Observations on women in agriculture

THE CONVENTIONAL THOUGHT of those viewing agriculture from the outside is that it is a male-dominated profession. After more than ten years on the FFA Foundation board, I have observed that stereotype evaporate.

I encountered a few years back an engaging young woman in FFA who was managing a large ranch south of Arcadia. Working with plants and animals to help them proliferate in a quality manner takes brains and persistence, not brawns. While attending the FFA annual meeting, I counted the number of women leading the organization compared to men and calculated 80 percent. This does not take away from the men of FFA who are learning consummate communication skills, which allows them to lead all genders.

Agriculture and environmental sustainability now overlap in rural areas. Our youngest daughter, Rachel, just returned from ten weeks in southern Africa. While she observed many interesting sites, two events made a lasting impression. The first was a visit to an orphanage that was vastly overcrowded with children who had dietary issues and received medical treatment from a traveling bus manned by dedicated caregivers.

The second was four days in the bush country, living with a family whose home was a hut with walls made from cow dung, little electricity, an outhouse, sleeping in a small room while others slept on the floor. They raised a herd of goats, lived off the land, and had strong family relationships. They were pleased with their lifestyle and proud to share their lives, even though English wasn’t spoken. Although a sustainability major, she is taking a course in the biological sciences of agriculture next fall. Our older daughter, Kate, is finishing the first year of an MBA program at the Heinz School of Management at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Setting politics aside for a minute, think of the accomplishments of the presidential daughters of the Clintons, Bushes, and the Obamas. Jenna Bush Hager will be a Mother’s Day speaker at Florida Southern College in May.

I might add this is nothing but good for the guys, and reflects the openness of America to include all genders working to build a stronger society.


column by MIKE MARTIN

BIO: Michael Martin of Martin Law Office in Lakeland specializes in agriculture and environmental legal representation. A native of Polk County, Mike attended college at Sewanee in Tennessee, before obtaining a doctorate in law from the University of Florida. He has tried numerous cases nationwide since that time. Mike also serves as the director of the FFA Foundation and is the author of the novel, The Crestfallen Rose.

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