Kelsey Vance grew up on the family farm in Tremont where she played a big part in growing and harvesting the corn and soybean crops, as well as the specialty crops that fill dinner tables.

Vance, 27, a retail sales representative for Syngenta, was honored recently in the #RootedInAg Campaign for her work in promoting women in agriculture. She traveled the Midwest and lived in Nebraska and southern Illinois as part of her work, but as soon as she could, Vance returned to her roots on the farm.

 

Life on the farm

Vance’s father, Rick, was gone before she and her sister, Jessi Vance, now 25, tumbled out of bed and didn’t get home from the fields until they had gone to bed at night. Her mother, Patti, made sure the children got to see their father, “even if it was just taking supper out to him if he couldn’t stop. Most of the time he would make time, and we’d have supper on the tailgate. So those are probably some of my favorite memories growing up,” said Kelsey.”

“I started mowing the yard when I was 5, so when I was in kindergarten that was my first tractor — the lawn mower. Since then Jess and I both drive every piece of equipment on the farm. It’s just an amazing experience to be able to sit up there and bring a crop in that you’ve been working on all year long — to reap the benefits of the farm and see it come through the combine is a really neat experience.”

Vance was born in October — a serious time of the year for any farm family.

“The farm is really a lifestyle for my family, it’s not just my dad’s occupation,” said Vance. “He almost missed me being born for the farm, so that’s how important it is to our lives.

“He really wouldn’t have missed me being born — it’s kind of an ongoing joke that he really wanted to finish (the harvest) before I got here, but I was early. Growing up on the farm, I would say, Jesse and I were always involved in it. We would go out and be on the tractor or in the combine with Dad whenever we could. Having an October birthday — that’s always what I wanted to do on my birthday, to ride in the combine with Dad, and we would have suppers out in the field.”

Those are only a handful of Vance’s memories that nurtured her love of the land and the life it gave her.

Vance and Jessi look forward to a long life on the farm.

The family farms in Tazewell and Mason counties.

 

Advancing women

Vance uses her vast knowledge of farm life to encourage other women to seek out careers in agriculture. She is the only female Syngenta sales rep in the state of Illinois.

“It’s not a real common role for a female to have,” said Vance. “There’s a couple in every state as far as Syngenta goes.

“It’s one of those things when I first started, ‘Is this really something a girl can do?’ I’m not sure why I even had that thought now that I’ve done it for a while, because it is definitely a role that anyone can have. I think that is true with almost any role in the ag industry. So that’s why I have so much passion behind that. Lots of time (young girls think), ‘Oh, I’m a girl. I can’t do that.’ My goal is to help them see that really they can do whatever they set their mind to.”

One of the organizations Vance is involved with is Illinois Agri-Women where she serves on the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture Conference Committee. There are usually around 900 ladies there including adults and high school and college students. They mainly target high school and college students to show them the opportunities women have in the agriculture industry today, said Vance. 

Women have always been involved in agriculture, said Vance, “but I’m not sure that they have always been as vocal about it as they are today.”

“I think the role has changed slightly,” she said. “They might have been helping their husband on the farm, where today there are women who are running their own farms.

“Or they might have just primarily been (running the house) or helping (the men) move from field to field, where today they’re running the combine. I know a lot of women are making the marketing decisions on their farm today, and I am so proud of them. That’s something I’m not comfortable doing yet. It’s just that every day women are getting more involved. I know women have a different perspective on things. Men and women are two different breeds and having a woman’s perspective on the farm can be extremely valuable, whether that’s on the farm or in a conference call or in a conference room making the decisions for a large manufacturing company or lobbying in the capitol for agriculture.”

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin