Women in Ag - West Coast Nut

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Women in Ag

By Jenny Holtermann | Contributing Editor
Published: November 4, 2019 • 1460 views


From board rooms to hospitals to classrooms and even the farm, women are a growing segment to any business. More women are in leadership roles and executive positions in various different industries. It should be no surprise that agriculture is the same. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, more than 36 percent of farm operators are women, equally over 1.23 million nationwide. While the percentage of farms with women decision makers continues to grow, the number of male farmers fell by 1.7 percent to 2.17 million. Women are making an impact in the way businesses are run from the ground up. The changes also show 56 percent of all farms have at least one female decision maker. The numbers speak for themselves and show women are taking on new roles with farms and agriculture businesses, but also opening up new doors to young women in showing capability and willingness to succeed.

Agriculture Career Paths for Women

Women are strong and successful, leading the charge to encourage and support young women as they consider career paths and leadership roles. The future is daunting and intimidating to anyone. Agriculture can be a tough industry with roadblocks and setbacks to anyone starting out or trying to nudge their way in. There have been a number of movements created to empower women. Various different campaigns have been spread on social media and hashtags to inspire young women with positive example of leadership and hard work.

Ag Women Lead

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) set up an “Ag Women Lead” agriculture mentoring network for women to not only create conversation but to lead by example. Through hashtags such as #womeninag and #farmher you can search and find an abundance of women sharing their everyday struggles and successes. Through organizations like the American Agri Women or the Women’s Leadership Development Program of the American Farm Bureau, there are training programs in place to help enhance leadership skills and create advocates for women in agriculture.

In the 21st century, we live in a place that strong willed, hard working people thrive. Regardless of your race, sex or age if you show leadership and determination, you can be successful. There are many examples of people stepping up to make a difference in agriculture and engaging in their industry and scope of work to make a difference. In this edition, we highlight a few of these women who are paving a path of expertise in the nut industry.

Photo courtesy of Candice Espericueta

Name: Candice Espericueta

Name of Farm or business: Certified Crop Advisor (CCA)/ Pest Control Advisor (PCA) for Maricopa Orchards

Crops you farm: Our team farms almonds, cherries, citrus, and blueberries in southern Kern County.

How did you get involved in agriculture?

I don’t have a farming background, but always had an interest in getting dirty and playing with bugs. After I joined FFA (Future Farmers of America) in high school, I realized all the cool ways I could do what I loved and make a living at it. While pursuing a BS in Biology, I got a job with the cotton research station in Shafter while going to college and I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Why do you do what you do every day?

I do what I do every day because I truly love it. I love diagnosing problems, preventing them before they start, and just being out in cultivated nature. Every day I’m on the job I learn something new. That’s

the beauty of working in nature, it’s ever-changing and keeps me on my toes!

What advice can you give other women in agriculture: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be a mom and still work in Ag. There are progressive companies out there who value family time and flexible schedules. You can literally have it all, so go for it and don’t settle.

 

Photo courtesy of Danielle Veenstra

Name: Danielle Veenstra

Name of Farm or business: Almond Board of California, Veenstra Farming

Crops you farm: Our family farms almonds outside of Escalon, California

How did you get involved in agriculture?

Like so many in this industry, I grew up in it. My mom’s side of the family has been faming the same land outside of Escalon, California since the early 1900’s. On the other side of the family, my grandfather, planted our first almond orchard in 1965—land that I grew up on and still live on today. We’re now on our second orchard and, outside of my day job, I help out on the ranch as needed. My favorite task is checking sprinklers, ensuring each emitter is working and there are no leaks in the hoses when we irrigate.

Why do you do what you do every day?

Working for the Almond Board, my job each day is to best represent California’s 7,600 almond farmers. It’s a complicated task, highly strategic and challenging, but one that I am passionate about because I know and am part of that community. When things get tough or the demands of the job are pushing my limits, I remember who I’m working for—people like my dad, brother, uncle and cousins. As farmers we strive to be stewards of the land so we can pass it on to future generations and, with the recently launched Almond Orchard 2025 Goals, I’m proud to work for an organization that’s challenging our farmers, other agricultural industries and farming regions around the world to continuously improve.

 

Photo courtesy of Theresa Schneider

Name: Theresa Schneider

Name of Farm or business: ​A&J Family Farms, Inc.

Crops you farm: Walnuts and almonds in Chico, California

How did you get involved in agriculture? ​

I am a 4th generation farmer, I have been involved in agriculture my whole life. Growing up with my father farming and raising livestock through 4-H and FFA.

How did you end up on your current farm or business?

​Always knew that I would end up in some sort of agriculture field. I dreamed of becoming an agriculture instructor at the high school level. Upon graduating from UC Davis there was an opportunity to start working with my dad. Greatest decision of my life. He taught me so much, yet not everything and I am still learning from him every day.

Why do you do what you do every day?

​I do what I do for the love of the land. Farming is in my blood. It is the traditions that I want to continue to the next generation; the value of hard work and getting your hands dirty. Every day is different; no set hours, no daily grind. It is truly a blessing to be able to farm and feed the world.

 

Photo courtesy of Holly King

Name: Holly King

Name of Farm or business:  Outback Almonds/Triple Crown Holdings, LP

How did you get involved in agriculture?

I was born and raised on a cattle ranch and farm in the Klamath Basin growing alfalfa, sugar beets and grain. I got involved in almonds 25 years ago when my family partnered with the Gardiner Family to diversify our holdings beyond the Klamath Basin. We bought the dirt, the Gardiner’s put in the trees and we had a 50-50 partnership that expanded over the years when we sold ground next to town, moved out to the Shafter area in Kern County, and then had the opportunity to buy amazing dirt from Jackson Perkins, the rose company, in the Wasco area. We put an agricultural conservation easement on 1,000 acres of the ranch to make sure it remained in agriculture in to perpetuity.

Why do you do what you do every day?

I love agriculture as an industry, the people are grounded and the best people in the world. I have made a career in agriculture and I want to see the industry continue to thrive in California. That is why I serve on the Almond Board of California—I contribute my time to try and pave a successful future for the industry.

What advice can you give for other women in agriculture?

I have never found that leading with your gender is anyway effective. Lead with your skill set, experience, earning the trust and respect of those around you enhances your reputation for all women.

 

Thank you, ladies, for sharing a small insight into what you do and helping to inspire other women in agriculture.