A native of Quito, Ecuador, Luisa Santamaria is an accomplished instructor of Spanish-speaking nursery workers, and a biologist who has shown an insatiable desire to learn as well as teach.
Santamaria works at Oregon State University’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center as a plant pathologist and bilingual educator. Her path to Oregon was filled with hard work and opportunities of which she took advantage. Coming to OSU in 2009, Santamaria’s immediate focus was on Oregon’s nursery industry. Her knowledge of soil borne pathogens has been invaluable to growers. But it’s her roots in teaching, combined with her language skills, that have filled an incredibly important niche in the industry, reaching Hispanic workers who not only are unable to speak English, but also may be illiterate or possess little formal education. Nurseries are seeing that this education and her trainings have a positive impact on workers and changing behavior during work activities.
Through Santamaria’s workshops and training manuals, Hispanic nursery workers have learned about conditions and plant diseases they should be looking for, proper use of pesticides, proper sanitation, and worker safety issues. She also has been instrumental in helping deliver on-farm food safety training for field workers. The berry industry, in particular, has a need and desire for outreach and education to improve food safety practices. As an extension educator with bilingual skills, Santamaria has become an important part of that process.
Santamaria hopes to provide the Board of Agriculture with a strong insight of the agricultural work force, which is largely made up of Spanish speakers.
Santamaria, who has two grown children, resides in Canby with her husband, Carlos Castellanos.