Hometown: Hagarville, AR
Title/Position: University of Arkansas Systems Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service (UAEX) County Extension Agent- 4H
Briefly describe your role: I work with Johnson County youth through UofA youth development program 4-H. I assist with individual project work, local 4-H clubs, county/district/state/national events, special interest programs, and school enrichment programs. I develop tomorrow’s future leaders.
Q: Is what you’re doing now what you always pictured you would do?
A: Yes, I’ve always had a passion for youth and agriculture. I knew from a young age I wanted to work in the agriculture industry. At first, I was unsure if I wanted to go in the public or private sector. I grew up in 4-H. Words can’t describe how much 4-H has impacted my life. I would not be the person I am today without this organization. When I went to college and on to graduate school, I went the agriculture business route certain I wanted to go into to the private sector but my heart lead me back to Extension. Over the past decade I have had the privilege to work with youth not only in Johnson County but from across the state. I provide the human capital to the agriculture industry. This is something I do not take lightly. I have dedicated my career to educating young people in the area of college and career readiness. In addition, leadership skills preparing them to go on and be leaders in the agriculture community. I always looked at it like I could work extremely hard and have a small impact in a little section of the ag industry or I could encourage, inspire and develop countless young people that will go on to have a huge impact on the ag industry. I have former 4-H members that are leaders in this state and others, veterinarians, farmers, fellow extension educators. I am truly proud to be a small part of that. An area where my personal passion and my career come together is being an advocate for Arkansas Agriculture. My husband, myself and our two children (Tate 1, Mae 3) own and operate Infinity Ranch. We raise commercial cattle and turkeys for Butterball in rural Johnson County. My toddlers understand the turkeys we raise on our farm will one day be on someone’s dinner table. I make it my personal mission to educate not only my children on where food comes from but the entire county. I have hauled goats, pigs, and chickens into countless classrooms educating students on where our food comes from and the importance of production agriculture.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for women in your chosen industry? What are the greatest opportunities?
A: It is an exciting time to be a woman in agriculture. I remember in the early 2000’s taking basic college agriculture classes like animal science and in the 25 student class there maybe 2 females to 23 males; or doing internships in the ag industry and being the only women in the office besides the secretary. Even 13 years ago when I first entered Extension, female ag agents were almost unheard of. It was assumed if you were a woman you had a family consumer science degree not an ag degree. Today that is completely different, some of the best and brightest ag agents in the state are female. Women in agriculture is trending. In the last decade, a few key shifts have taken place in farming; more women are in leadership positions in farming and agriculture. There has been a surge of women staring their own small farms empowering women in all areas of agriculture. As a mother of a little girl, it’s promising to know if my daughter instead of my son decides to major in agriculture or run our family farm that she will have an easier time earning respect in the industry than I did at her age.
Q: Who has inspired you in your life/career?
A: My career in extension was definitely inspire by my county extension agent growing up, Mrs. Nita Cooper. I was a painfully shy and reserved child and she encourage me to go to camps, workshops, and competitions. She really pushed me outside of my comfort zone and opened my eyes to college and a career I never really knew about previously. A way to be an educator that is not in a school or traditional classroom setting. After I completed my undergrad and graduate degree, Nita was the first person to encourage me to apply for extension jobs and even wrote me a letter of recommendation. She served as a mentor to me early in my career as she did for many young agents across the state. Our relationship came full circle when I nominated her for the highest award in extension, employee of the year. Of course, she received it as her 31-year career exemplified what Arkansans expect from a county agent. I was very lucky to have her as an influence in my life and can only hope to be that for one of my former 4-Hers. We have some amazingly talented women working for the Extension Service and they inspire me daily.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring professional?
A: You Do You! I think we are so caught up in comparing ourselves to others instead of just being ourselves. Everyone one of us have our own unique set of talents. Instead of looking at other’s strengths, take time to identify your own talents. Set goals then put the time and effort into cultivating those talents and last, find a professional where you can excel with those talents. Then be humble, kind and work as hard as you can and surround yourself by like mind encouraging people.
Q: What’s been your secret to success?
A: No secret really. I am a sweet, simple, hardworking farmer’s wife that is easy to work with. I can work cattle with my husband with two small children under toe and never so much as raise my voice. The key to my job is working with people providing research-based information to enhance the life of Arkansans. Since working with the public in addition to working with internal committees, county officials and coworkers is a huge part of my job, being easy to get along with has taken me a long way.