Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from Valerie Earley, 2016-2017 National FFA Central Region Vice President. In April 2017, Valerie was invited by President Donald Trump and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to participate in a “Farmers Roundtable” at the White House to address issues facing the American agriculture community, as the president signed an Executive Order establishing an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.
Earley is from Wykoff, MN where she was a part of the Spring Valley-Wykoff Chapter of the National FFA Organization. She is currently majoring in Agricultural Communication and Marketing at the University of Minnesota and she hopes to one day share the story of agriculture through media.
How has FFA impacted your life?
FFA has given me opportunities to grow into who I am today. When I was a freshman, I was shy and unsure of what I wanted to do with my future, but through FFA, I have gained confidence, direction and character. FFA has also given me many connections to agriculturalists, members and leaders in Minnesota and across the nation.
What has your experience as a National FFA Officer been like?
This year has been an incredible experience. From meeting fellow FFA members across the country— from Puerto Rico to Georgia to Montana— to visiting sponsors in Texas and Michigan, to participating in the farmer roundtable discussion with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and 14 farmers from across the nation, this year has been an incredible blessing. I have been inspired by fellow members and the impact they are having in their communities and in the world. At the FFA Alumni Breakfast in D.C., I had the chance to speak about a young Iowa FFA member, Hannah, who uses her knowledge of chickens to travel to Ethiopia to help a community start chicken production. Members like Hannah have inspired me this year.
What’s been your favorite accomplishment during your year of service with FFA?
My favorite achievement as a National Officer was visiting New Hampshire for FFA Week because I got to meet almost all of their members and travel across the state conducting workshops and giving speeches. I have absolutely loved traveling to conventions and conferences in over 30 states, but New Hampshire was one of my favorite destinations because of the diversity of agriculture, size of programs and type of programs in agricultural education. I made maple syrup candies, bowled, and ate popular local New Hampshire foods with the chapters. I was inspired by the work that high school students in New Hampshire are doing to contribute to strengthening agriculture.
What are your future career goals?
After completing this year’s National Convention, I plan to begin working in agricultural communications. Through my career, I hope to tell the story of agriculturalists and help consumers understand where their food comes from.
Why do you believe that Rural America is so important to agricultural production in our country?
Rural America is where the people behind the hard work and dedication to raising and producing the food we eat and products we use live and make their impact. Rural America is the foundation of our industry.
What excites you most when you think about what life in rural places will be like in 20 years?
With increasing internet access, technology and efficiency, Rural America is an exciting place to be. While people historically believed it was necessary to move to a more highly populated area to work with technology or to make an impact, today we have an opportunity to shape the future of agriculture and make Rural America to be a place of prosperity and opportunity.
Who are your role models or what inspires you?
My biggest role models are my family members and Leah Addington, a former Minnesota FFA State Staff member. My parents work with dedication and integrity every day on my family’s farm and have always set an example for my future. Leah Addington is a role model who inspires me to grow in my faith and set goals for my future. These people have helped encourage me along my journey and I would not be who I am today without their support and guidance.
What is your advice for your fellow women in agriculture?
Be engaged, be passionate and be dedicated. As women, we have the opportunity to be an instrumental part about shaping the future of agriculture. When we are engaged, passionate and dedicated to doing our part, we will strengthen American agriculture.
To learn more and connect with other women leaders in agriculture across the country, we encourage you to visit newfarmers.usda.gov/women-in-ag. If there is a leading woman in agriculture you’d like to see featured on this blog, please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.