by TERESA SCHIFFER
For Scarlett Jackson, agriculture isn’t just a vocation, it’s a way of life. Jackson’s life has been intertwined with agriculture since her earliest days. She was raised on a farm and retains precious memories of that lifestyle. Nowadays she is devoted to helping support the next generation of agriculturists as they find their roles within the industry.
In addition to being Executive Director of the Florida FFA Foundation, the 29-year-old Jackson is also the Women’s Committee Chair for the Polk County Farm Bureau. Jackson had been involved with the Women’s Committee for about two years before becoming the Chair. Her goal in this position is to bring together professional women in the agricultural industry. She wants to connect women with different backgrounds and expertise to have a fellowship together. Community service and education is high on her list of priorities.
Jackson has been a member of the Polk County Farm Bureau for five years and is a member of the Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Group. This group helps prepare young people to represent the agricultural industry at the local, state, and national level. They do various projects, like a speech contest, an annual scholarship, state events, and conferences. The goal of the organization is to raise the students’ confidence and expertise by focusing on personal growth, public speaking, media training, legislative awareness, issue advocacy, and service leadership.
One of the major projects of the Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Group is their Harvest for All initiative. This program is a food donation project conducted by the students. So far, they have donated more than 24 million pounds of fresh produce to needy Americans.
In addition to her work with the Farm Bureau, Jackson has worked in education as a high school ag teacher at her alma mater, Frostproof High School. She was also a Director of Ag Studies at Warner University. Her degrees are in education, and she cherishes the opportunity to support and advocate for the youth.
“They are our future agriculturists,” Jackson says.
She enjoys supporting the 12 to 18-year-olds who will be our next generation of farmers, ranchers, lobbyists, agriculturists, salespeople, and more.
Both sides of Jackson’s family are heavily invested in agriculture. Her father’s side is involved in cattle ranching and her mother’s side is farmers. Her father managed for Pat Wilson Inc., a cattle operation. Jackson grew up on a cattle ranch in Frostproof where her parents still operate the ranch today, where Jackson and her siblings remain active.
Jackson’s maternal grandfather, Ronald Wetherington grew strawberries and citrus in Dover. That farm has been in their family for six generations, and not surprisingly, Jackson spent a lot of time there growing up. Wetherington was also an active member of the Farm Bureau, serving as a state board member. In 2016 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Citation.
Wetherington grew strawberries, but in the summer they also grew several vegetables as cover crops, such as peas, green beans, and corn. Every summer Jackson and her family would go over to her grandparents’ farm to help pick the vegetables. It wasn’t a commercial crop, but Jackson fondly recalls spending days on end with her family harvesting. They did a lot of canning and freezing, putting the vegetables up for their own personal use. Friends and family would come and shell the peas, creating a fun social atmosphere.
Being part of a farming family is important to Jackson. “I knew, growing up, that family vacations were limited, because a ranch is a 24/7 job,” she recalls. She grew up knowing that certain times of the year were more important than others. For example, you didn’t leave the ranch during calving season. That meant that holiday vacations were off the table for her family. Jackson thought it was strange when her friends would want to come to the ranch, not understanding until later that this lifestyle was a novel experience for them.
Jackson reminisces about her youth on the ranch, “When I grew up, my mom would be on horseback working cows with my dad, and my brother and sister and I would be in the back of my mom’s Explorer. She would open the back where we were sleeping and we would get up and go help in the cowpens.” These vivid memories helped shape her love of the agricultural lifestyle.
Women are part of the backbone of the industry, according to Jackson. “So many rural families grew up just like I did, with parents that were both dedicated to the ag industry, they worked it every day, and it was inspiring. So when you think of agriculture, women are truly making an impact,” she says. Women are just as involved as men in the industry, often taking on roles in management and leadership. Jackson believes being a part of the Farm Bureau is a great way to support and advocate for the agricultural industry.
Scarlett Jackson is devoted to the agricultural lifestyle and passing those traditions on to future generations. She is an outstanding example of what women in agriculture can accomplish, and is a positive voice for Polk County and Florida agriculture.