July 2015
Youth Matters

Fueling a Passion

 
  Rachel Berube, left, an Auburn University College of Agriculture student, receives one of the scholarships from the Successful Women in Agriculture donor society. Amanda Nims, center, and Amanda Martin, co-founders of the society, present the scholarship.

Successful Women in Agriculture is a new AU donor society offering support for females in a male-dominated field.

It is not uncommon to hear that farming is a predominantly male field, but in recent years women’s participation in farming has increased. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 30 percent of farmers in the United States are females. That means there are 3.2 million female farmers. There are also more women studying agriculture at land-grant universities. Auburn University is now 55 percent female. To increase these numbers and to provide support to these women, Amanda Martin and Amanda Nims started the Successful Women in Agriculture donor society. The society will help women network and become successful agricultural leaders.

The Successful Women in Agriculture donor society began in the fall of 2014 with the main purpose of providing scholarships to young women in the College of Agriculture. Successful Women in Agriculture also wanted to help connect students with established female leaders in the agricultural industry. In the first year of the program, the society had 40 donors and organized two large events. The fall event featured a leadership panel discussion and a lunch where students and donors could network. The spring event was a luncheon where two $1,000 scholarships were awarded to female students in the College of Agriculture. Future plans for the society are to establish an online member directory to help students and members stay in contact and network. Martin is also hoping to plan and implement a professional development conference for the coming year.

 
Students and donors network through a horticulture workshop at the spring luncheon.  

"We hope to continue growing our membership to have the opportunity to offer more scholarships for our students. We also hope to support our female leaders in the college by connecting them with professional mentors who will help cultivate their career goals," said Martin, student recruitment and alumni relations coordinator for the College of Agriculture at Auburn.

The mission of Successful Women in Agriculture is to guide, mentor and provide financial support to young ladies as they prepare to work in a traditionally male-dominated field. And student participants and donors believe that is exactly what it has done in its inaugural year as a society.

"The College of Agriculture is committed to the professional development of our students and is always looking for new industry partners to assist with these efforts. The growing number of women in agriculture makes organizations like this one important," said Dr. Paul Patterson, associate dean for instruction at the College of Agriculture.

Participants see Successful Women in Agriculture as more than a donor society; they envision it as an opportunity to network and receive advice from strong leaders in the agriculture field.

"Hearing from Dr. Christy Bratcher and Grace Smith Ellis speak on difficulties they’ve faced in the workplace and how they’ve learned to be successful has made me a stronger female leader and will help me when I join the workforce next summer," said Marlee Moore, agricultural communications student.

Donors not only provided sound life advice to students, they also helped fuel each other’s passion for the industry they share.

"As a new graduate taking my first steps into the professional world, it’s nice to have the support system the society offers. Networking is always an important thing, but to find a group of women who share my passion for agriculture is refreshing," said Kayla Sellers, recent College of Agriculture graduate.

Students were able to see firsthand some of the opportunities available to them as women in the agricultural world.

"Successful Women in Agriculture really opened my eyes to the job diversity for women in the agriculture industry. I was also extremely encouraged and inspired at the luncheon networking with other alumna learning from them about how to thrive in the ag industry," said Rosa Cantrell, recent Auburn graduate.

American Farm Bureau recently conducted a survey asking, "What are the top skills women need to compete in agriculture?" After nearly 2,000 women participated in the online survey, the top answers were effective communications, setting and achieving goals, and strategic planning.

"The survey results point to a need for a deeper dive into what leadership traits women in agriculture are interested in learning about in order to achieve their goals," said Sherry Saylor, AFB Women’s Leadership Committee chair and Arizona row crop farmer.

It is common for a woman to be a farmer’s wife, but it is much rarer for her to be the farmer. This is proven by statistics from 2012 Census of Agriculture. According to the survey, only 14 percent of principal farm operators are women. But there are numerous organizations, societies and groups that want to help women realize their high level of potential in the industry, whether it is farming, agribusiness or any other agriculture-related jobs.

Members of Successful Women in Agriculture are invited to special on-campus events and professional development programs providing the opportunity to share ideas and to meet, build relationships with and positively influence enthusiastic young women who will be the agricultural producers, scientists, businesswomen, policymakers and leaders of tomorrow. For more information about the society or to join, feel free to contact Amanda Martin, 334-844-8900 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Amanda Nims, 334-844-1475 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Membership will be a stimulating and fulfilling experience that will help to grow not only the next generation of female agricultural leaders but the agricultural industry as a whole.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.