Farmers were a coredemographicrepresented at the UN Food Systems Summit Pre-Summit, and for good reason. Farmers produce our food and cultivate the world’s farmlands — it would be impossible to positively transform global food systems without engagingfarmersandranchers.
Kylie Epperson and her husband Jordan are young farmers in northeast Missouri in the United States. Their diversified family farm is the center of their lives, and every day they strive to produce food and animal feed while preserving the beauty and fertility of their farmland.
CropLife International asked Kylie some key questions about what it’s like to be a young farmer, what kind of everyday challenges she faces and how she champions sustainability on the farm.
As a young person, what made you want to become a farmer?
Kylie Epperson: I married into the farm, but there is something to be said for choosing to marry a farmer AND wanting to return to work on the farm alongside my husband. Agriculture is a way of life like no other. Farmers are true entrepreneurs, mechanics, engineers, marketing experts and so much more. We grow food, especially here in the United States, to feed millions of people around the world. I love being able to run my own business and raise our family in a rural, farm setting.
“Farmers are true entrepreneurs, mechanics, engineers, marketing experts, and so much more.”
What are the main crops you grow on your farm and why?
KE: We grow yellow corn and soybeans on our farm in Missouri. We also raise hogs. Most of the crops we grow go into feed for hogs and cattle. Raising hogs helps us to diversify our farming operation and better manage risk in both commodities.
What does a normal day look like on your farm? What is your routine?
KE: As a 50/50 partner with my husband on our farm, my main role is working in our farm office. A typical day for me is waking, rounding the kids up and driving about 10 minutes to our home farm. After arriving at the office, I look over any urgent matters on my desk, sort and pay bills, review finances and any other accounting matters at hand. I also manage grain inventory and sales. Between bills, grain inventory and tending to three children at work, that makes up most of my day.
What are the major challenges you face on your farm?
KE: One of the major challenges we have on our farm, and really as an industrywide problem, is labor. It is incredibly hard to find a qualified individual who loves the land and animals just as much as you do and takes care of them to the level that you see fit. More and more people are leaving rural America, and that is a threat today and will continue to be a challenge in the future.
“There is not one person who cares more about the quality of our soil, water and air than a farmer.”
How do climate change and biodiversity issues affect your farm?
KE: As a row crop and hog farmer, we take all measures available to us to ensure we are doing right by our environment, by our land and by our community. There is not one person who cares more about the quality of our soil, water and air than a farmer, and we put practices in place to ensure we are doing our part to take care of the environment.
What would you say to young people who want to know about farming and plant science?
KE: Agriculture is one of the most rewarding environments to make yourself a part of. The community, the ability to work with your hands and with the land every day, the opportunity to raise a family on a farm, teaching your kids life lessons from a young age, gosh, so many amazing things about farming.
However, farming isn’t for the faint of heart. Farmers rely heavily on matters outside of our control, like commodity prices, land availability, weather and more, and often those uncontrollable matters throw curveball after curveball. Farmers are resilient, though, and you quickly learn the love for the land and the faith for the future is much greater in agriculture than the fear of the unknown. Agriculture is a community and profession that once you start, you’ll never want to leave.
Kylie takes a special interest in telling her story through her Instagram, Facebook and blog, where she charts the ups and downs of modern farming from the perspective of a young family. This is in part due to increased interest in farming from consumers who have increasing concerns about sustainability and the supply chain, or are just taking a greater interest in where their food comes from.
Are you a woman interested in a career in plant science? Here’s a field guide to help you get started.
Believe it or not, plant science is not just about farming! Whether you are interested in engineering, or biology, there is a myriad of opportunities in the plant science industry for women. While women have always played a vital role in feeding the world, they can now do so in so many new fields, not just farming.
And there’s a real need for increased representation of women in plant science. The plant science industry is working hard to close the gender gap and increase opportunities for women to have equal access to technologies and plant science solutions; however, women from some countries and regions still face significant hurdles. While the majority of working women in developing countries rely on agriculture as their main form of income, only about a quarter of agricultural researchers in Africa are women—and of that quarter, only 14% hold leadership positions within their research teams.
Climate change, population growth and other factors present challenges to all farmers – but women often lack access to the technologies and innovations that can help them improve yields and increase incomes. Ensuring that women have access to tools and plant science innovations they need to succeed is key to promoting global food security and helping create a world with zero hunger
Encouraging and promoting opportunities for women in agriculture — be it through working on a farm or pursuing a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) concentration — ultimately helps to address global issues related to climate change, biodiversity and societal rights. The plant science industry is in a unique position to approach these issues with viable solutions — by addressing inequality within the industry, we can better work towards solving these global issues for good.
CropLife International encourages diversity and inclusion in the field of plant science. If you’ve ever thought about a future in the plant science industry, read through this helpful field guide to see what opportunities lie ahead.
As you’re starting your career, a wide range of concentrations and opportunities are available to you. It’s important to think about what kind of job you want to do and which aspects of STEM interest you the most. Are you most interested in genetics? Perhaps a job as a biochemist or a biotechnologist would be best for you. If chemistry is your passion, then take a look at becoming a toxicologist. If you’ve always had a curiosity for insects or bugs, check out the life of an entomologist.
No matter what your passion, interests, location, even likes and dislikes may be, you are sure to find an opportunity in plant science just for you. There’s many different paths you can choose!
In fact, there is such an incredible amount of job diversity in agriculture, that you are not even limited to working directly with plants. If you like math and have a specific interest in finance or accounting, an agrifinance firm may be the right place to start your career. On the other hand, if the idea of working on a farm or in a field of crops sounds appealing to you, you can become an agroecologist and develop sustainable soil management practices, such as Soil Health Institute Chief Science Officer Dr. Cristine Morgan and Water Smart Agriculture Program Regional Technical Advisor Dr. Marie-Soleil Turmel. Careers in agriculture extend even beyond the STEM fields—rural sociology and agricultural communications are just two examples of even more opportunity in agriculture.
WORDS OF WISDOM
As you work to secure your dream job in agriculture or STEM, there may be some challenges or snags you hit along the way—do not let them discourage you! While the gender gap in agriculture remains, progress is being made year after year, and barriers are being broken down by ambitious and driven women in science – leading the way for those that may follow in their footsteps.
“While barriers remain, I believe the situation for women in science has improved over where it has been historically. Around the world, movements like the International Day of Women and Girls in Science help to highlight the gaps that remain, but more importantly, the achievements of women in STEM fields. These are important steps in the right direction.”
– Cari Carstens, Global Regulatory Lead – Seed Applied Technologies & Biologicals at Corteva Agriscience, United States
“One piece of advice I want to give to young women in agricultural science is to expand your interests. Take time to look around, read more and talk to more people. Even if you already have a specific area to focus on, having a broad knowledge-base and interests will allow you to innovate more through interaction.”
– Xi Chen, Group Leader at Syngenta Beijing Innovation Center, China
“I would advise young women today to obtain an education in the field of agriculture, and after graduating ask that they return to help develop agriculture in their home villages…I would like to form a Women’s Farmer Group. As women we must be food heroes, for the generations to come.”
“Women need to be better represented in agriculture. New solutions require diverse perspectives, different genders and different regional outlooks…Working with agriculture or food systems is an awesome opportunity for those interested in being part of the solution to deliver the global goals from plant breeding to data science and innovations! We need more diversity — we need more women.”
“The expectations of you and your role as a woman (and mother) in agriculture and industry, may be very different to how you feel and what you want to do in your life. Be brave, be smart, be energetic. Don´t hold back! And look for role models and mentors to inspire you during tough times. Networks help. And taking breaks to recharge your batteries.”
– Elke Duwenig, Senior Expert in Biotechnology, BASF, Germany
“As a teacher and farmer, I would encourage a young farmer to expand her own knowledge and seek out knowledgeable people who want to see her grow as a good steward of the land. Growing sustainable food is the most essential career in the world. Civilizations depend on us, so own this role with pride and integrity.”
“My biggest challenge was believing in myself and knowing I was qualified enough to take on the next challenge. Mentoring and role models have been key to overcoming these doubts, and they have enabled me to grow and now be in a position where I can do the same for young women in agriculture. I believe there is a need for more mentoring programs for women in agriculture.”
“Follow your interest, bring your passion and commitment to work and make your voice heard. Now is a fantastic time to get involved to shape the future of farming. Technologies are progressing at a significant pace and opportunities are endless. We need individuals with curiosity, creativity and the will to make a difference.”
– Jutta Boehmer, Head of Crop Protection Research Bioscience, Syngenta, United Kingdom
“This may sound simple, but one thing that took me many years to learn is that my voice and my ideas are important. To all women and men out there who are still finding their own voice – don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas. Chances are, you may also be speaking on behalf of someone else who hasn’t spoken up, and you may inspire them to raise their own voice the next time.”
– Laura Potter, Head of Analytics & Data Sciences, Syngenta, United States
“My advice is for them to educate themselves, to learn, and be very good at what they do. One important career differential is the ability to manage a business and people, but we cannot afford to lose our understanding of the differences between human beings: between men and women, youth and adults, the rich and the poor. We have to respect those differences and learn that everyone around us has something to add to our daily lives and to agriculture.”
“Agriculture needs young women to not only be part of the industry but to step up and lead. Young women can use social media to advocate for modern agriculture and share their perspectives with peers who want to know if their food is grown in a safe and sustainable manner.”
– Shannon Hauf, Senior Vice President and Head of Crop Technology for Soybeans, Bayer, United States
We’ve spoken with dozens of other Female #FoodHeroes who have given us great insight into being a woman in the plant science industry. If you don’t have time to read through these testimonials (and we encourage you to do so!) there are a couple key takeaways these inspirational women agree upon:
Be your own cheerleader
Find a mentor in the industry who can help you grow and navigate challenges
Support, encourage and advocate for women in your industry
Don’t lose sight of your initial ambition and goals
Seek out opportunities to learn new things
Your perspective is valuable – let it be heard!
LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER
Soon it will be time to tidy up your CV (curriculum vitae) and cover letter and start applying for your dream job. While you’re finalizing your application materials, consider where you might look to apply. Almost everywhere you look, there are support systems and opportunities available to help you on your path. FMC Corp., for example, has partnered with the Women’s Initiative Network to help support professional development opportunities for women in the company. Sumitomo offers resources from career support to childcare support to support working mothers. Corteva launched an internal platform called Common Ground to elevate the voices of women in agriculture and advocate for change.
Besides these companies’ career pages, you can review career sites like AgCareers.com to find a company or position that best suits you. If you’re considering a university (or are already in university!) in the U.S. think about getting involved in Annie’s Project or the Sigma Alpha professional agriculture sorority to grow your connections — and also meet new friends! Similar affinity groups are available in many countries globally. If you’ve already graduated, reach out to the Women, Food and Agriculture Network and see if there’s an upcoming virtual conference you can attend.
By bringing the best and brightest women to the forefront of the agriculture industry, we can not only make huge strides in achieving equality, but also work towards solving global challenges that threaten our very existence. Food insecurity, biodiversity and even climate change can be better addressed and mitigated if we encourage more diversity in plant science. Through resources like this, we at CropLife International hope we can help jumpstart successful careers for brilliant, ambitious women all over.
Pandemic Reminds Us: Role of Regional Growers More Critical Than Ever
Singapore, 10 February 2021 – With people in Asia and around the world set to celebrate Lunar New Year, CropLife Asia called for greater appreciation of regional growers and their critical contributions to food production – helping ensure food security across Asia and making available many of the ingredients to dishes enjoyed during this festive time of year.
“Lunar New Year is a time when we reflect, spend more time with friends and family, and enjoy the delicious foods of the season,” said Dr. Siang Hee Tan, CropLife Asia Executive Director. “In the midst of the ongoing global pandemic, it all takes on greater meaning. The time spent with loved ones and eating the foods we savour will be that much more enjoyable and memorable.
“In the midst of this year’s gatherings, I hope we can also take time to think of and thank our farmer heroes. The men and women we depend on for the food we eat during this holiday and throughout the year have been hit hard by COVID-19. They drive food security for Asia in the midst of a growing number of challenges and obstacles. Asia’s farmers earn our respect and appreciation every day, and we owe them our gratitude.”
Farmers across Asia help make Lunar New Year celebrations more festive, nutritious and delicious by producing the various foods that are served during the holiday season. In China and across Asia, mandarin oranges are a staple that can be found on tables and given as gifts. In Vietnam, xoi (sticky rice) is synonymous with Tet celebrations. Meanwhile, tteokguk (rice cake soup) is a popular dish enjoyed by many in Korea; while tikoy (sticky rice treat) is a delicacy prepared by many of those celebrating in the Philippines.
The past year has been an unprecedented time for everyone; this has been particularly true for farmers in our region. Asia is home to the smallest-sized farms and the largest number of smallholder farmers globally. The pandemic has only exacerbated a challenging landscape for these smallholders – one that includes mitigating the devasting impacts of locusts, the Fall Armyworm invasive pest and climate change. Despite these challenges, regional farmers continue to grow the safe and nutritious foods on which we depend and help ensure food security for a growing Asia and world. Plant science continues to play a critical role in enabling farmers on this front. Biotech crops have been developed with improved traits such as increased yield, better resistance to pests and/or improved nutrition, among others. These traits are crucial tools that help farmers meet global challenges such as food insecurity. Meanwhile, farmers continue to rely on crop protection products to produce more food on less land and raise productivity per hectare. Without crop protection products, 40 percent of global rice and maize harvests could be lost every year and losses for fruits and vegetables could be as high as 50-90 percent.
About CropLife Asia
CropLife Asia is a non-profit society and the regional organization of CropLife International, the voice of the global plant science industry. We advocate a safe, secure food supply, and our vision is food security enabled by innovative agriculture. CropLife Asia supports the work of 15 member associations across the continent and is led by six member companies at the forefront of crop protection, seeds and/or biotechnology research and development. For more information, visit us at www.croplifeasia.org.
For more information please contact:
Director, Public Affairs & Strategic Partnerships
Tel. (65) 6221 1615
Reducing food waste can have a huge impact on food security and climate change. So, where do we start? It’s all about working together. By gaining a deeper understanding of the care, commitment, and hard work that gets food from the field to our forks, we can hopefully start to waste less of the food we buy.
In partnership with the European Crop Protection Association, we sent Ben and Mike from SORTEDfood on a journey to dig into the history of the potato to find out where it came from and how farmers use smart technology to produce the hearty spud on a global level. Along the way, they meet Angela Clutton, a food writer and historian, and Jacob Van Den Borne, a Dutch potato farmer. Going behind the scenes at his farm, they learned how he uses technology to grow his potatoes more sustainably to reduce any food loss on the farm.
Ever wondered what you can make from those leftover potatoes in your kitchen so they don’t go to waste? If anyone can tell you, it’s SORTED. Ben and Mike went head-to-head in the Ultimate Potato Battle, but who made the better dish? Let’s find out!
Want to have a go?
Grab Ben’s recipe for Spiralised Potato and Blood Sausage Croquettes on Potato Soup here.
Grab Mike’s recipe for Fondant Dripping Potatoes with Horseradish Pommes Purée here.
You can also watch behind-the-scenes video clips from Ben and Mike’s chats with Angela and Jacob, to find out more about where potatoes originated and how this nutritious crop is protected to ensure it makes the journey to your table.