In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are taking a moment to talk with prominent women in agriculture about their lives, their ideas about leadership, and how their day gets off to a good start.
Dr. Jewel Hairston is currently the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University. As Dean, she leads in developing the strategic vision and plan for the college and develops and fosters partnership with other universities, as well as local, state and federal agencies and organizations across the state of Virginia to offer competitive educational programs to students and diverse stakeholders.
Dr. Hairston talked about the future of agriculture and how women in agriculture can shape that future by solving today’s issues by doing what they do better than anyone else.
What do you think is the biggest myth to bust about the role women play in agriculture?
That women are just “supporters” of agriculture and agricultural enterprises. We are the future of agriculture, agricultural enterprises, agricultural innovation and new industry development. We produce almost half of the food in the world, and we are making critical decisions regarding food production and agricultural policy every day.
How do you start your day?
I start my day with a run at the gym. I get my daily cup of coffee and bible verse in after dropping my daughter off at school!
Who are your heroines in agriculture?
My heroines in agriculture are Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Robin Emmons, a sustainable farmer in Charlotte, N.C. Deputy Secretary Harden is very talented and down to earth. You can see the true heart that she has for people and for the field of agriculture. Robin Emmons owns “Sow Much Good” and embodies today’s women leaders in agriculture. She runs an urban farm that solves real community issues. She is a young emerging leader who will change the game of food production.
What are you watching on TV?
I suppose I should answer more academically, but I cannot stop watching the new TV series “Empire!” It is truly my guilty pleasure.
What’s the view outside your window and how does it influence your work?
I don’t look out of my window enough! I am reminded that I work too much and should probably stop and enjoy the beautiful view God gives us each day—which for me is the Virginia State University campus. It would probably make me reflect a bit more if I do on most days.
What do you usually have for breakfast?
Some sort of protein…eggs and turkey bacon. Although, I would love to start my day with sugar…sugar just doesn’t like me!
Do you consider yourself a woman leader in agriculture?
I never viewed myself as a woman leader in agriculture. Really, I am just someone trying to do the job I have been blessed to receive. It is my role to give my all to the field of agriculture, to the university where I work, and to take care of those who I am supposed to educate and represent. If that makes me a women leader in agriculture, than I feel blessed to have the opportunity.
In 7 words or less, what is some advice you would offer to the next generation of women in ag?
Know what you do better than anyone else!
From farmers and scientists to policy makers and communicators, women are at the forefront of agriculture. Check out previous Conversations with #womeninag with Anne Alonzo, Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and cattlewoman Minnie Lou Bradley of Bradley 3 Ranch and National Young Farmers Coalition founder Lindsay Lusher Shute. You can continue to follow our conversation with #womeninag on Storify.
Is there a leading women in agriculture you would like to hear from? Send us your suggestions using #womeninag or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.