Colleen (Baker) Settle
(Indianapolis) – March 1, 2023—To celebrate National Women’s History Month, which recognizes the contribution of women in American history as well as their ongoing impact on society, Indiana Farm Bureau highlights the important role female leaders play in the agriculture industry.
According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s latest Farm Census from 2017, more than 31,000 farmers in Indiana are women. In fact, according to the Purdue University College of Agriculture student demographics, 62% of undergraduate students are female.
A woman in ag doesn’t just mean they work on the farm. You’ll also find women working in agribusiness, teaching and using their voice to raise awareness for agriculture. Many agriculture organizations have programs specifically tailored to women, including Indiana Farm Bureau and its Women’s Leadership Committee, which is dedicated to educating the public through programs and events. These activities provide women with a platform for leadership, political involvement and networking.
Isabella Chism, 2nd vice president of INFB also chairs the American Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee, which is committed to helping women realize their potential in the ag industry and take advantage of leadership opportunities. Chism is the first INFB member to chair the AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee.
“It’s always my goal to empower women to never be afraid of investing in themselves and support them in roles both on and off the farm,” said Chism. “There is no doubt that women make a difference in Indiana agriculture – whether they are driving the combine, running their own business, educating their community or advocating for agriculture on the local, state and even national level.”
Here is a look at female INFB members who are making an impact on Indiana agriculture.
Jessica Baggerman, Huntington County
Assistant professor of agriculture, Huntington University
Jessica Baggerman grew up on a cotton, grain, beef, cow-calf operation in Texas where her love of farming was engrained in her from an early age. She joined the Huntington University faculty in 2017 as an assistant professor of agriculture where she teaches animal and food science, advises undergrads, coordinates judging/competitive teams and oversees the care of livestock at Three Rivers Farm and Don Strauss Animal Science Education Center.
Baggerman noted that people are often surprised that she is a younger female professor, even mistaking her for a student sometimes. However, she is seeing a change when it comes to females in animal science.
“The majority of the animal science students are female,” Baggerman said. “And now we are starting to see the professor profile be more reflective of the students. We always want a diverse population across the board, but it’s good to know there are more females coming up in this area.”
Besides her role as assistant professor, Baggerman serves as the Huntington University Collegiate Farm Bureau Advisor, as well as the INFB Young Farmers & Ag Professionals District 4 chair. Her goal is to help influence different issues impacting ag and encourage young farmers in her area to get more involved.
When it comes to women who are interested in ag and want to break into the industry, Baggerman’s recommendation is to ask questions.
“Use your resources, be curious and find other female ag professionals who you can network with and get their advice,” Baggerman recommended. “There are no stupid questions, sometimes you just have to dig for the answers.”
Sarah Jordan, Dearborn County
Broker and founder, LUXE Real Estate
Sarah Jordan’s upbringing on her family farm and background in lending and finance came in handy when she started her own company – LUXE Real Estate – three years ago. The firm specializes in farm and rural estates, in addition to residential and commercial properties in southeastern Indiana.
In a predominantly male-dominated business such as farm real estate, Jordan was determined to prove herself.
“For me to be successful, I needed to create my own brand and set myself apart,” explained Jordan. “I have done a lot of digital marketing to reach a broader geographic area in order to get the word out on properties, which isn’t as traditional in the rural and farm space.”
Besides operating her company, Jordan also took on a major project a couple years ago. She purchased an 1890s farmhouse in St. Leon, Indiana, on seven acres of land, which she named “Red Barn Ranch.” The small farm with multiple barns is surrounded by a corn field, while the rest of the nearby area has become highly developed.
Jordan has two horses, two goats, three dogs and laying hens on the farm. It has allowed her to form a community, as many neighbors and kids stop by to ride the horses and take care of the animals. Her goal is to buy more land and build up the farm to incorporate an agritourism component.
“It’s my mission to save this place and protect it,” said Jordan. “I would love a small pumpkin patch, community garden plot, petting zoo or pony rides in the future. Right now, I’m putting in a pasture and fencing, and looking into women-owned business grants to help with financing.”
Jordan, who sits on INFB’s rural communities policy advisory group, is happy with the work she has done on her farm and excited about what is to come.
“I’m proud of saving this farmstead, and I want it to become my legacy. It has brought a community together full of so many friends and neighbors, which at the end of the day is the most important part of life.”
Denise Jamerson, Gibson County
Owner and farmer, Legacy Taste of the Garden
Denise Jamerson is a fifth-generation farmer. Her family has been a part of the African American farming community of Lyles Station since before the Civil War. Fast forward to today and her father is still farming row crops at 85-years old. Jamerson helps her dad on the farm in addition to running Legacy Taste of the Garden, an agricultural business her son established in 2017.
Headquartered in Princeton, Indiana, Legacy Taste of the Garden, which grows produce sold at their local farmstand and distributed across the state, aims to bridge the gap between local producers and consumers by bringing healthy food to food deserts. The company also shares basic agricultural knowledge with young people through local community programs.
“Some of these kids have never touched dirt,” Jamerson said. “We work with community organizations in food deserts to teach kids about farming from seed to market and how the food we grow ties into their health. We are opening a lot of young eyes to agriculture.”
Legacy Taste of the Garden also helps provide resources for other black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) farmers across the state. Last year, Legacy Taste of the Garden created the pilot project, Indiana Black Loam Conferences, which introduces USDA programs and the resources available to BIPOC and socially disadvantaged farmers, producers and communities.
“These workshops make connections between the agencies and the farmers,” said Jamerson. “Sometimes urban farmers don’t realize what resources are available to them. These events bring together the right people to provide education on the programs, grants and loans that are out there.”
The conferences in 2022 took place in Evansville, Gary, Fort Wayne, Bloomington and Indianapolis with over 250 attendees. Workshops are planned in those locations again this year with the first taking place in Evansville this month.
Jamerson was a graduate of the 2021 WLC Communications Bootcamp, where she gained confidence in public speaking, and she attended the AFBF ACE Summit in Washington D.C., last year to help develop her leadership and advocacy skills.
Jamerson says women in ag, specifically women of color in ag, are stepping into roles like never before.
“We are here, specifically in the urban farming space. We just need to make it more visual that we are taking an active role. Take advantage of the resources and opportunities so you can be seen and your voice can be heard.”
Rachel Hyde, Hamilton County
Field sales marketing coordinator, Beck’s Hybrids; farmer, Flanders A-Maizing Grain
Rachel Hyde has always loved agriculture. She currently works at Beck’s Hybrids as a field sales marketing coordinator where she serves as a liaison between the field sales team and the marketing department. She is also a seventh-generation farmer on her family’s corn, soybean and sheep operation in Noblesville, Indiana, where she grew up working the farm just like her older brother.
“My dad made sure that my brother and I had the same opportunities on the farm,” Hyde said. “It was important that his son and daughter were able to both have the skills to operate the farm. I’ve never been afraid to get my hands dirty and do the work.”
Hyde is committed to using her skill set and background to develop the next generation of farmers and paint agriculture in a positive light. She is a member of the Hamilton County Farm Bureau board, a member of the local FFA Boosters leadership team, and an avid 4-H volunteer on the county level, while also judging sheep and goat shows across Indiana and neighboring states.
Hyde won the 2022 Indiana Farm Bureau YF&AP Discussion Meet, a competition where contestants participate in a group discussion that simulates a committee meeting and solves issues that are currently impacting agriculture. Hyde advanced to the national Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet held during the 2023 AFBF Annual Convention, where she was the only female finalist who placed in the top four of the competition.
“To me, it really wasn’t about winning the competition; it was about making connections with other farmers and professionals in the industry,” Hyde said. “At the end of the competition, a few female FFA state officers from Tennessee came over to me and mentioned how they had looked forward to watching me speak and admired how I represent ag. Those interactions made me realize I’m inspiring the next generation and made the whole competition worth it.”
Hyde’s advice to young women entering the ag industry is to be fearless.
“Ag is not a man’s world anymore, so be bold and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. We all have unique skill sets to make our own impact in ag and leave a lasting legacy in the industry.”
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About Indiana Farm Bureau: For more than 100 years, Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB) has protected and enhanced the future of agriculture and our communities. As the state’s largest general farm organization, INFB works diligently to cultivate a thriving agricultural ecosystem to strengthen the viability of Indiana agriculture. Learn more at INFB.org.