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Participation in 4-H led sisters Jessica and Rachel Wilson to an interest in pursuing veterinary degrees at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson)

Sisters show promise for the future of agriculture

By Ms. Brittany Claire Jacks
MSU Extension Service
Student Worker

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- As children, Jessica and Rachel Wilson of Rankin County began working with animals, and now the sisters plan to devote their careers to this vocation after earning veterinary medicine degrees from Mississippi State University.

Jessica received her Bachelor of Science degree in animal and dairy sciences in May 2014 and is currently working on her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Rachel graduated in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in animal and dairy sciences, and she plans to enter the veterinary college in June.

“I remember always being around animals,” Jessica said. “Whether it was helping my grandmother in her chicken houses; caring for our horses, cattle and sheep; or playing with various pets ranging from pot-bellied pigs to cats and dogs, animals have always played an integral part in our lives.”

“When I was very young, I specifically remember being at my grandparents’ farm as much as I could,” Rachel said. “I was in awe of the veterinarian who would come out to the farm to look at the animals. Seeing a successful female veterinarian handling livestock inspired me to be a veterinarian.”

Family is very important to the Wilson sisters. Both women credit their parents, Van and Kim Wilson, for giving them a strong foundation.

“I would not be where I am today without my family. My dream of becoming a veterinarian is coming true partly because of them,” Rachel said. “My parents invested so much time and money into raising both small and large animals. Without these animals, we would not have had the opportunity to show livestock in 4-H or county fairs.”

The Wilson sisters were very active in 4-H while growing up. They exhibited cattle, commercial lambs and horses. They still volunteer to help with 4-H shows at their local Rankin County MSU Extension Service office.

“4-H made me realize I wanted to become a veterinarian,” Jessica said. “I learned about leadership, communication and working with others through 4-H. I also learned about livestock and veterinary medicine. The hands-on experiences I had through 4-H helped me learn more about these things than I ever would have without it. I owe so much to this organization, and I cannot wait to give back to it one day.”

Jessica and Rachel said they hope to make an impact on agriculture through their future efforts. Both sisters won the Diane Evans Memorial Scholarship from Mississippi Women for Agriculture, a program of the MSU Extension Service.

“I am interested in bettering food safety and public health,” Rachel said. “So much of our food is imported from other countries. I want to assist our local farmers and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture in improving and expanding our livestock industry in order to better supply society’s demands.”

Women are becoming more and more involved in agriculture, and these young leaders are part of a growing movement.

“Women are in all types of leadership roles for agriculture throughout the country,” Jessica said. “I have had the privilege of growing up during a time when women had the opportunity to embrace agriculture and make their way into the industry. I think diversity in any industry helps it to change and grow for the better. I hope to continue building the agricultural business with my talents.”

The sisters said they hope their determination will demonstrate the value of persistence to younger generations of women who are interested in agriculture.

“You really can do anything you set your mind to,” Rachel said. “Growing up, I always doubted my ability to become a veterinarian. I realized that I could accept failure, but I could not accept giving up. I encourage younger generations to never settle for the minimum, strive for excellence in all that you do and never give up. Life is too short to not try and accomplish your dreams.”

Jessica and Rachel said they intend to open a mixed-animal veterinary practice in Rankin County. They also hope to purchase and grow a small cattle herd in the future.

“I think the future is very bright for women farmers,” Jessica said. “As time passes, the stereotype that women cannot be farmers is laid to rest. I am excited to see what lies ahead in the future of agriculture and the impact my sister and I hope to make through it.”

Contact: Jessica Wilson, 601-946-3107; or Rachel Wilson, 601-988-7568

Released: May 25, 2016
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