Shine On~Women in Agriculture~Whitney Etcheverry
Shine On, Shine On was the subject of a blog post that I did a while back.
Here is the link to my first Shine On, Shine On post! I have decided that there are a lot of people that help me “Shine” and I am going to feature them on my Shine On, Shine On series.
This year I decided to start a new spin on my Shine On series and add a little more of agricultural spin. I am excited to be bringing you these interviews. My goal is to share these fine ladies stories with you all. Help me welcome my this Shine On Lady, Whitney.
From historic homesteaders to contemporary cattle ranchers, women have been the cornerstone of America’s agriculture heritage. In fact, the 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly 1 million women are working America’s lands. That is nearly a third of our nation’s farmers. Women are also scientists, economists, foresters, veterinarians, and conservationists. Women are in the boardrooms and the corner offices of international enterprises, and are the owners and operators of small businesses. Women are property owners and managers. Women are policymakers and standard bearers. Women are involved in every aspect of agriculture.
Shine On~Women In Agriculture featuring: Whitney Etcheverry
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your career path.
My husband and I graduated from Fresno State with degrees in Dairy Science so we went right into the dairy industry – my husband, Justin, manages a larger dairy herd here in Fresno and I worked for a dairy feed company. My side of the family has always been very involved in Ag. My father and I always wanted to start our own cow calf operation and unfortunately he passed away before that dream could be realized. My husband and I decided we would carry out that dream ourselves so we are building our herd alongside his boss’ Angus herd that are kept on a dry lot on the dairy…. until we get too big, then we will need grazing land.
Tell us about your role and what does your “typical day” looks like.
I came home from work as a ration formulator to take care of our son and and our animals last month and have been loving it! In the mornings we typically get to have breakfast together, unless things are too busy at the dairy and Justin can’t come home. Easton (our son) and I start our day at the horse barn. He is only a year and a half so he mostly watches me, but we start by cleaning the stalls out for the horses. Then we toss hay and sweep out the barn. Once that’s done we check the troughs and make sure they are clean – They get scrubbed out at least once a week. Then we check on the goats really quick before we head over to the heifer ranch at the dairy to check out our girls. We get into the pen and check on every cow and calf in the pen to make sure everyone looks healthy and happy. If anything is wrong I call Justin and let him know what we need to do/ask what we need to do so we can plan a time in between his work schedule or, if he can get me what I need and I can do whatever it is. For example, LeAnn (yes I name all my cows haha) on Thursday morning wasn’t her normal self. She wasn’t with the other girls and she kept her head a little lower. I called Justin and said I think she looks like she’s getting sick. He came out and said he thought we caught an early case of pneumonia. When he was off we ran her through the chute and treated her. Once we’re done with morning check Easton and I go back and do chores until Justin comes home for lunch. Then he watches Easton so I can exercise the horses. I try to finish around 1 so I can get back to watch Easton so justin can go back to work around 1:30. After that there really isn’t much of a plan. Whatever needs to be done that day I’ll do. leather craft is a hobby of mine so I try work on my projects when I get a chance. If Easton isn’t still napping around 4 I’ll go back to the dairy to check on he cows again and check on anyone I’m keeping my eye on. Then I come back and cook dinner and we spend the rest of the day together.
Who is/was your biggest influencer or mentor? What did you learn from them?
My dad was a huge influence on me. He was the hardest working man I know. He hated retirement and constantly looked for odd jobs to do around the house or at friends ranches. No matter what he always put family first and everyone in the family considered him to be the “glue” of the family. Another huge influencer would be one of my college professors Dr. Jon Robison “Doc”. After my dad passed when I was 21, this man was the closest thing I had to a father. Justin and I both were heavily influenced by him and have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He taught us so much both academically as well as many life lessons. Both of these men taught me about working hard and treating others with respect, but most of all they taught me that family always comes first. I could always go to them for advice and know I was getting an honest answer that had my best interests at heart.
How do you define personal success? How are you working to get there?
For me personal success is being happy with what you do and keeping those you love close to you. Coming home from work was a big step towards that. I had a corporate job that I actually loved, but when I came home I couldn’t leave work at work. Justin always wanted me to stay home when we started a family but I was focusing on the financial aspect of it and didn’t want to lose that. Finally I hit my breaking point and realized everything my dad and Doc had taught me… family first. We can handle me not having an income so we did it. I’m putting family first and my husband and I are doing what we love – taking care of cows and horses. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. We’re making less money and somehow I feel richer now that I’m with my family and working with my hands instead of staring at a computer.
How do you think a women’s role(s) in farming/ranching/agriculture has changed over the last decade?
I think women have always had a strong presence in Ag, however, I don’t think it was always in large quantities. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like now it’s more acceptable for women to be in Ag so there are more women doing more traditionally male dominated roles. Female salesmen are becoming more common in Ag as well as large animal veterinarians. I love it!
Learning from our mistakes is an important part of life. Would you mind helping others and share a mistake that you have made and what it taught you in the process?
Always listen to your gut and don’t be afraid to be a little “bulldogish” about it. Have confidence in your abilities. I have a bachelors of science in dairy science and I’ve worked around cows for a long time, especially calves – I know what is normal and what is not. However sometimes I don’t listen to my gut and tell myself “no you’re just over thinking it.”
I always prided myself on my calf management skills. Last year we lost a beautiful heifer calf (her name was Loretta) because I ignored my gut. Justin always tells me that it wasn’t my fault but to this day I still blame myself. I knew better. I kept telling myself “something isn’t right” and I even told my husband in passing I didn’t think she was ok. I would brush off my thoughts and tell myself that she is fine and I’m just being paranoid; if something was wrong some of the guys at the dairy would have caught it by now. But with both of us working we weren’t paying enough attention and focused on other aspects of our lives. We both assumed if something was wrong, one of the guys that’s out there all the time would have noticed something…. I was right. She wasn’t ok. She wasn’t getting enough nutrition from her mom and she was failing to thrive opening the door to more problems. By the time I got my confidence to be a bulldog about it, it was too late. She died the next day of an enteric disease.
Every now and then I still doubt my own abilities but everyday I learn more and more to trust my gut and my education…. both from schooling and from good old fashioned experience.
How would you define “women in agriculture?”
Women in agriculture: tough, hard working, passionate women who can and will overcome any hardship placed in front of them.
What in your opinion, is the most important topic in the agriculture world right now?
Being from Central California, even though we are the “bread basket of the world”, people don’t know where there food comes from. People rely on biased documentaries with political agendas to tell them how Ag “really is”. I think the most important topic is public relations and public education in every aspect of agriculture.
What is in your daily toolbox? Planner? Phone? Computer? Special item(s)? Why do you carry it with you?
Twine, my leatherman, and my cellphone.
With some twine and my leatherman I can fix or temporarily fix anything…. and when I can’t I have my cell phone to call someone with more experience hahaha!
In closing, do you have any advice, quotes for young women, or anyone that is starting their career in agriculture?
“If not now, then when? If not not me, then who?”
This has been on my mind a lot lately
~Thank you for taking time out of your day to answer a few questions. I am lucky that our paths crossed.
Here are a few more reasons that you help me Shine On:
🌟I love your attitude.
🌟Your a hard worker and it shows.
🌟Your beautiful inside and out.
🌟Strong women stand together when things get rough, hold each other up when they need support, and laugh together when there’s no reason to.
When I think of you, this quote comes to mind:
“Success is not in what you have, but who you are.” -Bo Bennett
My message to you, dear friend is Shine On!!
Thank you for just being YOU!~Naomi