Women in Agriculture



When you think of agriculture, what are some of your first thoughts? Mine are livestock, passion, farming, hard work, long hours, and male farmers. Most do not think about women within this industry. We, women, are rapidly changing this thought process for many people.

Women are becoming more visible within the agriculture community. Today, 31% of farmers are women. This number has increased from the 14% that was recorded in 2012. Female farmers are leery of assuming the title as a farmer. They feel as if it is a man’s role to hold and many do not feel deserving of the title.

I am frequently asked why I chose this field to study. It always gives me a sense of pride to answer this question. I feel as if the agriculture industry has some of the best people in the world working within it. These are the people that care enough about others to provide their next meal while working long hours for little pay. There are many qualities that this industry holds that I myself value, hard work, dedication, accountability, and wisdom are a few.

Through my educational career, I have had the opportunity to meet many inspirational women within agriculture. In high school, I took many ag classes taught by Jennifer Waters. It was then that she sparked my interest in agriculture. With her passion and drive, she has become a role model for many people including myself. After transferring to Western, I decided to rush for Sigma Alpha. This is the professional agriculturalIMG_0455
sorority here at WIU. Becoming a sister within this sorority has allowed me to network and gain knowledge from young women with the same interests as me. I am fortunate to have built these relationships with great girls that I will have forever.

Now more than ever, there are many opportunities for women to become involved in agriculture. The Women Changing the Face of Agriculture is a large conference held every year to show young girls this. Many ag businesses come as well as guest speakers for the girls to interact with. I have attended this conference multiple times and each time has been a valuable experience. Being able to learn from and listen to women that have been in agriculture for many years is profitable for ladies who want to become involved. These women are inspiring young ladies, like myself to get out in the fields without fear of judgment.

With many ways to be connected within agriculture today, women are contributing to the success of the industry, more than we thought was possible.

About the Author:

Hello, my name is April Leinberger and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University. I am currently studying Agriculture Science. I am involved in Sigma Alpha Professional 300-4850-072.jpgAgricultural Sorority, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Ag Vocators. Though I did not grow up with a farm background, I am submerging myself into this industry. Choosing to attend
WIU was one of the best decisions that I have made within my educational career. I have made lifelong friends and gained invaluable education from this University. Next May, I will be graduating and taking the knowledge I have learned throughout my time here and applying it to the workforce.

To learn more about how to get involved visit these sites: womenchangingthefaceofagriculture.com & sigmaalpha.org

(I own all photos above)


Sigma Alpha: Not your typical sorority


sigma alpha fall group

Prior to coming to Western Illinois University to further my education, I always had told myself, “I would never join a sorority.” I had thought that sorority girls were nothing but a bunch of rich girls who always had to wear a new outfit to go out or that they bought their friendships. However, I am now a sorority girl and the thoughts I had about Greek life were wrong.

Sigma Alpha, the Professional Agriculture Sorority, is the sorority I chose to get involved in at Western. Sigma Alpha is a sorority of girls who share the same interest and love for agriculture. The best way to describe Sigma Alpha is to look at it’s objective:

“The objective of Sigma Alpha shall be to promote its members in all facets of agriculture and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. It is the purpose of the members to strive for achievement in scholarship, leadership, and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture.”

But why choose Sigma Alpha? Through my experience, automatically meeting over 20 girls who would all end up so close in your MC (membership candidate) class made you feel like you were back in kindergarten where everyone wanted to be friends with everyone. Getting your Sigma Alpha “mom” and finding out that that one person would soon be a friend and just a call away when needed. Getting to meet the active girls and only hoping the MC process would speed up to be able to get your first stitched letters. Within those 6 weeks of the process you learn about Sigma Alpha and learn to appreciate the organization as a whole.

A few words from our current President, Elizabeth Miller, “My experience within Sigma Alpha has truly been such an eye opening and rewarding experience that I think every girl should have at least once in their lives. I’ve watched the sorority as a whole change and adapt to the times as well as the girls within our local chapter change. Just because it’s a professional agriculture sorority doesn’t mean you grew up on a farm or both of your parents are in agriculture, or it doesn’t even have to mean to have declared agriculture as a major. You just simply need to want to grow within a sisterhood that supports and has similar morals to those agriculturalists in society. And because of those beliefs within the sorority, I was able to find my “home.”  A piece of advice I’ve been giving to all our new members is this; whether it’s within Sigma Alpha or in another organization, be sure to get involved within the leadership roles of the organization you choose.”


     Sigma Alpha gave me sisters I don’t ever want to lose contact with, and with the bond we have through sisterhood I don’t think I ever will. So when looking into sororities, think about Sigma Alpha. It will be the best decision you will never regret. I know it was for me.

    Hello, my name is Breann Knapp and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University studying agriculture business, with a minor in marketing. I am from Ashland Illinois, a town of about 1,200 people with farming being a huge part of the community. At Western I am involved in many clubs through the school of Ag; Sigma Alpha (sisterhood chair), Ag Vocator Team, Collegiate Farm Bureau (treasurer),and Hoof n Horn Club.

Being a Woman in Agriculture.

Being a woman in agriculture is hard.

I have been involved in the agriculture industry my whole life and over the years I’ve noticed an increase in women being involved but it still doesn’t mean that we get treated the same as men or looked upon the same. While in my working career I have detasseled for eight years and have had two internships for different agriculture companies. While spending those many summers working alongside the opposite sex it became blatantly obvious that women do not get the same respect as men.

I would consider myself a strong and a very hard worker (I wouldn’t say the same for my school work though) and I pride myself because of it. Most of the time I am the person that works the hardest out of everyone else and I am usually the first person to work and the last one to leave. I have even been complimented for working so hard. Even though when I work that hard to prove that a woman can work in the same industry as a man I still don’t get treated like “one of the guys”.  I remember one time during one of my internships we were loading seed into a planter and the seed that we were using was special and very expensive because that seed was going to eventually produce the seed that farmers use, and I was walking over to pick up a bag from the truck and my supervisor stopped me and told me to let the guys do it because the seed was too expensive and he didn’t want me to drop it. Of course, I did what I was told but in my head, all I could think of was that I have been filling planter bins since I was 10. I knew how heavy the bags were and I knew how to do it and the only reason why he told me to stop was because I was a female and he thought that because of that I was unable to do the same work or have the same quality of work that they were doing. By the end of the summer, I got to prove to my supervisor how hard of a worker I was by showing him that I was responsible and could do the same kind of work that the other people were doing, and he eventually started treating me like “one of the guys.” There have been other instances like that that has happened to me throughout the years but I will never forget that one.


Photo from: Evelyn Powers’ Instagram

There are many strong and powerful women within the agriculture industry (24,265 in Illinois, according to the USDA) right now that are making a difference, but I hope that one day we won’t be looked down upon like we have been for so many years. When females and males are treated equally and given equal opportunity in the agriculture industry but currently that is not the case. I know many girls who I go to WIU with that are more talented and smarter than most of the guys and it hurts my heart to think that they will have to work twice as hard to get just as far as them, I know that that is how it has been for me. So the thought that I want to leave with you is why in the world that we live in today do women within agriculture still get less respect or offered fewer opportunities than men?


14141536_10201921524555121_7476589775825289912_nI am Evelyn Powers. I am a senior at Western Illinois University. In May I will be graduating with an Agriculture Science Degree with a minor in Ag Economics and Plant Breeding. I have worked 10 summers doing jobs related to seed production and after I graduate that is what I like to continue doing.

Thank you for reading!

Photo taken by Sawyer Steidler .

Sigma Alpha: The Sorority that might just change the face of Agriculture


sigma alpha 1.jpg

Sigma Alpha is a professional agricultural sorority at Western Illinois University and many schools across the country.  Sigma Alpha stands for Sisters in Agriculture. Our mission is cultivating Professional Women in Agriculture. Sigma Alpha has four pillars that we value and uphold within the chapter leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and service.  When I rushed in fall 2015, I thought I was just going to be getting involved with other girls that had the same interest, but now looking back at it, it is so much more than just a group of girls with the same interest getting together every Monday night. These girls have given me a home away from home, support and a better network.    IMG_6442 Without this group of girls I would not have the network and support needed while being away at school. Many of these girls I have really gotten close to and Sigma Alpha has given me the opportunity to meet other girls with the same interest from different states. I never thought I would be in a sorority but I am glad I did. The objective of this sorority shall be to promote its members in all facets of agriculture and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. It is the purpose of the members to strive to achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture. IMG_6048

Now that our membership is at a steady 42 girls, we are ready to branch out and get more involved within our community. After nationals, which is the Sigma Alpha governing body, was here back in February we sat down as a chapter and determined that our next big step was to make the best philanthropy we could. We then established a committee that would bring all of our thoughts together in an organized way. After just a few short months we have organized our thoughts and are now working on a philanthropy for this upcoming November where we hope to have a successful trivia night that will bring in money to a local organizations that’s called Linda’s Fund, which offers support to breast cancer patients and their families that visit McDonough District Hospital.

It might just sound like all we do is work, with meetings on Monday nights and working to create a philanthropy. Which is not completely false, but as a group we like to have fun as well. We partner with our brother fraternities, Alpha Gamma Sigma and Alpha Gamma Rho at least once a semester for a social. We also try to have at least one alumni event during WIU homecoming, but thats not all. My personal favorite is our formal each spring semester. The past two years we have gone to Stoney Creek in Quincy, IL and there we are able to unwind with our sisters after a stressful semester.

You can see that we work a lot and try to have fun occasionally too. Although I never would have though in a million years that an agriculture sorority could turn my life around with a meeting every Monday night and some fun times in between. I know that one day I will be able to tell my kids that a sorority is not like what you see in the movies, a sorority is where you make memories that will last you a lifetime!






My name is Kaylee Kirby,  I am a Senior at Western Illinois University with a major  in Agriculture Business and Minor in agronomy. I am an active member in Sigma Alpha, Hoof n Horn, and Ag Council. I am from Greenview, IL where my family farm is located, but currently resided in Mason City, IL.  I have always been passionate about agriculture and plan to continue after graduation in May 2018




A Night at the WIU Bull Sale


On March 10th, 2017 the WIU Livestock Center was filled with everyone from the young boy with the oversized cowboy hat to the older gentleman that must use his cane to get around. Some drove from out of state and some only lived five minutes away. There was one thing in common with all of these people… they were ready to see what amazing progress the fifty out of sixty bulls had made while at the WIU Annual Bull Test!

Sigma Alpha
Some of the Sigma Alpha girls working in the kitchen.

When you first walk into the Livestock Center, your senses will be overwhelmed. The sight of all the bulls ready for sale, the smell of the charcoal grill that was preparing the meals for the night, and the overall feel of what the night would hold. The women of Western’s Sigma Alpha sorority were ready to serve up some delicious ribeye and pork chop sandwiches, and never forgetting to remind everyone about the homemade desserts waiting for them after they finish their meal. We always love having multiple trips from the same families when it comes to 2nds or even 3rds on dinner!

If you raise your hand you better have that number ready! When the auctioneer, Monte Lowderman, gets to rolling the ears perk up and everyone’s eyes are on the prize. He doesn’t have to do too much work selling these bulls, they sell themselves! Western Illinois University has a long line of credibility when it comes to the 45th Annual Bull Test and everyone knows it. Ribeye ratio, EPDs, birth weight, calving ease, and the list goes on. Monte did not let a bull go bye without the crowd knowing just how amazing he was. These bulls have every detail listed about them in the online and paper catalog. The students and staff that ran the bull test didn’t miss a step when making sure the buyer knew what he or she was getting.

The amount of work that goes into this bull sale does not start the day of, it starts long before that. Near the end of June, students and staff assisting with the bull test will send out information to breeders from all over the country. This will lead breeders into knowing when they need to stop vaccinating their bulls for certain things so they will be eligible for the test which is usually late July and early August. By late August the final entries are due to the school. This year the bulls were delivered the weekend of September 27th and 28th. After they are delivered they will have till mid October to get settled into their new environment before they are put on test. Throughout the 120 days these bulls are on test, they will be weighed to see how their progress is coming along. After the 120 days they will be taken off test and get to relax until sale day.

As we entered the end of the sale, the ribeyes and pork chops are slim to none, the pies are selling for free, and the sale is still just as exciting as it was when the first bull was sold. When we were done with the sale I wanted a student’s perspective on what it was like in the pens. I asked Rachel Hill what her experience was like tonight and this is what she had to say: “Even though it was spring break, we had a lot of dedicated students come out and help. It was definitely a new experience.”

The 2018 Bull Sale will take place on March 9th after the bulls are delivered to the WIU Bull Test in September and be put on test in October. For more information about this year’s bull sale and what kind of bulls come out of our test, please visit our WIU Bull Sale Facebook page or the WIU Bull Sale website.



My name is Courtney Bedtka, I am a senior at Western Illinois University with a major in Agricultural Business with a focus in Animal Science. I am from Ashland, Illinois, where I have worked at West Central Bank since 2013. While attending WIU, I have joined Sigma Alpha, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Hoof N’ Horn.

Thank you for reading!



Finding My Missing Piece: Agriculture Greek Life at WIU

Have you ever found a puzzle in your grandparent’s house that you worked on for hours just to find the final piece is missing?  I have.  As a transfer student, I didn’t know if I would ever find a place at Western Illinois University that I fit, let alone finding the missing piece I was always searching for.  I knew I had found my missing piece when I joined Western Illinois University’s Sigma Chapter of Sigma Alpha; a Women’s Professional Agricultural Sorority.   

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Miller

Before attending Western Illinois University (WIU), I never imagined myself participating in Greek life or being in a sorority.  Growing up you see the media’s perception of what being in a sorority looks like.  Parties, alcohol, hazing, paying for friends, and getting your Mrs. degree.  I never thought that was a lifestyle I would enjoy.  After transferring to Western and joining a few agriculture related clubs and organizations, I had the pleasure of being introduced to several new influential people.  These people invited me to a Sigma Alpha interest meeting, but at the time I just laughed and brushed it off.  After a semester of getting involved on campus, joining clubs like Collegiate FFA/Post-Secondary Agriculture Students/ Agricultural Education Club, I met a few members of Sigma Alpha that continued to entice me to further pursue member candidacy.  After I had my first semester under my belt, I thought long and hard about the benefits that Sigma Alpha could bring to me and attended a rush event.  After attending this event, I realized my perception of what a sorority is and does was completely wrong.  The women that I met that night discussed how Sigma Alpha had influenced their life and for the first time I could picture myself in a sorority.  Soon after, I was extended a bid and decided to accept.  At that point, I began the membership candidate process.  This is a six-week long process where I learned about our founders, our history, and our purposes.  Throughout my membership candidate (MC) period, it was our goal to get to know every active member from their hometown to their favorite food.  I did not realize it at the time, but I was beginning to make friendships that will last a lifetime.  Getting to know the active members proved to me that we all had common interests.  This reassured me that joining Sigma Alpha was right where I needed to be.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Miller

Sigma Alpha was the missing piece that I have been looking for.  I am beyond happy that I went out on a whim and decided to finally attend a rush event.  Finding a sisterhood with girls that have the same goals and interests as me has challenged me to live up to my full potential and not be afraid to put myself out there.  It has helped me build confidence in my field and collaborate efficiently with others.  Without that push, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  Sigma Alpha is a great networking opportunity and I would recommend any woman who is passionate about agriculture to join.


My name is Vanessa Scott and I am currently studying Agriculture Science with an emphasis in Agronomy and a minor in Plant Breeding.  I am involved in the Agronomy Club, Collegiate FFA/Post Secondary Agriculture Students/Agriculture Education Club and Sigma Alpha here at Western Illinois University.  After graduation in May, I plan on furthering my future as an Agronomist.  If you have any questions feel free to email me at v-scott@wiu.edu.  Thank you for reading!

How college and an internship changed my career path


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sun setting on brown farms photo taken by Shannon Brown


Growing up I was told I could be anything I wanted when I became an adult. At first I want to be a veterinarian, because I loved animals, I wanted to work with horses because that was my passion. I thought I would work with some of the best horses in the world and I would own many, many horses. All that changed when I started college, my first semester I was at University of Kentucky with a pre-vet major. I was so homesick I just wanted to be back on our farm helping like I always did every fall and spring. Then it came time for my animal science lab, I passed out after they cut open a cow’s stomach. I knew then I needed to change my major when I changed schools.  I changed my major to agronomy, which is plant and soil science, and I fell in love with it. I knew that my major could help farmers, which is something I care a lot about. I have had three internships over the past few years that have helped me decide what I want to do with my life. The first one I worked for Monsanto, in the entomology department, I learned insects aren’t my thing. I loved the job especially the part where I got to travel all over Nebraska and Iowa. The second was with Advance Crop Care, I scouted fields all day every day, I loved it, it was by far my favorite internship. I learned so much from that internship that I can use in my future career and I liked that what I learned in the classroom applied and what I learned in the field applied in the classroom.

My third internship I was with Growmark FS I worked out of Conserv FS in Waterman IL. It was a great experience I met people from all over Illinois, Iowa, the east coast and even Canada. We started the internship off in Bloomington IL,  it was right after school let out for the summer. We met at a hotel where we were introduced to everyone and then went to the headquarters,  and then we learned about how Growmark works and what all goes on. In June we met again, we toured Wrigley field and then a grain elevator. The next day we sat and listen to a few people talk about the company and also did personality tests. The last time we met was in August, we had a big fancy dinner on the first night where the interns got to bring someone from their school and introduce them to everyone. They handed out awards and scholarships. The next day we gave our presentations, that we had been working on all summer. There were a verity of projects that people did,  It was a summer to remember for sure. If you have any interest in the Growmark internship program visit: www.growmark.com

where I worked summer 2016


60 interns for Growmark: from the Growmark website


photo credits Marcy Brown

img_2631Hello everyone my name is Shannon Brown, I call Steward, IL home. I am a senior at Western Illinois University in Macomb IL. where I study Ag science with an emphasis in agronomy and a minor in Ag business. I grew up on corn and soybean farm where I am the fourth generation to work and live there. I work alongside my dad every chance I get. I love tractor pulling, which is what I do all summer.  I am a member of Sigma Alpha, which is  a professional agriculture sorority , collegiate FFA, Ag mech club, and collegiate farm bureau.  I  graduate in May 2017. I plan to either be a crop scout or do research with a company after graduating. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at sl-brown@wiu.edu