In February, it was my privilege to moderate a panel that featured four exceptional women at the Agricultural Outlook Forum. The break out session was titled “A Roadmap for Women in Agriculture,” a lively and thought-provoking exchange on the future of women in agriculture.
Autumn Veazey, Debbie Hamrick, Kate Danner and Leslie Wheelock, all shared their passion for agriculture and gave great advice on how to earn a seat at the table.
Growing up, Autumn Veazey saw few leadership roles for women in agriculture, but she now says that the landscape has changed dramatically. Now director of government relations for Land O’Lakes, Veazey strongly believes that all women should advocate for the issues they believe in.
Debbie Hamrick describes herself as an “accidental horticulturalist,” having founded an international magazine, FloraCulture International, based on her love of plants. At the beginning no one believed her magazine would succeed, but 25 years later, the magazine is still going strong.
Danner grew up on the farm, but when she told her dad she wanted to take it over, he told her to get a college degree first. She went to Iowa State graduated with a triple major and now manages her family’s 1,500 acre farm. She told the group that she never gets to celebrate her October birthday because she works long hours harvesting soybeans.
Wheelock, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, whose grandfather was a farmer and a founding member of the Green Bay (Acme) Packers, decided on the day after the September 11th attacks to change career paths and give back to her Tribal community. She started a farmers market in Washington, D.C. and is now a driving force behind the Native food sovereignty movement in her position as head of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations.
Here are a few takeaways from the panel that I wanted to share with women just getting started:
- When you have a passion for agriculture, you will find a way;
- Finding out what you don’t like to do tells you a lot about what you will want to do;
- Women have a unique influence on food and ag policy; Congress listens when women speak up.
- Passions and dreams are constantly evolving; never give up on something you believe in.
All of these women came to Ag Outlook to share their passion for agriculture. The stories of how they all got into the field were different and there are many more women across the country just like them. I strongly encourage any woman interested in agriculture to get involved. Your voice and your passion are essential to earning a seat at the table and building the future that you want to see.