Doris is a farmer and the Past President of American Agri-Women in the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area, USA.
Why do you love your jobs?
Agriculture is life, and my life is agriculture.
I love being active and involved. I love how interconnected everything I work on is. I love meeting people from all over the world and connecting people with what they need. I love being a problem solver, a question asker and answerer, and a detective. I love advocating and telling the story of agriculture. I love working with strong agricultural leaders, and those who are passionate about helping new faces in the industry. I love working outside when I can enjoy nature.
What do you do?
I wear many hats.
I am immediate Past President of American Agri-Women – the largest coalition of women in agriculture in the United States—where I and many others have invested thousands of hours volunteering to advocate and educate for agriculture. I was President of the organization for two years, and First Vice-President for two years. We also offer women in agriculture educational, leadership development and networking opportunities, and I currently work on several special projects to help achieve this.
I also work with the Presidents’ Council to develop our annual Fly-In Symposium, as well as serving as Head of Development.
I have also been teaching Farm and Agri-Business Management for the University of Minnesota MAST (Minnesota Agricultural Student Trainee) International Exchange program since grad school in 1989. The program brings students from over 70 countries to learn and work in the United States.
I remain actively involved in research work – including serving as co-lead on a project collecting data on the stress levels and stressors faced by women in agriculture.
I am president and owner of Sunrise Agricultural Associates, LLC, a consulting business that provides a full range of consulting services to agricultural entities.
I also am the Founder and Coordinator of the Minnesota State Fair Moo Booth, which since 1991 educates and informs the public about cattle and the farm-to-table process in a fun, family-oriented atmosphere.
And last but not least, since 2004 my family and I own and operate Sunrise Farm – a dairy where we rotationally graze our herd on all of our land.
How did you get here?
I grew up on a farm, was active in 4-H and FFA – American youth organizations – and owned my own small businesses while still a child. I have always been active and involved in projects, always taken on responsibility and followed through. This is demonstrated by a triple major as an undergrad at the University of Minnesota, while taking part in many organizations and campus governance.
I started consulting work during my studies and after that, worked for a major corporation, before going back to school for a graduate degree in Agricultural Economics. I also worked as an economist at the university, started teaching and then went into consulting more full time, while still teaching.
What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?
There are tremendous opportunities. Find what you are passionate about and dedicate yourself to it, never stop learning. Whatever you do, you need to wake up in the morning and be excited to do it. If you don’t have a passion for something move on and find what energizes you. Challenge yourself – do one thing every day that scares you. Find a good mentor or mentors. Spend time with people smarter than you. Keep your ears and your mind open. Be confident in yourself and don’t be afraid of strong people.
There is more, but you will have to wait for the book!
How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?
As the world is ever evolving, we will also need to continue to evolve and I am confident we will. We will continue to meet unlimited wants and needs with limited resources. The consumers of what we produce are growing more distant and distrustful of what we do to bring them food, fiber and fuel. There is more emotion and drama in people’s relationship with agriculture and we must learn how to better connect with the public. We can’t just dismiss them or try to feed them science and think they will accept what we say as the “truth”.
We cannot take the attitude that they just don’t understand or that they are stupid. They dictate social acceptance, they dictate demand, and they dictate policy. This is going to take more work and dedication of resources as society becomes more disconnected from agriculture. It cannot be just a few of us volunteering or a few organizations dedicated to this. We all have a role to play.
What’s one challenge you face as a woman in agriculture and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?
Being dismissed because of my gender without due consideration for my capabilities. In the resource-based industry of agriculture, it is ridiculous that half the human capital is not fully utilized or in some cases ignored. To meet future challenges, we are going to need the best and brightest working together regardless of gender, race, or whatever other differences people may find. The culture is shifting, and it needs to continue. There is plenty of work for all of us. Let’s focus on working together to solve problems rather than creating divisions.
Doris 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.