By Molly Zentz
Women make up about 30% of farm operators. That’s only one role Hoosier women play in agriculture. You’ll also find women in agribusiness and supporting the farm part time, often alongside an off-farm job.
Isabella Chism, Indiana Farm Bureau’s second vice president and chair of the Women’s Leadership Committee, is excited about the increase of women in the industry.
“Women have always been a vital part of the farm team,” Chism says. “But it’s exciting to see them stepping into new roles and positions of leadership.”
The number of women who own and operate farms is steadily increasing. According to USDA, the number of female-run farms has nearly tripled in the past 30 years.
“We have more women in agriculture than ever before, and they’re serving our industry in so many ways,” Chism says. “I don’t see that changing. I’ve met many young women in this state who have big plans for their future in this industry.”
APPRECIATES LEADERSHIP: Isabella Chism appreciates the leadership roles Indiana women are assuming on and off the farm today.
In 2016, 62% of Purdue University College of Agriculture students were women.
Many agriculture organizations have programs specifically catered to this growing population, including Indiana Farm Bureau and its women’s leadership program. It provides women with a platform for leadership, political involvement and networking.
Here’s the first of several profiles of active women leaders in agriculture:
Jennifer Clouse Swope
As an employee of LG Seeds, Jennifer Clouse Swope works with farmers to place hybrid products on their farms, checks crops during the growing season and helps growers after harvest plan for the future.
“The agriculture industry has made me who I am today, and I hope that I can raise my family in that same way,” Swope says. “I love working in the field beside my family, knowing that we are doing everything we can to be the best stewards of the land that the previous generations worked so hard on.”
Swope says the biggest accomplishment of her career so far has been steady growth.
“Sometimes sales is a slow process, so it can be hard to not lose sight of your goals,” she explains. “But in the past year, my efforts have really started to pay off, and it has been exciting to see growth with existing customers and an increase of new customers.”
Swope is a sixth-generation farmer on her family’s farm in Bartholomew County, where she plays a large role in planting and harvesting each year. She grew up watching her family work together on the farm.
“Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away when I was 2 years old, so my mom became more involved on the farm,” she says. “Growing up, my dad would plant corn while my mom was planting beans. They both haul the grain, and my mom is the main operator of our combine during harvest.”
Her mom was always a source of inspiration, which helped guide her to her career today.
“I never questioned whether or not I could do something because I grew up watching my mom do it all,” Swope says. “I realized that if this is what I love, nothing could stop me from doing it, too.”
Zentz is public relations manager for Indiana Farm Bureau Inc. This is the first in a series of stories about women’s roles in agriculture.