From the age of five to the age of twenty-one I have been obsessed with horses and for over ten years now they have been a big part of my life. I was that little girl always asking for a pony at Christmas and on birthdays but always disappointed when I didn’t see him under the tree or walking up my driveway. My journey to pursuing a degree in agriculture brought lots of questions and puzzled looks because I did not grow up on a farm. I grew up
in Bloomington, IL on the edge of town where I lived in nice little suburb with my family. I attended Bloomington High School and participated in varsity sports. I wasn’t the usual “ag kid” and you would have never known that I was President of my 4H club. Actually, most of my fellow classmates were not in 4H. Future Farmers of America (FFA) was not provided at my high school so I never got to experience the events that came with membership in that organization. I went to a high school that knew very little about agriculture, but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my passion.
I may not have worked on a big farm or ridden in a combine, but agriculture is much bigger than that typical image. The part that I had the privilege of experiencing was the horse industry at Lone Ridge Farm. It was there I met two women who inspired me to pursue a degree in agricultural science. Six years ago I met Jeanie Andrews and Brooke Wright. Jeanie owns the 43 acre farm that houses 25 horses with stall and pasture boarding and, Brooke is one of the trainers at the farm. At the time I started riding and working there, I had no idea the impact they would have on my life. Both have degrees in agriculture that they pursued after high school and neither grew up on a farm. I saw two strong women who didn’t let people tell them they couldn’t do this or that because they did not have a traditional agriculture background.
These two women molded me into the woman I am today by teaching me all they knew about the industry they claimed as their passion. I was educated in nutrition, management, training, and instructor skills. They gave me the chance to become the president of the Wild Oats 4H club located at Lone Ridge and put me in situations which forced me to assume leadership roles. I learned to never back down, to always work hard and to listen to instructions so I could do things right the first time. I saw Jeanie, a strong woman of agriculture, own and manage her farm by herself while taking care of 25 horses and all their needs. I saw Brooke guide/mentor a group of kids at fair, while still making sure to make it fun and memorable. These women pushed us to learn and to be leaders in agriculture and to be proud of our own personal work. These two women exemplified the strong, educated women with a passion for agriculture that I wanted to become.
I continue to get the looks and the questions regarding why I am pursuing a degree in agriculture when I have no farm background. I still receive the puzzled looks when I share I didn’t have the chance to be part of FFA. I am pursing a degree in agriculture because I want to make a difference in another person’s life just like Jeanie and Brooke did for me. I want to do it for kids who don’t have an agriculture background and show them all this industry has to offer. I want to experience all that I can in this industry and then be able to educate people on my passion. The classes I have taken at WIU have equipped me for realizing that dream. I am learning more in this department than I ever thought was possible. I want others to know that it is not where you come from that dictates whether or not you will succeed in pursuing a degree in agriculture. Rather, it is whether you are ready to take the challenge and pursue your passion.
My name is Laura Verplaetse and I am currently a student at Western Illinois University. I am studying agricultural science with a minor in animal science. I am also a member of the Chi Omega Fraternity of the Gamma Kappa chapter here on campus. If you would like to contact me for further questions or discussion email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.