In honour of International Women’s Day, I wanted to share with my readers about my journey as a woman in agriculture.
I was fortunate to grow up on a farm. I remember as a very young child, my dad taking me in the tractor to farm, working in the hog barns with him, holding baby pigs while he doctored them and giving them snuggles when they needed 😉 I accredit my dad for really laying the foundation for my love of animals and agriculture. He always had me helping on the farm, wether in the barn, or driving tractor baling hay or straw, I was his “right hand man.”
I became involved in 4H when I was 8. When I joined, there weren’t many girls my age in livestock projects (I showed pigs). Mentored by 4H leaders and a few senior members, I learned the ropes of not only showing hogs, but I also learned invaluable leadership skills.
I went on to join FFA when I was in high school. My two FFA advisors were fabulous mentors, which helped paved the way to my career in agriculture. If it weren’t for these two–Mr. Anderson and Mr. White–encouraging & challenging me I don’t know if I would have went into an agriculture career or been able to speak out for agriculture like I do now.
I pursued a degree in Range Science, and my internship and first job was the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with the US Government. I was blessed beyond measure to have a very strong female as my mentor for my internship. She taught me more than just my job, she helped me develop skills to be a strong woman leader.
In my placement for my permanent job with the BLM, I was the first woman in the resource area in the range department (that wasn’t an admin). It was here that I met my challenge head on. I was faced with a few male ranchers who did not like the fact that they had to deal with a woman. I had to show these men that this woman knew her stuff and was equally as good as a man. I was fortunate to have 3 great men to work with. Not only did they continually encourage me, but they did not enable the ranchers who refused to work with me–they helped facilitate meetings and forage new relationships.
The skills I learned from my male mentors in my first job, carried on to other jobs, where I was, again, the first female that some male ranchers had to deal with.
Now I’m a co-owner of a farm with my husband and father-in-law, but we are all equal. We help each other out. We acknowledge each others strengths and assist each other with our weaknesses.
My husband and I have three children–2 boys and a girl–and we are teaching all of them to become strong people. Teaching them to raise each other up without tearing others down. Teaching them that they can become and do whatever they want regardless of gender. Teaching them that they are all equal on our farm.
I’m proud to be a woman in agriculture today. I respect International Women’s Day and have had some amazing women as mentors, but I’d also like to give thanks and honour to the men who have supported me in my journey and shaped me into the woman I have become.
Loved this post, Jill. My journey in ag has many parallels to yours. Many of my mentors have also been male and I’m so profoundly grateful to all of the strong leaders who have shown me guidance and encouragement – male and female. These days, I feel the single biggest contribution we can make to gender equality is how we raise our kids: our 3 boys and 1 daughter. The reality is that it takes time for change to happen. But in the meantime, I will mentor where I can, support and encourage (women and men) and challenge biases. Keep up the discussion and blogging!