Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives
Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives

Penny Lauritzen
Farm Manager, Consultant, and Founder of Women Changing the Face of Agriculture

Lanark, Illinois
Farm Credit Affiliation
1st Farm Credit Services
Penny's Perspective

For years, Penny Lauritzen had a vision for helping young women work in the field of agriculture, overcoming the perceived barriers to entering a predominantly male-dominated field to embrace their passion for agriculture.

“As a farmer’s wife in the 1970s, my growing interest in agriculture led me back to college to secure a degree in Agriculture Science, with an emphasis in farm management,” says Penny. “I discovered there was rarely a seat at the table in farm organizations and few career opportunities in agriculture business for women.”

Eight years ago, she put her vision into action and created the first ever Women Changing the Face of Agriculture event. Now in its seventh year, the event brings high school and college students with an interest in agriculture together to explore careers with women who are already working in the agriculture field.

“Today, opportunities are abundant for young women. As women in agriculture, it is our responsibility to serve as role models and share that information with future generations of young women that have an interest in agriculture,” Penny says.

The morning of the annual conference features a career fair-style event, where students can meet with professionals in various fields of agriculture. In the afternoon, students have topic-specific breakout sessions, which help provide more in-depth discussions of careers and life skills. In the seven years of the event, more than 2,800 students have participated, with approximately 75 different companies represented each year.

“It has become apparent that the agriculture, food, energy and natural resources industry will need more human resources than the young men available from small rural communities and farm families,” Penny says. “I hope the entire industry, but the women in particular, will join in the effort to draw young women to rewarding, well-paid, challenging careers in agriculture.”

Penny continues to be at the core of volunteers that put the event on each year. She is committed to making sure women see their value in the agricultural workforce, and will continue to lead the effort for young women to recognize that they can be leaders, managers and even CEOs in agriculture companies.

Penny’s passion and vision for Women in agriculture will continue to influence generations of future agriculturalists.

“As I watch the technological developments roll out, it makes it difficult to determine what the industry will look like over the next century,” she says. “But it does seem reasonable to have confidence in the abilities, industriousness and commitment of the people – men and women – of this industry to successfully provide food, fiber and energy while protecting the environment.”

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