COLUMBIA, Mo. ― An agriculture leadership group at the University of Missouri is made up of all female students for the first time, reflecting a slow but steady shift in the industry.
Thirteen students were selected in December as the first all-female group of Dickinson Scholars, the Columbia Missourian reported. The university’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources pairs the students with Kansas City agribusinesses to give them an immersive experience.
Thomas Payne, the college’s vice chancellor and dean, said he has noticed the demographics change since coming to the university in 1999.
“When I began my academic career, colleges of agriculture were predominantly men, as students and faculty,” Payne said. “Now our student body is close to 50-50 women and men, and there are many more women faculty.”
In the fall, the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources had 57.5 percent female students in its undergraduate programs. The University of Missouri’s undergraduate student body is 52 percent female, according to the school’s Division of Enrollment.
Women are in the minority in agriculture nationally, according to the Census of Agriculture conducted in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Just 14 percent of the country’s farms had a female principal operator.
The Dickinson Scholars program has been in existence since the mid-1990s, said Stephanie Chipman, the agriculture college’s career services director. Students are chosen based on academic excellence, career aspirations and demonstrated leadership.
Payne said the all of the college’s academic programs are available to men and women, including Dickinson Scholars. The demographics of this year’s group are encouraging, Chipman said.
Lindsey Robinson, a Dickinson Scholar this year, hopes to work for a livestock magazine after graduation. She said women have major roles on farms and in agricultural businesses and that people are recognizing their roles now.
“We are more than just farm moms,” Robinson said.