Let’s talk about women in ag! Growing up as a fifth-generation cattle rancher in rural Colorado I quickly learned there was no such thing as gendered jobs. In a family of three girls and one boy, we all had to pitch in and do the not-so-fun jobs, regardless of if that job would be considered ‘man’s work”. In the agricultural community, women have always been an integral part of the lifestyle, and with March being Woman’s History Month, I wanted to share some introspection on a few of the most influential women in agriculture.
Harriett Williams Russell Strong
When she suddenly and tragically lost her husband and was left with four children, Harriet Williams Russell Strong took matters into her own hands and pioneered new methods in water conservation and dry land irrigation. She went on to create several inventions and patents and became one of the most successful walnut farmers in the US, eventually becoming the leading commercial grower of walnuts in the U.S. Her constant dedication to the advocation for water conservation, irrigation, women’s rights, and education gained her fame as an inventor, agricultural pioneer, civic leader, philanthropist and advocate for women.
Dr. Maria Andrade
Dr. Andrade’s research assisted in the introduction of nine drought-tolerant varieties of sweet potatoes to Mozambique farmers. Along with her colleagues, Dr. Robert Mwanga and Dr. Jan Low, they developed bio-fortified, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes high in vitamin-A. Sweet potatoes were bred to thrive in the intense conditions of Sub-Saharan Africa and to help decrease Vitamin A deficiencies. Maria and her colleague’s research helped spread knowledge regarding nutrition, and health, forever changing the dynamics of the scientific community.
Dr. Mary Engle Pennington
Nicknamed the “Ice Woman” of the “Cold Chain”, Dr. Pennington developed safe and sanitary methods for the processing, storing, and shipping of dairy products, poultry, eggs, and fish. She also helped to implement new food safety and preservation practices, and designed and evaluate transportation technology used to maintain low temperatures needed to reduce bacteria counts in refrigerated and frozen foods.
These three women only represent a small handful of the many who have contributed to the agricultural community over the years. Without their research, inventions, and dedication to improving agriculture, the industry would look very different. Thankfully, their contributions are still being used for research and inspiration. Today, it is estimated that over 30% of farmers in America are women and that number is constantly growing. At the University of Wyoming, we strive to help educate the upcoming future of female agricultural advocates who are working towards their academic goals.