Michele Madison is at the forefront of an aquaponic science revolution that is breaking barriers for women and girls in STEM.
The founder of a socially-minded business aiming to spread adoption of sustainable farming practices has found her place in the field of aquaponics. The business, Farming the Future, creates an interactive STEM education for Title I schools and juvenile detention facilities through aquaponics-based revolutionary farming.
Madison is one of the 2020 Trailblazers to be honored by The Oasis Center for Women & Girls at an awards luncheon on Friday, Feb. 28.
“I am not afraid to speak out for those less fortunate and even make people uncomfortable,” Madison said. “I know that some things need to be said and [saying them] might help someone else.”
As a child in South Florida, Madison scratched and clawed to finish her education and support her family. Madison says that her circumstances were not perfect, growing up with her single mom and sister. They often struggled to find places to stay.
Her mom would encourage her to, “go to college and get an education, so you don’t have to live like this.”
As a child, Madison’s dream was to go to college, graduate, and have a job with a cubicle and a push pin wall with pictures of family. To her, that was the sign of success for a “real adult.”
Unfortunately, her dreams of cubicles were interrupted when her mother was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. At 14, Madison became the primary caretaker for her family of three, working after school to support her family.
As soon as she was able, Madison sold everything she owned and moved to Tallahassee. In her early twenties, she began waiting tables while attending TCC as a biology major with an interest in alternative fuels and biofuels. Her new dream was to own an eco-friendly gas station that offered a variety of fuel sources and also doubled as a marketplace for fresh produce.
Then she discovered aquaponics.
She now gets to travel, teach, and explore the world through a scientist’s eyes. In 2019, Madison traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, as the only American to receive the prestigious Muhammed Ali Humanitarian Award for young adults under 30 who serve as advocates and role models for social justice, peace, and human rights.
Knowing she achieves amazing feats in a field dominated by men has pushed Madison to work harder and produce better work. She strives to empower young women and girls to challenge which careers society has determined are not fit for women.
“There should be no boundaries for young girls to find their passion and pursue a career that interests them, even if that career is typically held by men,” Madison said.
Madison will be recognized for her many accomplishments, her drive and her spirit, as an honoree at the 2020 Trailblazer Luncheon, hosted by The Oasis Center for Women & Girls, and sponsored by Comcast NBC-Universal and the Brennan-Hendon Family. Tickets for the Feb. 28 event are available at www.theoasiscenter.net.
Madison loves a challenge, and often finds ways of taking impossible projects and imagining solutions. She is continuously looking to the future and her next big idea.
She aims high. Extremely high.
“One day I will be in space,” said Madison. “Somebody has to farm on Mars.”
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