This past summer I had the honor and the privilege to work alongside Stephanie Porter, C.C.A. Burrus Agronomist, as her agronomic intern. Stephanie grew up on a farm near Nokomis, Illinois, where her family still farms. When Stephanie first came into the field of agriculture, it was a mans world, but she quickly overcame the stereotype because she had such a passion for the agricultural field. This agronomist passion is driven by the gratification of being able to help farmers by solving weed, pest, and disease issues, recommending the correct products, or overall be able to increase the productivity on a farm. If anyone knows Stephanie, they know that she can be stubborn, which is a trait that she comes by honestly. This just means she does not easily back down or give up and, ultimately, lives for a challenge. After the very first field call with Stephanie, I knew I was going to be able to learn what it takes to be a strong independent female agriculturist.
Not only has Stephanie brought professionalism to the company of Burrus but she has also put time and effort into teaching not only the agronomic intern but the sales interns as well. Stephanie proceeded to tell me she was always a “hands on learner,” which means she learns from others by listening and performing various tasks. Although it is very time consuming, Stephanie has tried to take time for those to job shadow or she has developed trainings that consist of games and dialogue, with a lot visuals or field time. Times are changing for the Ag industry and getting the younger generation to get involved is a job Stephanie does well, and takes pride in. I have never met an agriculturist who spends more time tweeting pictures of corn and soybean diseases and letting the public know about certain disease outbreaks. She knows how to keep the public connected with her daily Facebook posts, twitter tweets and pod casts she performs for the Illinois Soybean Board.
That’s right folks, not only is Stephanie a full time agronomist, but she is also a spokeswoman for the Illinois Soybean Association! Earlier this year, Stephanie was invited, along with five other members from across the state, to become an Illinois Soybean Association IL Soy Advisor Envoy. Each of the five people wrote monthly blogs and were able to record a podcast as well as give a webinar on soybean diseases. Stephanie has really enjoyed helping to promote the Illinois Soybean Association and learn the latest research and information about soybeans.
Want to hear about Stephanie’s favorite field call? It was when she first started working at Burrus. Stephanie made one of her first field calls with a coworker in Southern Illinois because of poor emergence. Not only did she have to visit this field once but she later had to return to the field late on a Friday evening because he had realized there was poor pollination or barren ears. The older farmer insisted that there was something wrong with the hybrid and it had a disease. Stephanie tried to assure him that it was defiantly not a disease. After fully examining plants and asking every management question that she could think of, she had him take her back to her vehicle to get a soil probe. He grumbled and thought she had absolutely lost her mind. When he asked what Stephanie was doing, she said that she was taking soil samples of the good areas and the bad areas. When Stephanie left, he still was insisting that the hybrid was prone to disease. The soil samples from the bad areas had been reported to have a very high pH. She speculated that the high pH had tied up the phosphorus, thus caused a phosphorus deficiency, which could cause poor emergence and pollination. He admitted that “once upon a time” there could have been too much lime applied to the field and after presenting him with pages upon pages of information on this subject, he finally admitted on the phone that, “I might be on to something” and he wanted to work with me some more on this issue. This is when Stephanie knew she really liked her job.
As the summer came to an end, I sat down with Stephanie to try and solve the world’s problems. A big question that I asked her was, why do you feel it is important for women to be in the agricultural community? She stared at me as if to collect her thoughts. Her reply was that she does feel that women can be easily intimated in this industry, but everyone needs to get involved in the future if we want to solve all of the agricultural problems on the horizon. Stephanie is a very confident woman and is not easily frightened by a new challenge and for this characteristic I respect her greatly.
I can honestly say I have never worked with someone that was so loyal and passionate to the Burrus company as well as the agricultural industry. Stephanie Porter will always be my mentor even if I do not go into an agronomic career. All throughout the summer she was always there no matter what was going on within her life. She was always just a call or text away if I ever had questions, concerns, or even a “freak out” moment because I was stressing out making sure I full filled my weekly tasks. I hope one day I can become as amazing as Stephanie is at her job. She is strong, confident and independent and as a woman in agriculture those are traits that make you unstoppable.
“I am a senior at Western Illinois University, majoring in Agricultural Science with an emphasis in agronomy. I am from a rural town of Rushville, IL, where I live on a family farm. Even at a young age, I always had a passion for agriculture. My future goal is to obtain a career where I am able to help give back to the agricultural industry.” – Maggie Prather