The end of the assignment.

Click on me for animation.

Click on image for animation.

Today is the day I turn in my blog. I want to take a moment to thank all of the women who have so generously invited me into their lives to share their personal story. Thank you for your time, your courage, your honesty, and your kindness. You have helped me with more than just my class. I knew that I would learn more about the opportunities in agriculture, but I did not realize how much you would teach me about myself in the process.

Although this is the end of the assignment, I want to continue sharing these stories of Women for Agriculture. I can’t stop now. I just started getting good at phone interviews…

Really, I do want to continue. I want to continue for myself, for women already in agriculture, and for those who think they want to be in agriculture but don’t know quite how to get there or what they can do.

I look forward to sharing more with you. Thank you for your support!

Pursuing Agriculture

Jill Wagner 2
Hello everyone! This week I am thankful for my involvement in the Mississippi 4-H program. I loved participating in 4-H. It taught me how much I love agriculture and then prepared me with skills that will benefit me in my daily life and career. Jill Wagner of Hickory, MS is using FFA to help her agriculture students do the same. This is her story.

Jill grew up on a wheat farm in western Oklahoma where agriculture was her family’s way of life. She was very active in 4-H and FFA participating in speaking, demonstration, community service, and leadership. She also raised and showed sheep and enjoyed food and craft activities. As a result of her participation in 4-H and FFA, Jill decided to attend Oklahoma State University to pursue an agricultural degree. She knew that she wanted to be in agriculture.

At OSU, Jill learned more about her agriculture interests and ultimately earned her B.S. in both Animal Science and Agricultural Communication. Then, she earned her M.S. in Agricultural Education even though she was not planning to become an agriculture educator. She moved to Mississippi after marrying her husband who grew up on a farm in Hickory. They returned to the farm, and Jill went job hunting. Chickens marched right into her sights.

Jill took the opportunity to work in quality assurance for a poultry processing plant. Although Jill’s husband knew about chickens, Jill’s only experience with chickens in Oklahoma was from her animal science classes or on her dinner plate. Out of her comfort zone but determined Jill learned everything there is to know about quality chicken. From testing temperatures in every room and truck to be loaded to weighing the product and answering questions that her team members had, Jill played an integral role in the poultry industry to ensure consumer satisfaction. She said that was the job that, “taught me that I could do anything”.

After Jill had her first child, she wanted to find a job that allowed her to spend more time with her family. So, she decided to give teaching a try. She was right; she can do that too. She discovered that she loves helping a student “transform” from afraid of speaking in front of their classmates to confidently addressing any class. She loves her students, and seeing them succeed makes her job rewarding. Jill also enjoys being a teacher because she is able to “promote agriculture daily with the young people of my county.” She encourages both young men and young women to pursue agricultural careers.

I really enjoyed talking to Jill about her experiences. I was surprised when she told me that she had worked at the poultry processing plant. That is not what she had expected when she decided to pursue agriculture, but she took the advantage of the opportunity with a positive go-getter attitude that I admire. I also think it is neat that Jill was inspired to pursue agriculture by her 4-H and FFA involvement and now she herself is an agriculture educator inspiring today’s youth to do the same. Lastly, the words of my 4-H Leadership Team advisor Dr. Martha Jackson-Banks come to mind. “We have to be flexible”, she said. I do not know if Jill’s advisors ever told her that, but I heard it many times. I believe Jill is a great example of that life lesson as well.

Jill made the decision to pursue agriculture, and no matter what she has stayed dedicated to that decision. That is what makes Jill Wagner a woman for agriculture.

Ag learner, Ag teacher, Ag leader

Amy Durand in Japan for the Toyota International Teacher Program.

Amy Durand in Japan for the Toyota International Teacher Program.

Hello all! Fall is finally here and it has been so nice on campus! It feels good outside, the leaves are changing colors, and everyone has been renewed over fall break. I love to learn, but it is definitely good to have a break sometimes! This week I’d like to introduce you to another who loves to learn. Amy Durand of Minnesota uses her education to help farmers “achieve success through financial financing, crop insurance, consulting and education” at AgStar Financial Services, ACA, which is part of the Farm Credit System. Some of their activities include women’s seminars, outlook meetings, webinars, young/beginning farmer’s conference, and workshops.

A part of the 5th generation on the family farm, Amy’s education began as she pursued knowledge as her dad’s “shadow”. She also learned more through the 4-H and FFA programs. She was involved on the chapter, club, and state levels in many activities such as public speaking and parliamentary procedure. These programs provided exposure to agriculture education opportunities and life skills that still help her on a daily basis at AgStar.

Amy continued her education at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities where she earned her M.S. in Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Education. During one of her internships Amy discovered her desire to teach those who do not have a background in agriculture. She could see the “light in their faces” and how they were amazed by what they were learning. “It was literally like Hogwarts” for them, she said.

After graduation, Amy took the magic to a high school in Philadelphia, PA where she taught Equine Science and Animal Health and worked as the FFA Advisor. It was the largest FFA chapter in the country at the time. Her students showed her that you don’t have to come from a farm to be passionate about agriculture. They were enthusiastic about learning and were not afraid of the challenges she presented them from halter breaking calves to driving tractors. They truly wanted to know more about agriculture. A learner at heart, Amy wanted to learn more too.

She continued her education with the Toyota International Teacher Program in Japan learning about the country’s educational system, environment, culture and history and sharing information about American culture in schools there. She participated in the National FFA Delta Conference enhancing her methods for teaching leadership skills to youth as well as her personal leadership. Lastly, she returned to college at New Mexico State University to earn her Masters of Arts degree in Agriculture and Extension Education.

From the youth of the non-traditional agriculture program that she led to the children she influenced in Japan to the farmers seeking financial guidance at AgStar, Amy has been an agricultural learner, teacher, and leader throughout her endeavors. Her role has given me a new perspective of agribusiness. She employs the leadership and teaching skills that she has developed throughout her experiences in her workplace every day. I am also glad that Amy shared her love of learning with me. I get worried that my own love of learning may burn out. But now, I am more aware of the unique learning opportunities available for continuing my education.

Amy’s last words to me for this blog was that she hoped that what she does today will help women in agriculture in the future, including her own daughter. I believe her dedication to improving her learning, teaching, and leading has helped her to do just that. She is putting her best foot forward for the future of agriculture, and that’s what makes Amy Durand a woman for agriculture.