INDIANAPOLIS — The month of March marks National Women’s History Month and celebrates the contribution of women in American history, as well as their ongoing impact on society. This includes recognizing the vital role female leaders play in the agriculture industry and how they are making their own claims to history.
According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s latest Farm Census from 2017, more than 31,000 of all farmers in Indiana are women. You’ll also find women working in agribusiness, starting a non-profit or small business and using their voice to raise awareness for agriculture.
Many agriculture organizations have programs specifically tailored to women in agriculture, including Indiana Farm Bureau and its Women’s Leadership Committee which spearheads programs providing women with a platform for leadership, political involvement and networking.
Isabella Chism, 2nd vice president of INFB also chairs the American Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee, which is dedicated to helping women realize their potential in the ag industry. Isabella has made history by being the first Indiana Farm Bureau member to chair the AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee.
“Whatever role they play, there is no doubt that women are influencing Indiana agriculture,” said Chism. “I’m excited to see women continue to step into new roles and leadership positions both on and off the farm.”
Here is a look at three female INFB members who are making an impact on Indiana agriculture.
Vice-President, commercial and agriculture lender at First Farmers Bank & Trust; co-founder, BOGO Foods
Amie Osborn didn’t grow up on a farm but found a passion for agriculture in her Northern California high school by competing in FFA poultry judging events. After getting her degree in agricultural business, Osborn and her husband, Vince, moved to Indiana to attend Purdue University and further their knowledge of traditional agriculture.
She now lives in Miami County and is a vice president, commercial and agriculture lender at First Farmers Bank & Trust helping clients navigate the financials of farming operations. But it was AgrIInstitute’s Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program that inspired Osborn to make a difference in her local community fueled by her passion for agriculture.
While volunteering with a local Kokomo homeless shelter last year, the Osborns discovered something that hit home.
“The coordinator explained that those experiencing homelessness or who are food insecure oftentimes are protein deficient,” Osborn said. “Given our love and knowledge of agriculture and animal protein, we thought we may be able to help and that’s how BOGO (Buy One Give One) Foods started.”
BOGO Foods is a non-profit focused on providing protein to those in need, specifically those who are experiencing homelessness. The Osborns raise broilers and sell the locally produced protein. They use the profits to buy larger quantities of wholesale protein, following the “buy one, give one” model. One locally grown bird equates to 10 servings of meat for those who are food insecure.
“There are people who are willing to buy a premium product and support local agriculture, while doing good for others,” explained Osborn.
By selling their poultry and with the help of an anonymous donor, BOGO Foods delivered 288 pounds of animal protein to local shelter organizations this past February.
Osborn recognizes how her network in the agribusiness, animal protein and non-profit industries, has impacted her professionally and personally to make a difference.
“I’ve learned it’s important to engage your network. That doesn’t just mean expanding your network but using them – call and ask questions to gain more information,” she said. “I’m excited to continue to get more protein in the hands of people who need it.”
Co-Owner, Walker Farms; blogger, The Backroad Life
Stacy Walker operates Walker Farms, a diversified farm of pumpkins and gourds, with her husband, Scott, in Jasper County. She sells to local businesses, garden shops, as well as at farmers markets in the area.
Walker is no stranger to agriculture. She grew up on a farm and was very involved in 4H and FFA. With a degree in horticulture and after working at a few greenhouses, Walker wanted to expand beyond just pumpkins. She also grows and cuts flowers to sell at the farmers markets and delivers bouquets locally, creating a network of connections around the community.
“I have been growing sunflowers for the past four years and wanted to grow more than just those and pumpkins, she said. “I now grow a variety of flowers and sell mixed bouquets at the farmers markets and online. Growing flowers and pumpkins connects us to agriculture and gives us our own part in the ag world.”
Walker also has a blog, ‘The Backroad Life,’ where she shares recipes and farm life through blog posts and on her social channels.
The goal of the blog is to highlight recipe inspiration, as well as share ‘how-to’ posts about farming and expose her audience to agriculture. Previous posts include ‘Honey Garlic Roasted Cauliflower,’ ‘Easy Cold Weather Vegetables to Grow’ and ‘Why Choose a CSA?’
“My strawberry freezer jam recipe post also included tips for strawberry picking,” Walker explained. “I always try to tie back to agriculture.”
Office Manager, Daily Farms; commercial applicator, Mill Creek Crop Care
Pulaski County Farm Bureau President Tasha Mitchell knows firsthand the grit and determination that comes with working on the family farm. She has worked on her family farm, Daily Farms, for eight years leading grain inventory, data entry and human resources.
The farms of the Daily family were built on the establishment that Mitchell’s grandparents created and have continued with her father, uncle and brother. They farm a mixture of corn, soybeans, seed beans, popcorn, wheat and milo, as well as organic and transitional organic crop acres.
Mitchell didn’t always intend to work on her family farm. “They needed someone to handle the bookwork, so I started working part time after college, but then I began to take on more roles and training,” said Mitchell.
She collaborates with her brother, Jess Daily, at Mainstay Farming Partnership to create an ag-focused newsletter, “Agri-CULTURE,” which goes out to landowners and partners across the Midwest twice a year. The newsletter includes industry news, as well as internal, family and employee updates.
In addition to her responsibilities at Daily Farms, Mitchell works with her husband, Jeff, who owns and operates Mill Creek Crop Care, an independent retail fertilizer and chemical operation. She works as a commercial applicator applying fertilizer products.
This is something that Mitchell is particularly proud of.
“I had never touched a piece of equipment prior to learning to run the fertilizer applicator sprayer unit, but I really enjoy doing it and knowing that I can help the business,” she said. “Next I’m going to learn how to drive a semi.”
Mitchell’s advice to other women looking to get into the ag industry is simple – don’t give up.
“It may be hard. You may think you can’t do it,” she explained. “Accomplishments and growth are primarily built from our own levels of determination and ambition. Keep adapting and learning because agriculture is always evolving, and women belong in that process.”
— Indiana Farm Bureau
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