Growing up like most kids, I wanted to be a teacher, or a doctor; not once did I want to become a farmer. As a kid I was always on the smaller size, and having seen my father work full time and be a farmer on the side I knew that it was not something I would be able to do. Fast forward a few years to when I started high school, I joined FFA. This is something I did because my sister seemed to enjoy it and it filled in my extra time slot. I never realized how much of an impact this class would make on my life. After going to different contests I found I loved agronomy, something I had been around my whole life. As the years went by, I continued learning more about agriculture and even became an officer of my FFA chapter for the last three years of high school.
As it came closer to graduation, I knew I needed to start figuring out what I wanted to do from there. My parents have always been my biggest supporters and tried naming things that they could see me doing, and signing me up for different college visits. Though they would never tell me what to do they would definitely help push me in the direction I wanted to go. On my visit to Western I got to see the agriculture program, where I decided this was the place for me. After applying and being accepted, I started telling friends and family that I was going to be going to the school for Agriculture, specifically to become a plant breeder. There were many people who were surprised that I would go into the field of agriculture. I was not what they considered the typical look. I was so young and tiny that many could not even believe I was old enough to go to college, and even if I was they would have never guessed that I was going into agriculture.
Despite all the odds I came to Western and took an “intro to agronomy class”. I remembered the first few labs being unsure if I was in the right major. All of these kids seemed to know what they were looking for in labs, and seemed to understand most of what was going on. In one of the first labs we were learning how to take stand counts using a tape measure. I was locking mine at 17.5 feet and set the tape on the ground, I remember how the tape rolled up and the teacher walks over and said there is a lock on the tape let me show you. Was I asked because I was a tiny girl? This had made me frustrated that someone thought that I could not even do a simple task. Come to find out the tape measure had been broken and would not lock and I was apologized to. A few months later this same teacher asked me to come work for him at the school’s farm. I did have to turn him down though because I already had an internship for the summer. That summer I was a crop scout for CHS Inc. I was partnered with a boy who was fairly large, when I asked myself: Do they think I am unable to do this on my own because I am tiny and will they not believe me as a girl?.
Once back at school my professor, Dr. Mark Bernards, again asked if I would work for him. I finally agreed and started working with him. One day he told me that:
“he did not enjoy the equipment side of agriculture like many of the people do, he loved the science behind it all.”
This statement I could not have agreed more with. This inspired me, because like me Bernards was on the smaller side, yet had become very successful in what they were doing. While working at the farm I even worked on some of the projects the men would typically be doing. I would be asked to help since I was tiny and able to fit in small spaces which made it easier for me to accomplish. Being tiny can have its advantages, and it should not stop anyone from accomplishing their goals.
Having always been a tiny girl in agriculture I know that there is still a long way to go for me to be accepted as not the typical farmer type. With each coming new day women become more of an excepted part in agricultural community. Maybe one day people will not look at young tiny women as crazy when they say they are majoring in agriculture. As well as have young girls dream to one day become women in agriculture and not just doctors and teachers. To all of the young tiny girls out there, dream big and do not let others tell you, you are to tiny to do something.
My name is Kelsey Bergman, I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. My major is Agriculture Science with a focus in agronomy, and I am minoring in both plant breeding and ag economics. I am on Weeds Team, in Agronomy Club, part of the Sigma Alpha sorority, and work on the WIU Research Farm. This summer I have an internship as a plant breeder with AgReliant Genetics. After this internship I will be back at Western to finish out my senior year. Once graduating I will hopefully be accepted into a grad program of my choice to get my masters.