Ones to watch: Young women in agriculture Thursday, April 23, 2015 by Farm and Dairy Staff

By the Farm and Dairy Staff, Farm and Dairy, 4/23/15

When we planned our eight-week series on women in agriculture, “You Go, Girl,” we knew we wanted to give a nod somehow to the millennials, the next generation of women ag leaders. So we asked you to nominate individuals to be recognized as “Ones to Watch” — and we’re in awe of the agricultural passion and work all the nominees exemplified. Thank you for sharing your nominees, and we look forward to watching these young women, and others, as they propel our great industry forward.

Channing Murphy, 23, Miami County, Ohio

Her passion for animals drove her to pursue an ag-related degree and career, and now Channing Murphy, of Miami County, has both of those things and more. Murphy, 23, earned a degree in veterinary technology — but it was at a part-time job working for Honey Hill Farm Mobile Petting Zoo and Pony Rides that she found her dream job. She climbed the ladder to become regional manager for Ohio, and also manages the petting zoo at the Cedar Point amusement park, in Sandusky. She maintains her farm roots by operating her own farm, which includes 10 sheep, 10 beef heifers, “and big plans for the future.” Cattle genetics and artificial insemination are of top interest, as well as animal nutrition and finding ways to improve the production and health of livestock. The best advice she ever received? “The moment when you want to quit is the moment when you need to keep pushing.”

Kelly Lewis, 24, Grandview Heights, Ohio

Growing up near Columbus, Kelly Lewis and her family always had a community garden plot, which she credits as fostering her personal connection with food and the environment. Now she’s working to create more opportunities for people to connect with their food, with a goal of helping to build a local, sustainable, agricultural economy in the Midwest. Armed with a bachelor of science in agriculture from Ohio State University, Kelly works as a program assistant at Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association where she helps farmers and food processors navigate the organic certification process. Her past experience includes an internship at Blue Rock Station Farm and lab assistant at Ohio Seed Improvement Association. She considers her biggest life achievement, and also her greatest adventure, the time she spent in Czech Republic studying rural sociology and agricultural economics. She was able to connect with farmers and students from across the globe.

Sarah Stocks, 31, Medina, Ohio

Although Sarah Stocks officially serves farmers as an independent dairy nutritionist with Barton, Keifer and Associates, she also often serves as adviser, arbitrator, management consultant and friend to those dairy family clients in Ohio and Michigan. The Massachusetts native and current resident of Medina, Ohio, is a graduate of Cornell, the University of Wisconsin, and Michigan State University, where she earned her Ph.D. in animal science/dairy nutrition. “The people in agriculture are passionate about what they do and how they do it,” she says, which is what drives her enthusiasm about serving the farm community. She is quick to engage with friends or relatives about what farmers do, sharing the positives — but also the difficult issues — of farming and dairy production. “We know why we do what we do, but being able to share that with the public has been difficult.” And she’s proud to claim that role, too.

Jess Campbell, Waynesville, Ohio

Jess Campbell, Farm Credit Mid-America agri-consumer loan officer, is not a “farm girl” in a traditional sense. She grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, but was always involved in 4-H and raised small animals. Campbell’s extended family also had a hog operation, which helped form much of her early knowledge of — and passion for — agriculture. A 2009 Ohio State University animal science graduate, Campbell is also president of the Warren County Farm Bureau and operates the 55-acre Carroll Creek Farms in Waynesville with her husband, Adam. Casey Ellington, Campbell’s Women to Watch nominator, called her one of the local farming community’s “biggest ‘agvocates’.” The agriculture industry needs to help young people who are passionate about farming gain access to the resources needed to get started, Campbell said. “My role will be not only to grow and succeed as a young farmer, but to advocate for others and help them access what they need.”

Katie Esselburn, 27, Shreve, Ohio

Katie Esselburn grew up in Wayne County, Ohio, on a farm that produced corn, soybeans and wheat. The family operation also had a commercial feedlot. That early experience made Esselburn’s career choice easy. “There is such a small percentage of people who have ties back to agriculture, (that) agriculture needs to keep telling its story,” the 27-year-old Shreve, Ohio, resident said. Esselburn, who graduated from Denison University with a bachelor’s degree in biology, earned her master’s in animal science from Ohio State University, and currently works for Purina Animal Nutrition as a dairy nutritionist. “I work with dairy farms across central and northeast Ohio,” Esselburn said, adding that the best advice she has ever received is “take ownership and pride in your work.” “I love working with people in the dairy industry,” she said. “It is great working with people who share common interests.”

Emily McDermott, 25, Riverside, California

Emily McDermott didn’t grow up on a farm, she grew up in a touristy beach town in New England. She said she knew almost nothing about farming until she attended Ohio State University. At Ohio State, agriculture was all around her. It was here she became intrigued by invasive crop pests and vector-borne crop pathogens. She graduated from Ohio State in 2012 with a bachelor of science in entomology and a minor in plant pathology. She is pursing her doctorate in veterinary entomology at the University of California, Riverside, California. Currently, she is researching vector-borne livestock diseases, specifically bluetongue virus and the biting midges that transmit it. Protecting livestock from diseases is something that will become increasingly important in the future, and she plans to be a part of the solution. Emily sees herself as becoming a leader in the agricultural sciences community. She said the enthusiasm the agricultural community has is infectious, and it motivates her to do the best work she can.

Laura Ringler, 30, Shelby, Ohio

Growing up the youngest of 14 children on a 200-acre grain farm, Laura Ringler had her fair share of “learning by doing,” both on the farm, in 4-H and in FFA. Today, the 30-year-old agricultural educator is sharing those life lessons in her classroom and as FFA adviser at Plymouth High School in Shelby, Ohio. She guides her students in managing the school’s 30-acre farm field, a 4,500-square foot vegetable garden and 900-square foot memorial garden. “People tend to fear the unknown,” Ringler said. “I hope to remove the fears about agriculture and excite the passion, as we build a strong and educated generation of agricultural advocates.” This year she was named the Ohio Association of Agricultural Educators’ Outstanding Young Member. “She’s an amazing person who is passionate about agriculture and student success,” writes her nominator. “She isn’t on the farm full time, but her work in educating the agriculture and civic leaders of tomorrow is invaluable.”

Danielle Burch, 27, Winona, Ohio

At just 27, Danielle Burch has earned two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s in education — and she’s employed as a high school teacher and dairy farmer. But her biggest accomplishment — in her own words — is her family: husband, Andy, and their son, Doyle. Together, Danielle and Andy operate a dairy where she puts her love for agriculture to work. Burch grew up on her family’s farm, where she learned responsibility and work ethics — things like “the animals get fed first” and “hard work and dedication is the key to success.” Burch, who teaches government and psychology/sociology at United Local High School, is a Columbiana County Farm Bureau trustee. She loves farming because farmers “are a friendly group.” They work hard and get dirty, but at the end of the day, “they are a group of people willing to give, help and go beyond their own to help someone else.”