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Highlighting women in ag

Highlighting women in ag

Farms.com spoke with multiple women leading up to International Women’s Day

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8, Farms.com connected with multiple women in the ag industry.

In total, 10 female farmers from the U.S. and Canada spoke with Farms.com about similar topics: what they’d tell their 12-year-old selves about being a farmer, what they’d say to young women entering the ag industry, and who they consider to be an ag hero or inspiration.

One of the U.S. farmers is Katy Schultz.

This dairy farmer from Fox Lake, Wis., credits her mother and one of her teachers to helping develop her ag passion.

The other U.S. producer interviewed for this series of articles is Ruth Ready.

Ready, who raises cash crops and beef in Scribner, Neb., wants young people to know that agriculture is just as much about science as medicine is.

And Amanda Nigg, another Nebraska farmer, discussed her journey as an on-farm entrepreneur.

In Canada, Farms.com connected with seven producers.

In Western Canada, Charlotte Schwanke, a sheep farmer from Wadena, Sask., wants young women in ag to understand tat not everything has to be done the same way.

“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box,” she says. “It makes us stronger when we find niche markets and different ways to farm.”

Another Saskatchewan farmer, Jessica Lovich, participated in the interviews.

A dairy farmer from Balgonie, Sask. Lovich’s message to her younger self is it’s okay to live a simpler life.

“I remember at that age thinking I had to create this life that was noteworthy and one that people would see. I’d tell myself it’s okay to just be you, and it’s okay to have a quiet life producing the products you love, and you don’t need flash and to be recognized,” she said.

Farms.com also connected with Alberta farmer and vice chair of Alberta Beef Producers, Sheila Hillmer.

This farmer from Del Bonita, Alta. had the opportunity to live with her ag hero, Isabella Miller, before her passing in 2007.

“Living with Isabella was one of the joys of my life,” she said. “It’s one of those things where if you’re lucky enough to get an opportunity like that, you embrace it. I was like a sponge with her. We just didn’t have enough time with her in this world.”

Four farmers from Ontario and Eastern Canada also answered interview questions.

Brooke Leystra, a cash crop and hog producer from Watford, Ont., didn’t think she’d be a farmer.

But after marrying a farmer producing food for 16 years, she wants others to know that if she can make that transition, anyone can.

“I didn’t grow up on a farm and now I help run a successful business,” she said. I went to school for marketing and communications and I use that education every day. There’s definitely still a stigma towards young female farmers and you’re going to have to be ready for that. I know when I first started, and not being from a farm, I really felt like I didn’t have anything to add. I wished I realized sooner that I was just as qualified as everyone else as the table. But I want you to know that you do have something to contribute and you should have that confidence.”

Tanya Terpstra, a pork farmer from Perth County, Ont., looks at her peer group as inspiration.

And that doesn’t just mean people older than she is. The next generation of farmers and ag professionals pushes her to do better.

“The younger people today coming into agriculture, in their 20s and 30s have a willingness, drive, determination and a confidence in agriculture I wish I had at that age,” she said. “I look at them and I see that agriculture has a strong future and it encourages me to continue on the path we’re on, knowing they’re going to improve upon it even more.”

Keisha Rose Topic is a sixth-generation potato and grain farmer from North Lake, P.E.I. and president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.

Her grandmother, Elora Mae Rose, passed away in July 2022 at the age of 83. And it was while preparing and delivering the eulogy for her grandmother that Topic realized she was one of her ag inspirations.

“She was always presented to me as ‘the farmer’s wife,” Rose Topic said. “But she was just as much part of the farm as anyone else. She did all the farm’s books, kept the household running, would help grade potatoes and help in the field as she was needed. She’s someone I now realize was a big role model for me.”

And Jocelyn Durston farms in Canning, N.S., raising flowers and fresh vegetables.

But to start her farm business, she moved across the country.

Google Maps estimates the distance between Maple Ridge, B.C. and Canning, N.S. is 5,951 km and would take someone about 57 hours to complete that drive.

But that’s what Durston did to realize her dream of having her own farmland and her own business.

Who are you thinking about this International Women’s Day?


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