Staff spotlight: Justin jumps around the globe, lands at the Center

There’s no place like home, especially when home is rural America.

Just ask Justin Carter.

Though his travels have taken him all around the world, Justin recently found his way back to his home state.

“I grew up in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, just outside of Omaha, and while we were close to the city, I had all the characteristics of a rural kid,” said Justin. “I worked on farms in the summer and went hunting in the fall. Rural America had a large impact on my upbringing, and I’ve always been proud to say I’m from a small town.”

Justin is keeping his love of rural alive through his new position as a project associate with the Center for Rural Affairs.

“I’ve known about the work of the Center for the past couple years, and I recognized early that their values aligned with my own,” Justin said.

With a career spent mostly working in food security, Justin found the Center to be a great fit for him.

“So much of the Center’s work embodies keeping communities food secure,” he said. “I was searching for a position that allowed me to go out into the field and speak directly with individuals in communities. When I saw an opening for a position doing just that, I jumped on it.”

Justin brings years of agricultural experience to his role. He served three years in the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Togo, West Africa, working with smallholder farmers. Justin also worked with beekeepers in rural Guatemala, helping them find markets for their honey products in the U.S.

Upon completion of his Master of Business Administration degree from Colorado State University, Justin worked as a manager on a dairy outside of Fort Collins, Colorado, where he got to know both the cows and the employees.

“I feel like my background has given me a lot of important experience in agriculture; I know much of the business side, but have also had the chance to get my hands dirty,” Justin said.

With all that knowledge and experience, Justin has big plans for his new role, and is off to a running start.

“I’m planning beginning farmer and landowner learning circles in eastern and central Nebraska,” said Justin. “Also, I’m taking on a significant portion of the Greenhouse to Cafeteria project, which aims to give schools the ability to produce their own vegetables while teaching students technical skills.”

Justin will also be working with the Nebraska Food Council, which focuses on identifying the challenges facing local food systems and finding solutions for those challenges.

“I hope I can play an important role in providing families and individuals economic opportunities in their communities,” said Justin. “I also hope to make an impact through sustainable agriculture. Even a small change to our landscape, like farmers planting diverse vegetables, using cover crops, or practicing beekeeping because of my work is a huge goal for me.”

He’s now back in his home state, and through his travels, Justin has learned people in rural communities have the same concerns—across the globe.

“Each place is unique, but so many of the issues are the same—food insecurity and food deserts, brain drain, lack of quality education, poor infrastructure, etc.,” he said. “Working in all these areas has inspired me to continue to focus on rural issues no matter where they are.”

Justin urges others to keep the same mindset, and to work together toward the common goal of food security.

“I think it’s very important that while we’re working here in rural America, we recognize the challenges surrounding rural life are really a global phenomenon,” said Justin. “The success of these rural areas has a tremendous impact on all parts of the globe, including urban areas.”

Outside of work, Justin spends his time exploring different areas of Nebraska, and enjoys canoeing the state’s rivers during the summer. During autumn, he looks forward to participating in his family’s tradition of pheasant and waterfowl hunting.

Justin can be reached at the Center’s office in Lyons, Nebraska, at 402.687.2100 ext. 1018 or justinc@cfra.org.