Growing up on her family farm in Minnesota, Lori Stevermer was destined to make a difference both on and off the farm. From her childhood involvement in the local 4H to working at a feed company after college and meeting her husband (a fellow hog farmer)—agriculture is in her blood.
“I often get asked, ‘how long have you been doing it?’ I just kind of say, ‘forever.’ It’s just my life, it’s what I do so it seems very natural.”
Now, Lori is the marketing manager for Hubbard Feeds, part of Alltech’s feed division. She has worked in the feed industry for over 30 years, and attributes her career path largely to her upbringing. However, with only 2% of the population actively involved in agriculture, Lori says the pool of talent coming into the industry can and should come from all types of backgrounds. A point she makes when presenting at schools and speaking to young kids about careers in ag—highlighting technology, engineering, science, and some other aspects of agriculture that aren’t always known to those unfamiliar with the business.
“When you look at the expanded agribusiness, we need those bright minds and people that are willing to ask questions and work—and they can come from anywhere. So, I think just letting people know that you don’t have to be from a farm to be in agriculture, that’s a big message that we need to get out there.”
And a big part of that talent pool needs to include women. “I think there’s opportunity everywhere within agriculture.” Both on the farm and off the farm—there are no limitations.
“We [women] do bring a different perspective. We view situations differently; we tend to be more collaborative in the way we approach things. We need our type of skill sets and our type of problem-solving abilities in agriculture. It just makes agriculture better.”
“I think back to when I first started in the feed business and there weren’t too many of us female sales representatives so certainly as more of us get involved with the industry, I think that’s more encouraging.”
Lori is a former president of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association and is a current board member of the National Pork Producers Council, which she says was a natural progression in her career and has helped her in her commitment to serving the industry that she grew up in. It’s also a place to meet knowledgeable individuals that share the same passion.
“That really encourages me and inspires me to do better and to be involved. That would be my word of advice or encouragement to others, to get involved, because I think the saying is the world is run by those who show up. So, if you feel strongly about something, show up and get involved.”
And not only is her presence on the board enhancing the industry, but it’s also paving the way for younger women.
“What was interesting was when I got on the NPPC board, I had a couple of younger ladies come up to me and tell me they were so glad to see another woman on the board. I hadn’t really thought about that—it wasn’t why I ran. I ran because I love the industry and I love to get involved but having them make those comments to me was very humbling.”
As they say, empowered women empower women.
“You walk down that path and make that path a little bit bigger for the next person. Everybody just follows along and it becomes maybe a little less rocky. Although it’s never going to be perfect, but it’s just a more comfortable path. There’s more of you walking and you feel more comfortable there.”
Quite simply, women play an important role in agriculture. “The encouraging thing is that we continue to see more women involved in agriculture.”
More than 50% of all U.S agriculture students are women. And as their careers progress, they’ll be involved in more management positions and leading those companies. That will change agriculture because it will make it more inclusive.”