Women in Agribusiness: Kelsey McNamara

Being a woman in a male dominated field of agriculture has never been a problem for Kelsey McNamara. Growing up in Colfax, Illinois on a 4th generation corn and soybean farm, Kelsey was used to working in the business, whether it was driving the auger cart after school in her youth or helping with the farm’s feeder calf operation that she currently manages. Growing up in rural central Illinois, she was also very active in showing cattle, and attended many state fairs and national shows.

Kelsey had no trouble finding a job after graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in Agronomy Management, and she went to work for Crop Production Services just 2 days after graduation. 

“Being a woman in agriculture can be a challenge,” she admitted. “We have to prove ourselves and be at the top of our game. I challenge myself every day to have a strong work ethic, to be a critical thinker, to be sympathetic to my customers problems and needs.”

These traits helped Kelsey land her current job at Brandt Consolidated, where she is a Field Advisor.

“I always try to think about the farmer in the tractor and how I can best help him or her by keeping them up to date with the newest technology, sharing with them the novel solutions for their needs, and answers to questions in order to help them manage their business. Today’s farmers do not have the time to keep up with the changes in agriculture because things can evolve so quickly. My job is to try to help them be more profitable,” she explained. 

With her move to Brandt Consolidated, McNamara wanted to focus more on seed sales and customer relations. A typical work day may find her stopping by a customer’s farm, looking at his or her growing crop, sharing ideas for the future, identifying disease or fertility issues they may be experiencing, digging up the plants and identifying issues within the soil profile, or just sharing a cup of coffee and discussing how his or her kids are doing in school. It is about being a partner and a friend and showing real interest in his or her success.” 

McNamara’s employer, Brandt Consolidated, is a large retailer that operates 24 agricultural outlets to provide advice, products and services to farmers nationally and globally. Brandt’s research farms in Pleasant Plains and Lexington, Illinois, give farmers the opportunity to view practical farming trials researching all types of agronomic studies, where growers can then watch the crops grow and see the data growing right in front of them. These farms have been testing production agriculture practices for over 12 years in Pleasant Plains, and 5 years in Lexington. They look not only at current practices, but also practices that most likely will be common in 3 to 5 years. McNamara utilizes these farms by offering private tours for her customers, helping them to experience and view new ideas they may want to try before they spend money and actually make the change on their own farm. 

“Growers want current data and the ability to see the actual plot where we do our research and help to find answers to current and future grower needs,” said McNamara, “And their Brandt research farms have conducted over 10,000 trials examining the best farming practices in a real world setting. You also have to plan for what’s coming ahead. and as a seed salesperson I have to consider that farmers all have different needs and so each solution is tailored to each grower.”

As far as being a woman in agriculture, Kelsey says it’s not as uncommon as it used to be, and many of her female friends have gone on to successful careers in ag. She is fascinated by the numerous inputs on a farm operation that need attention, such as insurance, grain brokerage, ag education, ag engineering, agronomy, and animal sciences, which allow for many different opportunities for women. 

McNamara encourages women to be open minded: “There is a career to fit every personality, and I love that there are never two days that are the same. Future technology is moving so fast, and we’re gonna see agriculture moving on a more precise level to make the most out of every input dollar.”

When not out talking to growers, McNamara and her husband have many hobbies and ways to enjoy their time together, but sitting in their backyard, enjoying a peaceful evening on her patio, listening to the birds chirping and watching the crops grow, knowing that she provides a service to her customers and helps them to become more successful leaves her with a sense of contentment and satisfaction. What more can a person ask for in this life?