Editor’s Note: A challenge we need to take on

Farmers believe in themselves. Looking at their progress in technology and management, they’ve got every reason to. It’s a great platform for tackling women’s and diversity issues

In my job, it can sometimes feel like every other story arrives on my desk with a “this is the biggest threat to agriculture ever,” or “this is biggest technology ever” kind of breathlessness.

It’s easy to see how it happens. After all, any major change to the farm sector quickly rings up billions of dollars in losses, or creates opportunities for billions of dollars in gains.

And when you look at the success of ag science, it’s hard not to see every new technology in glowing lights.

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Sometimes, though, it’s the stories that might not seem so urgent that are actually the ones that deserve that kind of heat.

Nowhere is this more true than in HR.

Farmers have always had great confidence in themselves, but many have also had a “Let me see you prove it” approach to evaluating others. It makes sense that the two go hand in hand, not least because of the potential cost of a decision badly made or a job half done.

The difference now is that we’re in an agriculture where it’s the best team that succeeds.

For the past several months, I’ve been asking farmers, scientists, advisors, writers and everyone else to tell me how agriculture will be different in 2030. Among all the forecasts, one that we can be sure of is that by 2030, women will have a much greater role in farm ownership and management. And another is that by 2030, our farms will be hiring a much more diverse workforce for a much greater diversity of jobs.

What impresses me so much about the Prairie Berries operation “Diverse, and Profitable” isn’t just that the Purdys made a clear decision to focus on hiring a diverse workforce, but also the way they opened up jobs for them, hiring a field worker, for instance, and helping him grow into their food safety manager.

Anne Lazurko’s series on women in agriculture is remarkably similar. You begin with a piece that you think is going to be about fairness to individuals, and you end up star-struck thinking of the amazing potential our farms will have with a nation full of Leigh Rosengrens and Steph Towerses able to contribute at the top of their game.

Farmers today believe in themselves because they know what a difference they make in their own operations. Now their opportunity is to multiply that several times over.

Do also read the comments of Syngenta’s Nancy Tout in “A Question of Equity,” especially where she talks about measuring our progress. “What gets measured tends to improve,” she sagely says.

It’s a challenge for every commodity and farm group in the country. What are you doing to track the progress of women and a diverse workforce? Or isn’t it important enough?

Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].

About the author


Tom Button

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine.



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