INDIANAPOLIS — 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 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.
People will 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, second 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.
Chism 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,” Chism said. “I’m excited to see women continue to step into new roles and leadership positions both on and off the farm.”
Two area female INFB members are making an impact on Indiana agriculture.
Walker co-owns and 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 involved in 4-H 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 said. “I always try to tie back to agriculture.”
Office Manager, Daily Farms; commercial applicator, Mill Creek Crop Care
Mitchell, Pulaski County Farm Bureau president, 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,” Mitchell said.
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 about which Mitchell is particularly proud.
“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 said. “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.”