Education | Mar 03, 2021

Celebrating Women In Agriculture

March 8th is International Women 's Day! We thought it would be a great time to highlight some of agriculture 's female trailblazers.

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March 8th is International Women’s Day! We thought it would be a great time to highlight some of agriculture’s female trailblazers.

Harriet Williams Russell Strong

Born in upstate New York in 1844, Strong grew up in California near the Nevada border in a mining town. She married Charles Strong in 1867 and together they bought 320 acres of land, calling the property Rancho del Fuerte. Strong soon became interested in ways to irrigate dry land. She invented, and later patented, a system of dams and reservoirs for water storage and flood control. Her irrigation system was widely adopted in Southern California and some of the ideas Strong presented to Congress were used to build the Hoover Dam! Learn more about Harriet Williams Russell Strong here.

Learn more about water and its importance to farmers and ranchers with the Wild Waters Adventures game!

Mary-Dell Chilton, Ph.D.

Mary-Dell Chilton is often known as the “Queen of Agrobacterium” and is one of the founders of modern plant biotechnology. In the late 1970s, Chilton and a research team at Washington University in St. Louis discovered they could use genes from one bacterium, a microbe called Agrobacterium tumifaciens that causes gall on plants, to insert other beneficial DNA into a plant’s cells. This bacterium was used as a means of DNA transfer, therefore producing the first genetically motivated plants! In the 1980s Chilton went on to work at a company that would turn into what we now know as Syngenta. Her research there improved plants’ ability to resist pests and extreme environments. Her research and discovery have paved the way for modern plant biotechnology. “Meet” Chilton in this article!

Want to learn more about biotechnology? Check out the Bringing Biotechnology to Life curriculum!

Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin is one of the world’s leading experts on humane handling. Diagnosed with autism as a child, Grandin viewed the world through pictures and symbols- similar to how many assume animals view the world. This view helped her come up with ideas to prevent stress in animals. Grandin realized that cattle have a natural tendency to go towards the light. This led her to design a curved chute for cattle, taking advantage of cattle’s natural instincts. This video explains her innovation! You can also learn more about Temple Grandin in these at-home learning activities. At age 73, she is still teaching others about agriculture as a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.

In this activity from Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom, make your own curved cattle chute inspired by Dr. Grandin.

Karen Washington

Karen Washington grew up in New York City and as a child dreamed of having her own farm. Later on as an adult, in 1988 she started a community garden in the Bronx called the Garden of Happiness. Since the creation of the Garden of Happiness, Washington has been a champion of the urban farm movement and founding/supporting community gardens across New York City. Washington’s work has helped many in New York City have access to produce they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. She states, “You know sometimes people think food is a privilege. Food isn’t a privilege, it’s a right. And we want people to exercise that right to fresh, healthy produce in their neighborhood, and that’s what we’re all about.” You can read more about her here!

Inspired by Karen Washington and don’t have a lot of space? You can make a vertical garden!


This is only a small portion of all the amazing women who have contributed to the agriculture industry! Check out these articles to see some of the great things women in ag are doing today.

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Confidently use the Pillars of Ag Literacy, so that you can save time and energy with your ag literacy efforts.