family, he now calls Lincoln, Nebraska, home and will be sharing his experiences to help the rest of rural America thrive.

Recently, Diego joined the Center for Rural Affairs as a community organizing associate, serving as a Latino farming organizer. When researching this role, Diego immediately felt like he’d be a good fit in the organization.

“After I looked into the organization and the diversity of the staff, and saw the different areas the Center is working with, I thought my work experience would complement the team,” he said. “And, being bilingual in Spanish/English works perfectly—the icing on the cake is being able to concentrate my efforts on the Latino American farming community in Nebraska.”

Diego’s work, initially, will be focused in eastern and central Nebraska communities, and his goal is to eventually expand to cover the whole state. His position with the Center will include working with and supporting staff on a variety of projects; building and maintaining relationships and rapport with partner organizations, community members and leaders, and the Latino community; developing and writing grant proposals, monitoring grants, fellowship opportunities, and serving as the lead on projects.

“For me, there is nothing like learning new things, and working with the Center team, in a role as an advocate for rural communities, allows me to increase my working knowledge on different aspects of rural communities,” he said. “I can only compare this type of work to composing a new song—a new chapter in my book of the world, in the key of D.”

Rural experiences have been part of Diego’s life since he was a child. Growing up in Venezuela, he spent his first 19 years at his parents’ diverse farm and livestock operation, and since coming to the U.S., most of Diego’s work since 1984 has been working in and around rural communities.

He’s worked with farmers and ranchers, on a variety of agricultural settings, feedlots, dairy and swine operations of every size and management style, on a potato and corn farm, and as an environmental consultant, and much more. Diego says his rural work experiences all share similar attributes and challenges, something he hopes to bring to his work with the Center.

“Living in these small communities gives you a different perspective, as you are able to see, feel, taste, and smell the community,” Diego said. “In my new role, I want to share some of my background in hopes that it will bring additional economic growth and business opportunities to rural Nebraska.”

In his free time, Diego and his wife enjoy spending time with their family—two grown children, two grandchildren, and four furry grandchildren. He relaxes by camping, fishing, hiking, and reading. An avid lover of music, Diego has been in many bands in northeast Nebraska, and plays and publishes his own instrumental guitar music as well.

Diego can be reached at his home office in Lincoln, Nebraska, at diegoa@cfra.org or 402.870.1133.