By Raegan Johnson

Tonya Ball stops from her busy schedule for a photo on her tractor.

They’re there from sun up to sun down, operating machinery, cleaning equipment—whatever needs to be done. Tonya Ball, said they work just as hard—if not harder—than most of the boys. They are female farmers, and their role in agriculture is more significant than some may think.

FAO estimates that women produce between 60 to 80 percent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world’s food production.

Ball’s husband introduced her to farming seven years ago. In Plainview, Texas, her family grows corn, wheat, milo and cotton.

“I do all of the financial work,” Ball said. “I drive the tractor. I help water. I help plant. I help with harvest. I do everything.”

Ball said women are underestimated in farming.

“People think a woman can’t get the job done, but actually we do it more efficiently,” she said.  “We tear up less equipment, and there are a lot of [male] farmers now that say so. They are hiring more women because we’re alert and pay more attention to detail.”

Ball said during harvest she is up at 8 a.m., helping to prepare the equipment—greasing and cleaning—and out harvesting sometimes until midnight.

“On just a regular farming day, I handle all of the financial things first thing in the morning,” she said. “The bills, banking, getting reports ready for loans, and making sure we can pay out—I take care of all of that. And by mid-morning, I’m on the tractor and I’m there until about 6 or 7 p.m.”

Just like Ball, Cindy Cunningham of Kempton, Indiana, said when the guys are in the field, she is in the field.

“My father was a farmer, and I married a farmer,” Cunningham said.  “My dad raised hogs, and we would help him with feed and stuff, but a lot of my experience came through 4-H. I used to show cattle.”

Cunningham said she currently doesn’t do any tillage work, but in the spring she hauls anhydrous (ammonia) tanks, chemicals, water, and seed during planting. She said she also keeps the tractors going. And in the fall, she runs the grain cart. She is also responsible for finances and keeping the books.

“I enjoy helping my husband with farming,” Cunningham said. “The hours aren’t always the same, and the tasks aren’t always the same. I like the variety.”

And even with the long days and the hard work, both women say they prefer farming over any 9-to-5 job.

“I think it’s great if a woman has an opportunity to be at home, and help their husbands in their farming business,” Cunningham said.

“The reason I do this is because I enjoy it,” Ball said. “It’s challenging, and it gives me some family time I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t involved in farming.

Raegan has worked on Monsanto’s internal communications team for the past two years. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Saint Louis University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is currently pursuing a PhD in public policy. In her free time, she loves to volunteer with children.

We were pleased to participate in the March 12th workshop and provide more information about our business. It was a unique opportunity to highlight the investment that Monsanto and hundreds of other seed companies are making on behalf of U.S. farmers. With dozens of trait technologies available to farmers today and fifty new traits currently under development, it’s clear that competition within the U.S. seeds industry is growing. The fight to win the farmer’s business is intense. We remain committed to investing in new products for farmers, products that present another option on farm and offer them more value for their farm.

California Dreamin’ with Corn, Soybean, Wheat and Sorghum Growers

The 2010 Commodity Classic Show kicks off today in Anaheim, California. Classic (as its known to hip ag-sters) is the annual meeting of the nation’s corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers, hosted by the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, and the National Sorghum Producers.

We have a team of Monsanto employees at the show providing live coverage to growers back home to growers who don’t want to miss out on the action.

Be sure to check out the Commodity Classic hub on our Monsanto Web site during the show for event coverage. Attendees are tweeting live coverage of the event using the hashtag #classic10. You can also follow these Monsanto twitter accounts for coverage of Learning Center sessions – @MonsantoCo, @Kath_Monsanto, @KateOnline, Tyne_Ag.

We’ll also be posting photos and updates on the Monsanto Company Facebook page.

Here are some other great blogs and people to follow on-line for Classic coverage.

Blog Coverage
NCGA’s Flickr page

NCGA’s Corn Commentary
NAWG’s Wheat World

Twitter Coverage






Roundup Ready technology contains in-plant tolerance to Roundup® agricultural herbicides, allowing growers to spray Roundup agricultural herbicides to kill the weeds without harming the crop.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned by talking with farmers, it’s that they have a great sense and appreciation of their farm’s history. And as a result, they have an even greater sense of how the present state of farming is better than it used to be.

Marvin Borg and Jeffrey Larson are two examples of that. Mention “weeds” and they both have stories that would make suburbanites happy that all they have to tend to is Saturday yard work.

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Mr. Ray on his farm in Wisner, Louisiana.

I know the question itself sounds overly dramatic.  I didn’t use that title for emphasis either.  I’ve been to the Beltwide Cotton Conference every year for two decades now.  It’s a conference that can test physical and mental strength.  After all these years, I still remember my first Beltwide.

I was in graduate school working for an agricultural publications company and it was my first big professional conference.  Everyone else in the office had been before and seemed to know a lot of the names and faces.  I, on the other hand, was the person who had to record every phone call so I could refer to the dictionary and ask co-workers questions later.  (I can still remember listening to a farmer tell a story about impregnating  before [the farmer] put them in the spreader… The vocabulary seemed familiar but there was no way I knew what they meant!  How could that have to do with combining weed control and fertilizer into a single trip across the field?)

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This weekend’s Associated Press article on Monsanto’s licensing agreements with companies missed the mark on the real facts behind our business and our licensing approach, including:

  • Our business has grown tremendously over the years thanks to a number of factors – an early investment in biotechnology, adding new approaches to historic breeding, and a decision to broadly license the results of those investments to anyone who wanted them, including our biggest direct competitors. We understand this scale of success brings scrutiny.
  • The growth of our business cannot be attributed to any forced use by customers or to blocking any competitors. Our licenses enable the use of our traits; they do not require the use of our traits.  Seed companies and farmers are free to move completely away from Monsanto traits at any time. It’s a choice they make every single season. If competitors invented a more attractive option, the industry could move to it immediately.  Monsanto works hard to offer better and more valuable products because that is the only way we keep anyone’s business.
  • A depiction that somehow our actions are hurting small companies is just plain wrong. The facts are no seed company has invested more in the last ten years to bring new seed products to farmers than Monsanto, and no company has done more to broadly license those inventions than Monsanto. This includes licensing both seed genetics and trait technologies. Monsanto led the way in making its inventions broadly available to other seed companies, while DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred seed company historically followed a path of keeping all of their inventions to themselves and distributing them though dealers who are contractually prohibited from selling any competitive products.

Steve Chapman talks to Janice about his life as a farmer.

The landscape differences never strike me harder than when I go to the High Plains. Whether I’m driving or flying into Lubbock, TX the view is staggering.  From the sky, you can make out circles where crops are planted.  On the highway, you notice the dramatic change in altitude as you drive up onto the Caprock.

But for the last several years, my amazement with the landscape has been matched with the welcoming feelings I’ve felt on my visits to the biggest cotton patch in the world.  Cotton has been my “bread and butter” for a long time and the High Plains has become a place I feel so comfortable in.  That’s in part due to people like Steve & Melinda Chapman who farm in Lorenzo, TX.

Lucky enough to call Chappy (Steve) a friend, I was excited to hear the new ideas around our blog while in Lubbock.  I grabbed my cameras and headed out to his farm to see if he’d mind me getting my farmer perspective blogs off to a start.  He was a perfect subject because he is so easy to talk to and I know how passionate he is about sharing information about farming. I’ve seen him tour bankers, tourists, members of the media, scientists, etc.

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