5 questions with ... Leah Johnson, farmer and seed salesperson, Elbow Lake, Minn.
Q: How has agriculture shaped your life into the role you work in today?
Being the youngest by a decade in my family, my parents brought me everywhere growing up, from picking up parts at the local Case IH dealership to traveling across the country for custom harvesting. I think traveling across the Midwest and constantly meeting new people at every farm town helps me as a seed salesperson today. I find so much joy in spending time on new farms and with new people!
Q: What is a misconception of you in your role in agriculture that you get questions about from customers or those outside of agriculture?
As far as selling Pioneer seed and being a woman in a male dominated field, I think many people don't expect that I am also going to be farming next year.
Being 26 and not married, working full time in sales and running my own farming operation is surprising to many people. Usually I make a joke that it's probably more problematic that I'm a millennial than a woman. But in all seriousness, the fact that I try my best to be knowledgeable and unafraid to get my hands dirty in this business is my way to prove to myself and others I'm doing good work.
Q: When was the last time you tried something for the first time and what was it?
I recently had my first official meeting at the Farm Service Agency office because next year, I will be renting 700 acres from a neighboring farm family. The initial meeting began the process of transitioning acres to my own operation, learning what farm programs I am eligible for and, most importantly, building a relationship with our local team of farm support staff. I hope I will have a lifetime of future meetings at our local FSA office.
Q: What do you do to encourage others? Who/what serves as a source of encouragement for you?
I definitely am a "tough love" type of person. If you picture a bubbly camp counselor, I'm the polar opposite when it comes to encouragement. Honesty and transparency are very important to me, so when I think you can achieve something, you know I mean it when I say it.
When I'm feeling discouraged, I find if I can call my parents and just talk through all my negative thoughts, just letting it go I feel so much better. I also love to read!
Q: What organizations do you belong to within agriculture and outside of agriculture and why? What purpose do they serve for you?
I have been involved in Farm Bureau since college. I think it's incredibly important to be involved with our legislators. Farm Bureau has been a great outlet for me to connect with my local legislators in St. Paul, Minn., and elected officials in Washington D.C.
I also interned at Minnesota Corn & Soybean Growers in college, and today I am involved with our local commodity groups who focus a lot of time in consumer outreach. If I can talk to one person about the importance of farming in our local community, it is one person who knows a farmer — me!
Sisters of Ceres is a women's-only marketing group I am a part of locally! We meet monthly to discuss grain marketing, farm management and many other timely topics. Minnesota Agri-Women connected me with the Executive Women in Ag conference in Chicago, and it was one of the best conferences I have ever attended! I also stay active in Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority.
Leah Johnson is graduate of North Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural economics. She is a DuPont Pioneer salesperson with Red River Marketing of Elbow Lake, Minn. In 2018, she will be succeeding a neighboring farmer near Evansville, Minn. Connect with Johnson in social media at @JoyFarmgirl on Twitter and Instagram. She also has a Facebook page with her mom, Johnson Farmgirls.