We have all heard, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Sometimes I still wonder what I might be when I grow up! In all seriousness, until partway through my senior year of high school, I had no intention of having a career in agriculture. The brunt of my knowledge of agriculture jobs was limited to what we did as far as production on our own farm and the people we did business with, such as implement dealerships, the veterinarian, the county extension agent and the local grain elevator.
There were some women working at a few of those places. However, their roles consisted primarily of desk jobs with clerical duties. That certainly was not where my talents or ambitions led. Granted, there were women who did other things in agriculture around the country and world, but they seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.
Fast forward 25 years, and now opportunities are abundant! Agriculture has evolved into a highly technical, extremely professional industry, with more uniqueness about it than any other industry I can think of. The diversity in agriculture today— whether it be in terms of species grown, type of production (organic, conventional, no-till, etc.), region, or farm size— brings about potential careers that no one even knew would exist five, 10, 15, and certainly not 25 years ago. One of the wonderful things about this is that women have become “the norm” in participating at all levels.
Women today are involved in research and development, sales, banking and finance, government, data management, marketing, teaching, communications and advertising; they hold positions ranging from hourly seasonal workers to owners, managers, vice presidents, and CEOs.
I will be the first to admit, it is not always easy participating in what is still often referred to as a “man’s world.” Women are wired differently than our male counterparts, and we tend to behave and react with different thoughts, emotions and actions from the men. That is not a bad thing! Great teams consist of differing skill sets and talents.
Another important role of women in agriculture is often that of business partner, which comes along with being a wife, cook, accountant, general farm assistant or co-worker, schedule manager, confidant and friend. Those who are wives of men in production agriculture are, very often, as involved in the business and operations of the family farm as their husband.
There is truly a special bond between farm spouses, as they get to experience life’s extremes together. Mother Nature, in one fell swoop, can make or break their livelihood. Farm wives who are fully engaged in the farming business have a special level of grit, tenacity, patience, and even nurturing ability that may not be as readily expressed by women in other careers. That goes for single women who farm and ranch, too.
There is a particular challenge for women in agribusiness who have jobs such as agronomy consulting, livestock nutrition consulting and even Ag financing. Each of those jobs requires time spent with a farmer in the crop fields, walking livestock pens, or sitting in the office crunching numbers to provide a quality, valuable service.
The emergence of women in these fields creates the opportunity for professional relationships with both the husband and wife for each farm or ranch. Men and women both must exhibit the highest level of integrity, professionalism, and respect for everyone at each farming operation.
I can only imagine how many more different jobs and career opportunities will come about in the next 25 years. I am thrilled we have come to a time in agriculture where companies hire the right person for a position, regardless if they are male or female. For every young woman out there who desires to be part of feeding, clothing, and fueling the world, there most certainly is a place for you!