Ruchi Joshi Bhardwaj, Grower & Education Program Manager, Grand Farm

Written by: Brady Drake

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in New Delhi, India (about 7,200 miles away from Fargo, ND, or about 25 hours of travel time). I came to Fargo in 2009 for my undergraduate degree in biotechnology at NDSU. During my senior year at NDSU, I worked in three labs (animal sciences, ag and biosystems engineering, and civil and environmental engineering (CEE) department) not because I wanted to, but because biotech majors were required to submit a mini-thesis based on a project from their lab experience. After graduation, almost all of my classmates moved away from ND for either a job (mostly in IT) or to pursue higher ed because we didn’t have much choice back in the day, especially being international students. My advisor from the CEE department offered me a graduate assistant position for a master’s degree. I was excited, not really for the research work but for the work that waived my tuition while paying me a stipend. The graduate assistantship was to serve on the Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education (NATURE) program— basically traveling to five reservations within ND to assist the NDSU faculty members in conducting STEM activities for the Native American students.

Eventually, toward the end of my master’s, I received a job offer from Moorhead Public Service, where I worked as a licensed water treatment plant operator. Simultaneously I started my Ph.D., wherein my research work focused on wastewater treatment. Toward the end of my Ph.D., I married my best friend back home in New Delhi in a typical Indian-style wedding—music, dance, drinks and food! As I was wrapping up my Ph.D. dissertation, I started working parttime for Emerging Prairie writing grants, and eventually I accepted the full-time offer after getting done with school. Now we have our nest in North Fargo that we share with 10 pets and a 6-month-old human baby whose nickname is Mowgli.

What is important to you about the work that you do?

At Grand Farm, I work with our entire ecosystem, i.e. individuals from AgTech startups and corporations, educators, researchers, students, growers (farmers, ranchers), government, non-governmental organizations and investors. Considering the diversity of our audience, it is extremely important to me that I provide value to each individual that I connect with because of my interdisciplinary education background, international exposure and my upbringing. I make sure that my contribution is backed up by facts and is critically thought through. Above all, building authentic relationships is the foundation of every single conversation I have because I believe in this world of artificial intelligence, there will always be a need for emotional intelligence that can only come from us — the humans!

What drives you?

Common-sense. I have acknowledged the fact that even if I don’t do anything extraordinary in my life, I must use my acquired skills and common sense to make things around me easy, enjoyable and better than before, to the best I can.

What are some important lessons you have learned in your lifetime?

The answer to most of the questions is “it depends.” Decision-making can be difficult at times, so try to incorporate a blend of both telescopic and microscopic perspectives.

Calibrate your mind every morning so that negative thoughts and assumptions don’t get carried on, professionally and personally.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

1. Connect with the elderly and passionate leaders to get a deeper perspective about this community and learn about the past (old is gold) and learn about the futuristic visions of the leaders.

2. Volunteer.

What is your dream job and why?

At this point, I feel I am doing my dream job simply because it makes me feel aligned with my journey thus far. Honestly, I dream about my job tasks sometimes. It is exciting and fulfilling and wakes me every day to witness how else I can be creative at my work.

Do you have any book or podcast recommendations for our readers?

“Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg is very relatable, especially if you are a woman, working woman, struggling woman, woman with imposter syndrome or someone who feels that salary negotiations are not for women, because I found myself qualified for all the abovementioned.

Sadhguru. He is an Indian yogi, mystic and spiritual master. His life and work serve as a reminder that inner sciences are not esoteric philosophies from an outdated past, but a contemporary science vitally relevant to our times.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program?

Coming from a foreign land, I feel that all humans have similar basic requirements —to be loved and respected. However, everyone’s way of approaching life both personally and professionally varies which significantly defines where they are at a specific time of their life. I want to learn about other people’s journeys because:

1. All participants in this program are leaders in their respective areas/ industries which means I have the opportunity to learn from the best.

2. Every participant here is a result of gazillions of decisions, choices, ups (achievements) and downs (sacrifices) —that’s a million-dollar learning for me because I feel I could possibly apply their lessons in my life when needed.

3. Getting in a room with all these leaders is a real opportunity because everyone here is authentic and intentional about sharing their lives. It is extremely difficult to find this authenticity and energy gathered in one room that too for a whole day—convert that into money and ideas—trust me it is priceless and can change the trajectory of your thoughts and your life. I am in the process of experiencing it already.

4. Here, everyone is real and vulnerable because they feel safe and above all honest about sharing their thoughts and opinions. I strongly feel about “connecting through brokenness” because happiness is literally pouring everywhere on social media. This program is real and the struggles shared by each participant is real. In the world of artificial intelligence and robots, I want to consciously invest my time and energy on real people to learn from real experiences, whether good or bad.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.