Women in Agriculture Make a Difference

Viewpoints / Focus on Agriculture September 21, 2015

The contributions, cares and concerns of women in agriculture are chronicled in a variety of ways, including on social media using the hashtag #WomeninAg. Followers of #WomeninAg recently learned about Rita Herford, a fifth-generation Michigan farmer recognized by the White House as one of 11 "Champions of Change."

The 26-year-old Herford and 10 other young women from across America were honored at a special event at the White House for empowering and inspiring their communities - doing extraordinary things to "out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world." They were also recognized for inspiring girls and young women to recognize their potential for leadership - as educators, advocates, peer-mentors, artists and entrepreneurs - and to appreciate that they can be leaders in their own way and in their own style.

After graduating from Michigan State University with a bachelor's degree in crop and soil science and a specialization in agribusiness management, Herford returned home to her family farm where she works with her mother, stepfather and brother.

Using sustainable farming practices, Herford and her family grow 4,400 acres of wheat, sugar beets, dry edible beans, corn and soybeans.

"To me, sustainability means we'll still be farming in 40 years," Herford said when interviewed for the Kellogg's Open for Breakfast program. "It means not only taking care of the land, but leaving it in better condition than when I started working it. And it means increasing soil health to produce safe crops for years to come."

As participants in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, the family strives to voluntarily prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks. On-farm verification ensures environmentally sound practices are in place.

"Everything that's done in the field is recorded, so we know exactly what happens to all the food we grow," Herford explained. Wheat and sugar grown by the family have been used in Kellogg's products "for as long as we've been farming," she said. The millers the family works with supply grain directly to Kellogg's.

Herford's passion for agriculture has led her to share her farm's story on social media and with Rotary Clubs and other local groups with the goal of helping consumers understand how today's farmers grow food for their families and others. Connect with her family's farm on Facebook; to learn more about what Herford calls "everyday" farming.

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Credit: Preston Keres, USDA/FPAC / CC0 

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