We were four women, sitting atop a platform on the GSI tower at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill. It was live TV — no pressure — part of the afternoon programming for CI Living on Champaign’s WCIA Channel 3.
The plan was to talk about women in agriculture, and I was in good company, flanked by Kim Kidwell, renowned wheat breeder and dean of the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and Lynn Rohrscheib, a ninth-generation farmer and immediate past president of the Illinois Soybean Association. We all talked about what we did and how we got here, what it was like and who paved the way.
The commercial break brought some of the best conversation — isn’t that always the way? That’s when we talked about how much all of this has changed. Twenty years ago, when I started covering agriculture, Rhonda Musgrave and “the lady farmers of Crawford County” was a story — a cover story, no less. Today, it’s not, because Rhonda’s in good company with droves of young women who’ve joined the farm with their parents. And she’d be the first to stand up and cheer for that.
Today, we write more about the insight young farmer Kate Huffman is bringing to her family’s farm and less about the fact that she’s a girl. When Linnea Kooistra was named a Master Farmer 10 years ago, the lead was not that she was the first woman Master Farmer. Instead? The story of an incredible farmer who happens to be a woman.
When Kimberly Wolter graced our cover earlier this year, the story wasn’t that she was a woman running a cattle operation; it was that she’s an intelligent farmer running a cattle operation. Same with Krystal Jungmann and her packaged beef business. Smart farmer. Happens to be a woman.
Less gee whiz. More insight. More women making a way that works for them in agriculture. Making choices. Shifting gears. Working part time. Raising a family. Building a business. Making a difference. It’s like my mother-in-law has said of womanhood: You can have it all, just not all at once.
Agriculture, as it turns out, is a great place to make that happen.
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