Written by: Krista Lottinville
You know that feeling when you graduate from college and get your first job but are secretly terrified of transitioning into a real career? I was a senior in college and had accepted a position in the agriculture industry following graduation when I heard about this new conference, Women Changing the Face of Agriculture. I was intrigued.
That year, March 2010, was the first year of WCFA, and I had an amazing experience with a few of my colleagues from Sigma Alpha, the Professional Agricultural Sorority at the University of Illinois. We had the unique opportunity to talk with women currently working in the agriculture industry and share experiences about proper workplace etiquette and other useful topics.
These women were amazing at their jobs. They were breaking barriers and were successful. There were recent graduates just starting out and veteran women who worked their way into management positions. They were a true inspiration. This was the first time I was able to talk to women in the industry without trying to get them to take my resume or schedule me for an interview. It was exactly like a career fair but with much less pressure, and with more honest conversations. It made a big impression.
The very next day, I emailed Penny Lauritzen, the founder of the conference, to tell her my thoughts and to ask her how I could get involved. I wished that I had this opportunity in high school or in my early years of college, and I felt that I had to help this conference continue so other women could share my experience.
Women need to know they have immense opportunities in the agriculture industry. They need to connect with other women who can help them and show them the way. According to Purdue research from 2015, in the next five years there will be 60,000 jobs available in the agriculture industry with only 35,000 students graduating with a degree in agriculture to fill these positions.
We need more people, specifically women, trained and educated to fill the growing need for skilled workers in the agriculture industry. We continue to organize WCFA because of the great success we have seen in the last seven years. We now have women we call “full circle” who attended in high school, went to college for agriculture, and are now working in the agriculture industry and supporting WCFA. They provide testimonials of how their experience at WCFA shaped their careers, helped them to choose a specific sector of agriculture, or even got them their internship or first job. The professional women continue to find value in WCFA through the great networking opportunities and excitement they see in the students on conference day.
I love agriculture. I love the community of people who work in agriculture. I love the culture that is created and the sense of accomplishment I feel from the work that we do. It’s an amazing industry. It’s the backbone of the American economy, and provides food, fiber, and fuel to the world.
I can’t imagine working in any other industry, and I can’t imagine not helping other women launch their careers in agriculture. There is no better way than coming to WCFA. See you all at The University of Illinois on March 10th, 2017!