When I graduated high school 30 years ago, I was the only girl in my class who wanted to follow an agriculture career path, and I think I was the only one in my class of about 100 who wanted a career involving agriculture period.
As I entered college, there were actually just as many female students as there were male in the ag department. I didn’t feel like I was outnumbered or an outcast anymore.
After I announced my intended major, I lost count of how many times I was asked why. Why don’t you do something else? Why would you want to “waste” your time by majoring in something like agriculture? Why do you need to go to college to learn to be a farmer? Why, why, why… All whys were answered with a simple response, “because I can.”
My niece recently graduated from the same high school I did all those years ago and she is one of several students opting to continue their education in the agriculture field, and she’s not the lone girl; it’s a great change to see.
Another change at my old high school is a female agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. A female ag teacher wasn’t very common 30 years ago, but today I know many wonderful, smart, hard-working female ag teachers who are great role models for all of their students, not just the girls who take their classes.
Women involved in agriculture is nothing new, but there are still perceptions of women being “weaker.” Some feel we’re unable to physically do a job or are mentally incapable of completing a task or making a decision. I beg to differ. I’ll admit there are some things I’m not good at, like fixing anything mechanical. That’s where my husband comes in. Bill’s a pretty handy guy when it comes to making things work; he’s just got that knack. And I will pull the “girl card” when it comes to snakes. Bill will just kick a big black snake out of the way while I’m heading in the opposite direction.
I sometimes wonder if people think all farm women are like the girls they see in country music videos; scantily clad in short-shorts, cowboy boots and bikini tops. I’ll wear shorts with rubber boots, but it’s because it’s hot and muddy outside, and I have stuff to do; there’s no fashion statement intended.
Did you know there are even tutorials on the internet to help people “learn” how to dress like a farmer? And no, it’s not for Halloween costume ideas. One of the best tips I read was to wear very little perfume because “country girls have a light flowery smell.” Sites also say women, and men, should wear flannel shirts and have a bandana around their necks. It’s also recommended that women wear an apron so not to get their clothes dirty while doing chores (yes, these are modern day web pages). Nope, nope and nope. I do have one apron and it’s my “we’re having a fish fry” apron. My husband and brother make fun of it when I wear it, so working with them while wearing my apron is pretty much out of the question.
Statistics show that one out of seven of the nation’s farms are owned and operated by women. While that statistic may only be a drop in the bucket when compared to the overall number of farms in the country, that single drop has a ripple effect.
Because of the changing trends, we have more programs available today than ever to help women in their agricultural goals. More women are also being recognized for their success and innovation in the world of agriculture. Be it in a boardroom, the halls of government, a 5-acre vegetable operation, a 5,000-acre cattle ranch or anything in between, women are making strides like never before in our industry.
I’m proud to be one of the nation’s women in agriculture and for the road that was laid out before me by other women. With each generation, that path gets a little smoother and wider. It’s gone from a cow path to a road, and I hope it will soon be a superhighway with no limits.
Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org://www.ozarksfn.com/2018/06/25/no-limits/Editorial / Opinionsagriculture,career path,Julie Turner-Crawford,No limitsWhen I graduated high school 30 years ago, I was the only girl in my class who wanted to follow an agriculture career path, and I think I was the only one in my class of about 100 who wanted a career involving agriculture period. As I entered college, there...Julie Turner-CrawfordJulie Turner-Crawfordeditor@ozarksfn.comEditorOzarks Farm & Neighbor Newspaper