The foundation for a cutting-edge agricultural economy is good education, varied experiences and continuous learning. Mary Rickert comes from a long line of agricultural leaders. She is a descendent of one of California agriculture’s most influential families. Her grandfather Julian McPhee was instrumental in saving California Polytechnic State University from closure in the 1930s. In the process, he established an agriculture program that is highly revered across the country.
The hard work and reasoned
input from women have
always been an integral part of the family farm
As a teen, Rickert was the first woman to show livestock competitively as a member of FFA. In those years, she not only showed cattle; she was also the first woman to receive the organization’s prestigious state farmer award. Her career as a leader in agriculture continues today. Rickert is a founding partner of Western Ag Services and a co-manager of the Prather Ranch in northern California.
"Women have always been an integral part of the success of the family farm," she explains. "Their hard work and reasoned input has made them a key part of successful operations across this country. In the past 50 years, we’ve seen an increase in women in the agricultural industry. They bring a perspective and a dimension to the decision-making process for many farming operations and in the boardrooms of large agribusiness concerns."
Rickert proudly points out, "Women are masters at multitasking, weighing all the options and offering an intuitive component to decisions in the complex world of agriculture in the 21st century."
Paving the path. When asked about breaking into a male-dominated industry, Rickert notes, "My first real encounter with trying to join the ranks of an all-male organization was in 1968. Back then, I was one of a handful of women who lobbied at the California State FFA Convention to allow females to become members." She learned a few lessons in the process, explaining, "There was a great deal of resistance and I realized, at the age of 15, that I would have to work that much harder to prove that a girl could compete with the guys."
The experience paid off. Rickert recalls, "Females ultimately were admitted to the organization. I was on a dairy judging team and spent several hours every day practicing with my siblings. The first year I could legally compete, I accomplished my goal. I was high individual in dairy cattle judging at the state finals. It was one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my life."
Valuable contributions. With pride, Rickert shares her hope for the future: "Perhaps one of the obstacles we women face is to be acknowledged and appreciated for our contributions to the family farming operation. Traditionally, we maintain the farm records and do the bookkeeping, but we can also step out from behind the desk to fix a fence, milk cows and drive a tractor. We will continue to take an active role in the family operation and hopefully, in the years to come, women will be recognized for their numerous contributions."
¦ Monday, December 3
Amarillo, Texas; Ambassador Hotel
¦ Wednesday, December 5
Salina, Kan.; Salina Bicentennial Center
¦ Friday, December 7
Denver, Colo.; Denver Merchandise Mart
To register for Legacy events, go to www.farmjournallegacyproject.com