Final Exam- A Dairy Good Time in Class

A few weeks ago, our computer class had dairyman Will Gilmer as a guest speaker. Now, you may be wondering “why on earth would a computer class have a dairy farmer as a speaker?” AGvocacy is the answer. Not only is Will Gilmer a dairy farmer, he is a PROUD dairy farmer. He loves what he does, and he has shared that love with people near and far via social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our particular computer class is for agriculture majors so we have been learning how to utilize these outlets for agriculture advocacy or “AGvocacy”. This makes Mr. Gilmer the perfect candidate for a guest speaker.

What I enjoyed most from Mr. Gilmer’s guest lecture was getting to know someone who does what I talk about doing. It is easy to say that we will run the farm, promote agriculture, be involved with leadership in the industry, and have a family. It is much harder to actually do all of those things. Mr. Gilmer DOES do those things. It just goes to show that if you really want to do something, you can work hard and do it.

It was also neat to learn how he personally got involved with social media and agriculture leadership and why he continues his involvement. Mr. Gilmer had some good advice for us, and even shared his inspiration for some of his most popular posts.

I really enjoyed Mr. Gilmer’s guest lecture. If you would like to learn more about Mr. Gilmer and Gilmer Dairy Farm, please visit

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.

Implementing Support

Jennifer Spraberry
Whew! What a week! Being busy sure does make the time fly. This week was a hard one, but as I write this blog I am ending it the way it began; talking about agriculture implements. On Monday in Teaching Methods, one of my classmates taught us to “Prevent Harm on the Farm” with tractor safety, and today I am happy to tell you about Jennifer Spraberry, the assistant marketing manager for Wylie Implement and Spray Centers.

Jennifer grew up in the small town of Anson, Texas, but she has lived and worked in Lubbock for about nine years. Jennifer’s family has farmed and ranched in Anson since the early 1900s. She said, “Agriculture has always been a part of who we are; we don’t know any different.” Her family raises stocker and feeder cattle and plants wheat and hay grazer for grazing. Ever since she was a little girl, Jennifer loved going to work with her dad and grandpa. She attributes her passion for agriculture, her strong work ethic, her appreciation of our natural resources, and her knowledge of good environmental and livestock stewardship to the time she spent learning from them. Helping them is still her favorite part of working on the farm.

Along with working on the family farm, Jennifer was very active in 4-H and FFA. In 4-H, she focused on showing lambs. In FFA, she participated in any and every public speaking event she could, and she held a district officer position as well as the position of chapter president. She said that being involved in these projects positively affected her life, especially by building her self-confidence. Jennifer continued her education in agriculture at Texas Tech University. She earned her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Agriculture with a focus in Leadership. (This sounds a lot like what I am getting!) Jennifer also earned her M.S. in Agricultural Education.

Today, she is the assistant marketing manager for all 14 locations of Wylie Implement and Sprayer Centers. Jennifer said, “Every day is different”. And she likes it that way. She said that the business is very progressive. One day she may be focusing completely on social media, and then she switches to planning events, attending equipment demonstrations, and even meeting with website designers. Jennifer loves her job. She loves working “for farmers and ranchers to make sure they have the best quality farm and ranch equipment they need to feed and clothe the world.”

I said, “You have a Pinterest!?” Not only do they have Pinterest, but also Instagram, Vine, Twitter, a website, AND a Facebook page. I was surprised and impressed. Jennifer has definitely used her work ethic to push the limits and get creative with her marketing for the company. She also told me that her well-rounded major at Texas Tech truly helped prepare her for this position. I was so glad to hear that! I believe our major at MSU is doing the same for me. Talking with Jennifer also reminded me that my road is not set in stone, and my plans may change. Hers did a couple of times, but that is okay. There are many ways to support agriculture if that is what I want to do. Jennifer finds herself implementing support for agriculture on her family farm, at Wylie, and on the mystical World Wide Web. That is what makes Jennifer Spraberry a woman for agriculture.

The Women of Sedgewood Plantation

The Family by Followell Fotography:  Judy, Ann, Nancy, Bill, John, and Ashley

The Family by Followell Fotography:
Judy, Ann, Nancy, Bill, John, and Ashley

Hello everyone! This week I am thankful for my involvement in MSU’s Collegiate Cattlemen’s Association which took me on a trip last year to Canton, MS to tour Sedgewood Plantation. We visited Sedgewood because of its status as a purebred and commercial Angus cattle operation. That day trip allowed me to meet Dr. Bill Howard and his sister-in-law Judy Moyers. I didn’t meet Dr. Howard’s wife Nancy during that visit, but she did make us some wonderful brownies. After that visit, I knew I wanted to get back to Sedgewood somehow. This weekend I finally did. I made it to Sedgewood to sit down with the sisters, Nancy and Judy, and talk cattle.

Nancy and Judy are from Louisiana, but Nancy moved to Mississippi to pursue nursing school. While in school, she met her husband Dr. Howard whose family owned Sedgewood Plantation. Judy was working with her family’s antique business, but would help Nancy and her family on the farm whenever she visited. Since then, they all have become the workforce of the farm. They worked to develop the herd, renovate the plantation home, expand the working facilities, and otherwise improve the grounds of Sedgewood Plantation. Looking at pictures reveals how much they built it from the ground up. The difference is amazing. This strong work ethic and initiative for improvement is still a driving force for the sisters today.

Nancy and Judy take care of the farm on a daily basis. There is no job to big or too small for these women. They will find a way to make it happen. I believe their teamwork makes them very efficient, too. Nancy is most interested in the cattle, especially during calving season. One story they told me was about an orphaned calf. Nancy had to bond the calf with a nurse cow which proved to be a difficult task. That cow just did not want to take the calf. Finally after several days of repeated attempts, Nancy got the cow to accept the calf. It was her determination for that calf that made all the difference. On the other hand, Judy enjoys the mechanical aspects of the farm, especially securing the miles and miles of electric fencing on their property. She loves problem-solving, too. When her herbicide sprayer became impractical to use because of the constant height adjustments it needed, Judy figured out a way to use the hydraulics on the Kubota to make the adjustments for her. Talk about ingenuity! Nancy and Judy bring their interests together to help keep the operation running smoothly, and it is clear that they appreciate each other’s abilities. Judy says that Nancy’s liking the cattle helps her like them, too. And with a big smile on her face Nancy says, “Judy can fix anything.”

One thing that Nancy and Judy both love is having Nancy’s children help out on the farm. Even now as college students, they help when they come home to visit. Nancy said the family operation gave her children a chance to learn about hard work, experience compassion, and develop a respect for nature. Judy said she enjoyed sharing the sense of accomplishment and a job well done with the children when they all worked together.

I just can’t get over how cool these two women are. I get impressed every time I think about the pictures of the way the plantation used to look and the way it looks now. They didn’t start out with a big barn or a feed wagon. They started out with 5 gallon buckets. Judy said that if you want to be in agriculture you need to be, “willing to get your hands dirty and put your boots on.” I believe that is exactly what they do. It reminded me that starting out in agriculture can be difficult, but if you are willing to work hard; learn from your mistakes; and keep trying, you can achieve success in your business. Nancy and Judy also reinforced my belief that agriculture can be wonderful for families. They told me so many great stories about the family working together on the farm. There are life lessons to be learned and good times to be had. Nancy and Judy embrace agriculture and work hard to have a profitable and enjoyable but most importantly, family oriented business. That’s what makes Nancy Howard and Judy Moyers women for agriculture.

Cultivated Confidence


Hello all! It has been another busy week here at MSU.  Student organizations are hosting interest meetings left and right, we had our first home game Saturday, and professors are meeting to pick the day that they will all give their tests to us. Just kidding about that last part… But it is getting closer to test time! Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are going in the right direction with your studies. You take a certain course, maybe have a tough test, and you wonder, “Is this really for me”. This week I want to tell you about a woman who overcame the doubts of others and used her confidence in agriculture to turn her passion into her career.

Katie Allen grew up on her family’s row-crop and livestock farm in Marceline, Missouri. She was active on the farm and in the local 4-H club showing livestock and participating in livestock judging. Katie took her livestock judging skills to the national level at the National Western Stock Show and the North American International Livestock Exposition, and then she took it to the collegiate level serving on the University of Missouri’s livestock judging team. To this day, Katie still enjoys judging livestock as an official at county fairs and in coaching her siblings’ judging teams.

She is also proud of her roles as the 2007 Missouri Beef Queen and the 2007 Missouri State Fair Queen. I believe she is proud because these roles allowed her to advocate for agriculture in Missouri. It is clear to me that Katie loved agriculture and wanted to tell people about it. Following her desire to be involved in agriculture, she earned her B.S. in agricultural journalism with a double minor in animal science and agricultural economics and her M.S. in agricultural communication.

Before she attended college, someone told her that she was limiting herself because agricultural journalism would not have many opportunities. Katie definitely did not take that advice. She knew that there were many opportunities in agriculture! It is more than corn and cattle! She was confident and that confidence has led her to a career that she enjoys. Katie is employed as a communication specialist for Kansas State University Research and Extension and the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education. There she serves in many ways. She writes agriculture stories, especially about Kansas State’s research; she leads media trainings for Extension professionals; and she contributes to university communication efforts with Web design, video and radio production, and social media.

Katie trusted her “gut feeling” about agriculture, and her confidence in the field has only increased since. My own confidence has wavered at times, so it is awesome to hear that there is someone who loves and believes in the things that I believe in. Like Katie, I believe that “being directly involved in agriculture is a great blessing.” It is not something to be taken for granted, but from the words of Thomas Jefferson (which Katie provided) agriculture is “our wisest pursuit” contributing to “real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” Thanks to Katie, I am reminded to trust my passion for agriculture. Thanks to Katie, others are learning more about agriculture and cultivating their own confidence in it, just like she has. Katie Allen is a woman for agriculture.

For the love of cows and kids


I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend. I went home to Rolling Fork and had the opportunity to visit with my good friend and an example for cattlewomen everywhere, Mrs. Mindy Rutherford. I have known Mrs. Mindy for most of my life so I am very excited to share her story with you. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Mrs. Mindy grew up showing pleasure horses at American Quarter Horse Association events. Today, she uses her horse experience as she maneuvers cows from pasture to catch pen along the Mississippi River levee.

Mrs. Mindy made her home in Mississippi after marrying her husband who had begun row-crop farming in Rolling Fork. She became a partner in the farm, Kin Growers, and has been involved in agriculture ever since.

In the early 2000’s Kin Growers began building a herd of commercial beef cattle. Once the herd started growing, Mrs. Mindy wanted to become a better producer. She said, “When you know your product is going on someone’s plate, you want it to be the best that it can be.” To accomplish this she has sought advice from specialists and fellow producers. She became a member of the state and national cattlemen’s associations, a Beef Quality Assurance certified producer, and a participant in other educational programs such as MSU’s Master Cattle Producer’s Program. She is involved in every aspect of the business, and her specialty is herd health management. I know from experience that she is the vaccine distributing extraordinaire.

Mrs. Mindy encourages her family to help out with the commercial herd and also show cattle for the grandchildren. She loves helping the kids with their 4-H show cows. For Mrs. Mindy it is about the children. It is about spending time with them and teaching them about agriculture. Working with the children and their cattle has even strengthened her love for raising cattle.

Listening to Mrs. Mindy, I could tell that she truly enjoys her involvement in agriculture. I admire the way she strives to learn more. She seeks improvement for the business, the cattle, herself, and her family. She shares her knowledge and experience with anyone that she can. I see this so much as she works with her grandchildren. I see that she wants agriculture to prosper AND she is working to make that happen with her business and in her teaching of others. That’s why Mrs. Mindy Rutherford is a woman for agriculture.

Let’s begin

me and larry

Hello everyone! My name is Libby Durst and I am a junior at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS. I’ve been assigned to create a blog that exemplifies advocacy for agriculture or “AGvocacy” as we call it. This weekly blog will feature women from across the country who support agriculture in various ways. From veterinarians to farm operators to ranch wives, these women dedicate themselves to securing a positive future for agriculture. I was inspired to choose this topic because I have a passion for agriculture as well.

I was raised in Rolling Fork, a small community in the fertile Mississippi Delta. My father is a row-crop farmer so I have been exposed to agriculture all of my life. Pick-up trucks, crop-dusters, and the smell of corn growing are all signs of home for me.  When I was young I thought farming was cool, but I didn’t truly understand its importance until I began working on a row-crop farm as teenager. Over time the farm established a herd of commercial beef cattle. I have been able to watch this herd grow from one cow to more than 250 head. I love taking care of the cows and it is especially rewarding because the owner’s whole family can participate. Even the city-slickers can work the chutes and pour on the de-wormer. Their farm is family oriented which makes it such a wonderful place to be.

When I wasn’t working on the farm, I was playing on the farm with my 4-H animals. I became active in our county 4-H club when I was 10 years old with a goat named Mr. Nibbles. Having a goat was even better than having a puppy, except a puppy would have been easier to train. Mr. Nibbles taught me a lot about responsibility AND persistence. After showing goats, I showed cattle and pigs, but cattle were my favorite.

I believe the combination of working on the farm and participating in 4-H instilled a love and appreciation for agriculture in me. As I practiced public speaking with 4-H I learned how I can do more than just establish my own herd of cattle. I can use my skills to tell others about the positive aspects of agriculture that are so absent from the mass media. With less than two percent of our population directly involved in agriculture, these positive aspects are important now more than ever.  As I major in Agricultural Information Sciences, I hope to find a career path that allows me to use my education and experiences for sharing information about agriculture with others. That’s what makes me a woman for agriculture.