GREENWICH, N.Y. — Katherine Drake Stowe’s involvement in agriculture started early as she grew up on small family farm in Pinetops, North Carolina. Located in Edgecombe County, N.C., As a kid, Katherine helped out on the farm and was also highly involved in 4-H participating in livestock showing, presentations, and summer programs. She attributes much of her success and development to her time in 4-H saying, “4-H provided lessons in responsibility, it gave me an opportunity to be involved in leadership roles, it allowed me to develop presentations skills, but it also was a fantastic network of mentors who believed in me, challenged me to be my very best, and pushed me to dream big. It also gave me a true appreciation for the N.C. Cooperative Extension program and the land grant mission. I will be forever indebted to Edgecombe County 4-H for investing in me!”
Being raised on a farm Katherine initially thought she wanted to do something outside the world of agriculture when considering a career, however she eventually discovered that she did not want to go far from it. “After many long, hot summers helping on our family farm, I thought I wanted to get away from agriculture when I came to N.C. State,” she said. “I majored in Polymer & Color Chemistry in the College of Textiles, but quickly learned that ag tugs at your heartstrings and it’s a hard thing to get away from. So, I ended up minoring in Crop Science and that’s where I fell in love with ag research and continued with my Masters and PhD in plant breeding and genetics.”
Today, Katherine serves as director of the U.S. Soybean Research Collaborative. This new, multistate initiative is dedicated to bringing more effective coordination and collaboration to soybean research. Katherine explained that the goal of the initiative is to drive farmer resiliency and end user value through innovative research. “Our unique model of open collaboration helps bring together farmers, researchers, and end users to build bridges and create collaborative public and private partnerships that go beyond traditional research,” she shared.
The U.S. Soybean Research Collaborative is supported by state soybean checkoff associations and is a product of the soybean checkoff program. Katherine explained, “The checkoff plays a unique role in the agriculture industry, serving on behalf of farmer investors to advance agriculture’s sustainability and productivity through research, education, and promotion.”
Prior to her current position Katherine headed research for the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association, which is also a checkoff program. Working in the checkoff arena has been rewarding for Katherine as she shared, “I get to work for and with farmers yet still heavily interact with academic researchers, industry stakeholders, and policy staff. It is truly a unique intersection of many different parts of the agriculture industry…It is a true honor to get to work with the men and women who are working hard every day to put food on our table and really gratifying to be a part of this industry.”
For anyone interested in a career in the agriculture industry Katherine said that opportunities abound and that a “traditional” ag role is not a requirement to make a difference in the industry. “This is an incredibly exciting time to be in ag,” she said. “There are so many innovative technologies and new solutions. We need folks that bring unique perspectives and that are in unique sectors of the industry. From finance to engineering to data analysts to traditional agronomists, we need you all to continue moving the needle forward. You don’t have to be in a traditional ‘ag’ role to make an impact on the industry.”
She also mentioned the need to keep progressing in the industry. “…It’s important to remember that ‘what got us here won’t get us to there’ and we have to be constantly thinking about new approaches and new models to take us into the next wave of innovation. Don’t be scared to push the envelope and challenge the status quo,” Katherine shared.
If anyone is interested in Katherine’s line of work she is happy to answer any questions and can be reached at email@example.com.
A new column from Morning Ag Clips, “Cultivating Ag Careers” introduces agriculture students and FFAers to the wide variety of careers that exist in agriculture. Each week a new individual will be introduced, who will share their journey: their educational experiences, their work, and what role their job plays in the wide world of agriculture.
Tune in each Wednesday to learn more about the different jobs and personalities that make up the ag industry!