Hometown: I grew up in Weiner, Arkansas, but live and work in Little Rock now
Title/Position: Director of Commodity Activities and Market Information for Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation
Briefly describe your role: I work specifically with our members who are rice and cotton farmers on legislative and regulatory issues important to them. I have a market information column in two of ArFB’s publications and on the website where I provide technical and fundamental analysis of commodity markets. I am also the administrator of the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board.
Q: Is what you’re doing now what you always pictured you would do?
A: I truly believe in what Dr. Norman Borlaug said, that an adequate food supply is the first essential component of social justice. My hope is that in my role advocating for farmers in the legislative and regulatory arena, and as administrator of the checkoff board, I am in a very small way helping to build that adequate food supply for humankind.
Always is a strong word, though. When I was little, I wanted to be a dancer and an astronaut, and spent many hours in dance class and attended Space Camp. As I grew up, I began to realize that agriculture was my true calling. I was raised on rice and soybean farm in Northeast Arkansas, and my parents were always active in Arkansas Farm Bureau and other agriculture advocacy organizations. I attended my first American Farm Bureau Convention when I was in the 4th grade. My parents took my sister and me to Dallas to see President Ronald Regan introduce the PIC program.
I have vivid memories of my dad working hard to first convince the Arkansas General Assembly to create the rice checkoff, and then spending night after night calling other farmers to convince them to approve the checkoff in the referendum. My dad is also a founding member of USA Rice, and has traveled the world promoting his crop.
When I was 16, I had the opportunity to attend and Environmental Studies Program in The Soviet Union and spent a few weeks that summer learning about agriculture and the environment behind the Iron Curtain. I saw everything from some of the biggest tractors I’d ever seen, to a man plowing a small field with a mule. Being able to gain a global perspective at a young age cemented my belief that I wanted to focus my future on agriculture.
I chose to obtain a degree in Business and Marketing from Lyon College, focusing on the liberal arts to broaden my education and world view beyond agriculture. I am also a graduate of LeadAR (I hold the distinction of being the second, second-generation LeadAR grad), and traveled across Arkansas and other parts of the U.S., and eventually Scotland, learning more about agriculture and ag policy.
I have now spent over 22 years working for Arkansas Farm Bureau. Throughout my career, I have had the honor of working with the rice, cotton, soybean, wheat and feed grains, forestry and aquaculture divisions. I have staffed American Farm Bureau commodity advisory committees and served on the 2018 Farm Bill Working Group, helping our members nationwide develop policy for the 2018 farm bill debate and advising the AFBF board of directors on those issues. I am proud of my career in agriculture so far and look forward to many more years working with and for farmers across the state and the nation.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for women in your chosen industry? What are the greatest opportunities?
A: I don’t know if the challenges for women in agriculture are much different than they are for women in any industry. There are those who are reluctant to change in every industry, and agriculture is no different, but change is inevitable. Recent years have seen revolutionary change in agriculture as technology continues to advance.
As the global population continues to grow, though, farmers face the challenge of producing more and more food with the same resources. We aren’t making more land, after all. I see tremendous opportunity for women as we in agriculture work to meet the most basic needs of the world.
Q: Who has inspired you in your life/career?
A: I have a small but amazing family that I love dearly, and who always challenge me to be my best.
My maternal grandmother Ruth White was a fierce defender of her family and was always extremely thoughtful and generous. She and my grandfather, J.D. White, got married when she was 17. He immediately went to California and eventually to Europe to fight in World War II. Grandma moved to San Francisco and became a ship welder. I will forever be in awe of their bravery and strength. My grandmother always wanted big things for my mom, my sister and me. She never stopped teaching us to be independent and strong, and I miss her every day.
My mom, Judy Rennicke, is steadfast and loyal. She is always right where she is needed, supporting everyone in the family. She is much tougher than she looks and is just as comfortable driving a tractor as she is serving on the library board and going to gymnastics meets and band concerts. She truly holds the rest of us together.
My husband, Tim Carroll, has had to get used to being married to an independent, stubborn woman who spends her career working with way more men than women. I travel with my job, sometimes a lot, and that leaves him with 100% of the home and childcare duties when I am away. He has always supported me and understands that agriculture is more than just a job for me.
My son, Arden Carroll, is wicked smart and so kind and loving. His tender heart and quick wit are precious to me. His love and talent for music and art are inspiring. My daughter, Sophie Carroll, is determined and focused. She is constantly teaching me new things with her ability to overcome challenges and her innate sense of social justice. I am constantly in awe of her ability to think critically and her mature world view. I want my children to always be proud of me and the work that I do.
My sister, Jennifer Rennicke, has worked hard to build her own business in a male-dominated field. She is truly a boss, and I am so thankful my kids have an aunt like her.
Finally, my dad, Joe Rennicke, is simply the best of us. He has dedicated himself to our family, always leading by example. I don’t know anyone who ever worked harder than he does. He taught his daughters to never quit, and that we could do anything we set our minds to, including driving the biggest tractors and putting in levee gates. His many contributions to the rice industry have impacted generations of rice farmers. I’m so proud to be his daughter.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring professional?
A: If you can find a way to do what you love, do it. That’s how you build a career.
Q: What’s been your secret to success?
A: Certainly, hard work and dedication to the cause have been important. But without a great support system and a lot of people willing to take a chance on me, I wouldn’t be here. Ewell Welch, Warren Carter, Gene Martin, and Travis Justice, all members of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation Commodity and Regulatory Affairs staff, were willing to hire me, teach me, and trust me to be a member of their team, and for that I am eternally grateful.