Responsible for managing more than 301.38 million acres of farmland, it would be an understatement to say the 1.23 million female farmers in the United States play a valuable role in agriculture.
This is absolutely true in Virginia, which is home to many prominent and influential farmers, including two notable industry women who share a common passion for the cattle business and working with the next generation of agricultural leaders.
Growing up on a beef cattle and sheep farm gave Kymberly Coffman a deep love for animals. When she wasn’t in school or participating in extracurricular activities, Coffman was often in the barn tending to the livestock.
Her background in agriculture and passion for animals led her to work as a livestock inspector at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in the Office of Veterinary Services and launch the Classic Cattle Company, LLC, with her husband.
See more: Ag Women at Work
“We’re a 130-acre operation that maintains around 70 head of registered Black Angus and commercial-based cattle,” Coffman says. “Our goal is to produce Black Angus bulls for purebred and commercial customers, as well as a few show calves for junior exhibitors.”
They also utilize the commercial cows for their embryo transplant program to generate quality feeder calves for the market, and they enjoy exhibiting their animals at shows and exhibitions on a state and national level.
Margaret Ann Smith
Margaret Ann Smith is a sixth-generation farmer who always knew she wanted to work in agriculture alongside her family. She followed her calling all the way to Kansas State University and pursued degrees in agricultural economics and animal sciences before returning home.
“A mentor gave me a wonderful piece of advice when I graduated from college,” Smith says. “He said the best thing I could do was find a niche that complemented my family’s operation rather than competed with it.”
The advice led her to launch Southlex Cattle Company, a feeder cattle and cattle procurement operation that sources high-quality cattle that can be shipped anywhere in the country.
“Southlex Cattle goes hand in hand with what we do as a family,” Smith says, “but it’s still my own. It’s been a rewarding experience to grow something myself while working alongside the people who know me best.”
Encouraging Future Leaders
Despite having more than enough work to keep them busy, Coffman and Smith both make it a priority to work with the youth in their communities.
Coffman places a high value on programs like 4-H and FFA, where she encourages and mentors students interested in agriculture and showing livestock.
“Growing up around agriculture and livestock instills a passion in you that drives and encourages you forever,” Coffman says. “Even if these kids decide not to pursue a career in the industry, the responsibility, work ethic and motivation they’re learning will help them excel in whatever they choose to do.”
Smith helps run various livestock shows in her local community, including running a jackpot show that draws in hundreds of animals and kids from multiple states.
“I think it’s valuable to work with the next generation because someone made those same opportunities available to me when I was young,” Smith says. “It feels like I’m paying it forward.”
Like Coffman, Smith also knows not all of the students she works with will choose careers in agriculture, but she believes their involvement in programs like 4-H, FFA and the show ring is still invaluable.
“If these kids can go out into the world with a respect for agriculture and a genuine understanding of where their food comes from, there are that many more people out there who can spread the message of what we do and why it matters,” Smith says.