In Florida agriculture, women are building thriving careers as producers and leading the way as appointed and elected officials, including Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nicole Fried. “Of the 47,500 farms in the state of Florida, 36% of them are women-owned, far exceeding the national average. That alone speaks volumes about the value of our women farmers to Florida’s agriculture communities and their perseverance,” Fried says. “Women in agriculture bring with them extraordinary leadership skills as well as different talents and a determination that is simply unmatched. These women consistently go out of their way to encourage and support one another, and they’re truly an inspiration.”
As Florida’s first-ever elected female commissioner of agriculture, Fried strongly advocates for equal opportunities for women, especially when it comes to leadership.
“We need to see more women in agricultural leadership and inspire the next generation
of women to continue breaking down the barriers that hold us back.”
A New Direction
Brittany Lee’s parents owned a Gainesville real estate company focused on rural and agricultural properties, and she earned her real estate license in anticipation of joining her family’s firm.
But when one of the properties their company had financed came back into
the family’s possession, the Lees decided to try growing blueberries. Today, Florida Blue Farms, Inc., is a 110-acre Southern Highbush blueberry plantation in Alachua County. Lee serves as vice president and farm manager.
See more: Spotlight on Female Farmers
“As in a lot of farming operations which are family owned, the manager does a little bit
of everything,” says Lee, who oversees the general management plan, including budgeting, food safety and many other day-to-day tasks.
She’s also heavily involved in representing blueberry growers at the local, state and federal level. After serving as president of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, Lee recently accepted the paid position as part-time executive director. She’s also the Florida delegate to both the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and was recently appointed to the federal Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) for Trade in Fruits and Vegetables.
Lee admits she is often the only woman at the table at local and state agriculture meetings but says that’s not an accurate representation of women in agriculture. “I read recently that 56% of farms in the U.S. have at least one female decision maker. Women are well represented in the actual dynamic of working the family farm.”
From Lawyer to Logger
At Usher Land & Timber in Chiefland, Lynetta Usher Griner sits at the same desk her mother occupied, but it’s not the prestigious law career she imagined growing up – but as Lynetta puts it, life has a way of happening while you’re busy making other plans.
After the tragic death of her brother, Tommy, Lynetta and her husband, Ken, joined Lynetta’s father so the company could remain in the family.
Ken and Lynetta knew very little about logging or raising cattle at the time. But today, the Usher family holds about 6,800 acres in timber and raises sorghum and hay to feed more than 800 head of cattle. Ken and his son, Korey, run the cattle and related farming operations while Lynetta helps manage the logging.
“That’s where my heart is,” she says of the timber industry.
Lynetta was the first woman to serve as president of the Florida Forestry Association and was the 2018 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. Named the 2013 Woman of the Year in Agriculture, Lynetta says she was honored by the award “because it elevates the conversation about the importance of forestry to Florida’s agricultural economy.”
See more: The Importance of Florida Forests
Using natural resources responsibly and sustainably is important to the Griners
so they can continue the work started by Lynetta’s parents. Usher Land & Timber was named National Logger of the Year by the Forest Resources Association. The Griners refer to themselves as “generational farmers,” understanding that they don’t really possess the land, but have been given the use of it.
“Agriculture is not only our heritage, it’s also our future,” Lynetta says. “Something that we are just taking care of to pass to the next generation.”