April 12, 2016

Working Off the Farm, But Still in Agriculture

Being a woman in agriculture can extend well beyond the farm itself. Sisters-in-law Jana and Becky Jobman are a great example. Jana Jobman is an ag loan officer with 1st State Bank of Gothenburg. Becky Jobman sells pivot irrigation systems for Landmark Water at its Lexington location. Jana's husband David and Becky's husband Andy are brothers and fifth-generation farmers in Gothenburg, Nebraska. Becky grew up on a small corn and soybean farm in Thayer County. Her parents moved to Nebraska from the East Coast to farm when Becky was an infant. Jana was raised on a six-generation cow-calf ranch on the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills near Arnold, living "the cowboy lifestyle" she says.

Becky started working for John Deere while in college and continued full-time after graduating with a degree in agricultural engineering. She also married Andy the year she graduated. During their first nine months as newlyweds, her career took her to Iowa and Kansas. She commuted back and forth on weekends as Andy farmed and operated his agronomic consulting business in Gothenburg. When the opportunity arose for Becky to move back to central Nebraska to work for a local John Deere dealership, she jumped at it.

Jana graduated form the University of Nebraska with a degree in agricultural banking and finance. After working for an Omaha-based bank for a time, her employer agreed to allow her to live and work from home in Gothenburg after she married David. She recently joined 1st State Bank and now works out of the bank offices. Jana enjoys the wide range of agricultural clients she serves--from feedlots to pork operations, from grain elevators to ethanol plants, from ag retailers to individual farming operations. "I love being involved in and keeping a finger on the pulse on the entire industry," she said. "People in agriculture are honest, trustworthy, real people--and I've always appreciated that." In her new position, Jana will also work with community business owners. "Gothenburg is a progressive town that truly understands the meaning of 'community', she said. "I really look forward to being even more involved in our community and contributing to its success."

Some farmers have initially been skeptical of working with a woman to purchase a new pivot irrigation system, but Becky has established credibility thanks to her education in college and on the job. "You don't have to act like you know everything. If you're open-minded and like to learn, you'll succeed," Becky said. "That's been especially important to me as a woman in a nontraditional role." Their off-the-farm responsibilities still allow some time for Jana and Becky to help on the family farm as needed--irrigating, moving cattle, driving a grain cart during harvest or shuffling vehicles from one place to another. Their day jobs also help them contribute to the success of their family farms. "Our entire family is really good at coming together and listening to each other when it comes to making a big purchase or setting direction for the operation," Jana said. "My financial background and insight on the industry as a whole are beneficial when we're making big decisions of this nature."

Jana and Becky believe that there are great careers in agriculture for women, both on and off the farm. "Even a woman who doesn't want to be directly involved in the the agricultural field can still engage with farmers through careers in banking, insurance, healthcare, or law." Jana added. "If it's the right company, they will totally support you regardless of gender," Becky added. "If you're a good fit for the job and you work diligently at it, then it will be a good experience for you. The biggest thing is to stay flexible and know what your unique skills and talents are."

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