Female #FoodHeroes

Dawn Refsell

Dawn is the Field Development Manager for the Midwest United States Region for Valent USA LLC. Her team focuses on corn, soybean and wheat crops, providing technical support to the sales team, and conducting research and market support throughout the Midwest. Dawn also manages Valent’s Midwest Agriculture Research Center; the team there conducts research trials over 160 acres.


Why do you love your job?

I love helping people and asking questions. My job allows me to ask questions and create solutions that will hopefully help solve the problems farmers face relating to crop production. If I can help develop a product that allows them to be more productive and profitable, then it will make a difference in their livelihood and the sustainability of their operation for generations to come.

How did you get here?

I was raised on a grain and livestock farm in NW Iowa and was active in 4-H (an American youth organization). My parents taught me the importance of education when I was young, it was something no one could take from you. I had a few bumps along the way, but they opened doors to opportunities that I would have never had. No regrets, great mentors and friends got me here.

What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?

Your knowledge needs to expand beyond the books. Get out and learn the mechanics, economics, and social decisions that concern your passion – see the full story and don’t be afraid to get dirty. Most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Surround yourself with people that support your dreams and ambitions.

How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?

We must be willing to accept change and evolve our production practices. Consumers continue to become more affluent in many areas of the world as income and access to technology increases. The consumer will want to know more about their food and how it was produced. The consumers inquest for knowledge will continue to influence the decision-making process at the grocery store, ultimately affecting the supply chain, which includes the processors and the farmers. We need to be aware of evolving consumer needs but also balance the known fact that there are still people that are starving. We need to feed them all! This also puts the farmer in a strategic position, as we are both the producers and consumers of food, and we can share our own stories of how we produce our food.

What’s one challenge you face as a woman in agriculture and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?

As there are fewer of us, our mistakes are more noticeable. It’s our nature to want perfection. However, accepting failure and not knowing is part of the learning process and becoming resilient. We need to be bigger than who we are, we can play with the men. We need to encourage the next generation of women to be brave and fearless.

There are women out there advocating for other women, and other women who are out there just getting it done. Regardless of what camp you are in, women need to support other women in agriculture. Let’s do this!


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Dawn is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.