News Filed Under Women for Agriculture
INDIANOLA, Miss. -- Learning how to show pigs in 4-H livestock competitions made a leader out of Sarah Thomas Smith.
Smith, 17, is a junior at Indianola Academy in Sunflower County, Mississippi. She has been an active member of the Sunflower County Livestock 4-H club since 2010.
In three days, Teresa Dyess shifted her business focus from produce to poultry.
The change began two years ago with an offhand remark from her husband, Joe Dyess.
“He told a broiler grower in Wayne County we wouldn’t mind building pullet houses because we wanted to diversify our farm,” she said. “We didn’t think any more about it, and then the next day a poultry processor called and offered us a contract. A banker came the next day, and everything fell into place.”
Lanette Crocker, coordinator for the MSU Extension Service in Wayne County, said Teresa Dyess’ adaptability has helped her maintain success through the farm’s transition.
Wouldn’t it be nice if entering a Mississippi State University classroom solved every midlife crisis?
At age 52, Sylvia Clark found herself at a crossroad as she reflected on her life as a small business owner and caregiver for her family. Reared on a Webster County farm, Clark married shortly after earning an associate’s degree and settled into her role as the wife of a Vardaman sweet potato farmer. Eventually, their children were grown and their parents no longer needed her care. With the support of her family, Clark enrolled at MSU in 2006 to finish her formal education in agriculture and extension education.
PICAYUNE, Miss. -- What was once a Grade A dairy farm for more than 20 years now serves as the flower farm owned by Terri Doyle and her husband, Dave.
Located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Coastal Ridge Farm offers fresh bouquets that can be found at Rouse's Markets in the New Orleans area and on the coast from May to November.
"The dairy industry had been getting tougher every year for small dairies," Terri Doyle explained. "When Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed a lot of our property, Dave and I decided it was time to close the dairy."
BEAUMONT, Miss. -- For 16 years, Christine Coker has been doing what she loves: putting food on people's tables.
"In college, I really liked the study of plants, but I knew I wasn't going to be the world's greatest botanist," she said. "What I really wanted to do was feed people."
By Jessica Smith
MSU Extension Service
Providing expertise and knowledge to Mississippi dairy producers was not always a career goal for dairy specialist Amanda Stone.
Stone has been an assistant professor since August 2016 with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, where she works directly with students, dairy producers and MSU Extension agents.
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Lida McDowell taught science and math for 30 years at the high school and university levels, and she keeps finding ways to educate while enjoying an interest she had no time to pursue until retirement.
The raised-bed vegetable gardens she and church friend Karen Walker maintain year-round serve as a classroom for a young audience at Thames Elementary School in Hattiesburg.
“What we’re trying to do is get the kids to enjoy nature, be outside and appreciate where their food comes from,” McDowell said.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Natasha Haynes has never lived or worked on a farm, but her professional career with the Mississippi State University Extension Service circles around agriculture just the same.
Haynes is an Extension agent in Hinds County and host of "The Food Factor," the weekly video feature produced by the MSU Extension Service. She grew up in Jackson and earned a bachelor's degree in family and consumer sciences from Alcorn State University.
CLARKSDALE, Miss. -- Almost 200 years after Mississippi became a state, residents may find it difficult to imagine a time when women could not be Extension agricultural agents. That time was right up until the late 1990s when Ann Fulcher Ruscoe became the "county agent" for Coahoma County.
"Most entry level jobs for the Extension Service involved 4-H responsibilities. That's how I started in 1980 in Bolivar County," Ruscoe said. "Eventually, 4-H agents would usually become home economists if they were women or county agents if they were men."
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- When poultry science began receiving academic attention, women were the first poultry husbandry faculty. They were housed in the home economics departments of land-grant universities, a carryover from the days when women kept chickens at home for eggs and meat.
Eventually, universities created poultry science departments, populated mostly by men.
Today, Mary Beck, head of the Department of Poultry Science at Mississippi State University since 2012, makes her mark in a field dominated by men.
CEDAR BLUFF, Miss. -- Ali Fratesi Pinion may be part of the millennial generation, but she farms more like her great-grandparents.
Pinion and her husband, Dustin, operate Beaverdam Farms in Clay County on the principle that healthy soils create better foods and communities. The Pinions have modeled their farm after a successful project in Virginia that emphasizes building up the soil, capturing carbons and feeding local communities.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Many people in the agricultural world complain that consumers do not understand what farmers do, but few of them are willing to dedicate their careers to a solution.
Jessica Smith, a senior at Mississippi State University, grew up on a farm in south Mississippi and is majoring in agricultural communications because she sees education as a key element in changing how her peers perceive something as basic as where their food comes from.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Dawn Morgan's father was an organic gardener before organic was cool, but for years she preferred a more manicured yard and the practices that entailed.
Then she began reading about the decline of bee colonies and remembered her dad's orchard and garden buzzing with pollinators.
"Dad kept bees but in a very primitive way," she said. "No bee suit, no smoker, never used herbicides or pesticides. He did everything naturally."
By Jessica Smith
MSU Extension Service
LOUIN, Miss. -- For one Jasper County 4-H member, a junior livestock show career has come full circle.
Lacie Winn, 18, has competed in 4-H livestock shows across the state since 2006. The youth development program is managed by the Mississippi State University Extension Service and open to youngsters from 5-18 years of age.
HOLLANDALE, Miss. -- Marjan de Regt and her husband, Jan, planned to spend three years farming in the Mississippi Delta before returning to their native Netherlands.
That was 29 years ago, and the family still calls Hollandale home.
The de Regts farmed 2,600 acres of soybeans, 500 acres of rice and 200 acres of corn in 2016. This year was only the third time they tried corn.
VARDAMAN, Miss. -- After 30 years behind a desk, Jan Cook Houston has returned to her first love and her second career, this time seated on a tractor pulling a sweet potato digger.
“Growing up here, I never thought farming was an option for a woman,” Houston said. “Dad didn’t expect me to farm, but he knew I could.”
Houston returned to her roots in 2009, a year that lives in infamy for growers in the heart of Mississippi’s sweet potato country.
CADARETTA, Miss. -- A 325-acre farm in northwest Webster County has never been owned by anyone but a Pittman.
Fran Pittman has designs on keeping it that way.
She and her husband, Alfred Pittman, have operated Pittman Farms -- part of which includes the land they refer to as “The Old Home Place” -- since they married in 1974.
ROLLING FORK, Miss. -- Mindy Rutherford devotes her days to the family’s expanding Rolling Fork farm.
A former teacher, she left the classroom 11 years ago to focus full time on the row crop farm’s administrative duties and to help manage the first beef cattle herd she and her husband, Bill, bought. They are continuing a legacy begun by Bill Rutherford’s father in 1971.
“I always heard that if you are passionate about what you do, you never work a day in your life. It’s true, and that’s how I feel about the farm,” Mindy Rutherford said.
VICKSBURG, Miss. -- After raising five children, Bobbie Beard began to concentrate on her second passion -- gardening.
“I’ve been digging in the dirt since I was 7 years old,” said Beard, who lives in Vicksburg. “I’ve always loved plants -- flowers, shrubs, trees. When my kids were grown, I decided it was my turn to do something for myself.”
Instead of keeping the beauty of her garden to herself, Beard decided to share it with others. At age 52, she began what is now The Flower Center Nursery in her own backyard.
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.