INDIANAPOLIS — Lyles Station farmer Denise Jamerson is among women recognized by the Indiana Farm Bureau during National Women’s History Month, as the organization highlights the role female leaders play in the agriculture industry.
IFB reports the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s latest Farm Census from 2017 shows that more than 31,000 farmers in Indiana are women. Purdue University’s College of Agriculture student demographics show 62% of undergraduate students are female.
Isabella Chism, 2nd vice president of Indiana Farm Bureau, also chairs the American Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee, focused on helping women realize their potential in the ag industry and take advantage of leadership opportunities. Chism is the first INFB member to chair the AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee.
“It’s always my goal to empower women to never be afraid of investing in themselves and support them in roles both on and off the farm,” said Chism. “There is no doubt that women make a difference in Indiana agriculture — whether they are driving the combine, running their own business, educating their community or advocating for agriculture on the local, state and even national level.”
Jamerson, owner and farmer with Legacy Taste of the Garden, is a fifth-generation farmer. Her family has been a part of the African American farming community of Lyles Station since before the Civil War.
Her father is still farming row crops at age 85. Jamerson helps her dad on the farm in addition to running Legacy Taste of the Garden, an agricultural business her son established in 2017.
Headquartered in Princeton, Legacy Taste of the Garden, which grows produce sold at their local farmstand and distributed across the state, aims to bridge the gap between local producers and consumers by bringing healthy food to food deserts. The company also shares basic agricultural knowledge with young people through local community programs.
“Some of these kids have never touched dirt,” Jamerson said. “We work with community organizations in food deserts to teach kids about farming from seed to market and how the food we grow ties into their health. We are opening a lot of young eyes to agriculture.”
Legacy Taste of the Garden also helps provide resources for other black, Indigenous and people of color farmers across the state. Last year, Legacy Taste of the Garden created the pilot project, Indiana Black Loam Conferences, which introduces USDA programs and the resources available to BIPOC and socially disadvantaged farmers, producers and communities.
“These workshops make connections between the agencies and the farmers,” said Jamerson. “Sometimes urban farmers don’t realize what resources are available to them. These events bring together the right people to provide education on the programs, grants and loans that are out there.”
The conferences last year took place in Evansville, Gary, Fort Wayne, Bloomington and Indianapolis with more than 250 attendees. Workshops are planned in those locations again this year, with the first taking place in Evansville this month.
Jamerson is a graduate of the 2021 WLC Communications Bootcamp, where she gained confidence in public speaking, and she attended the AFBF ACE Summit in Washington D.C., last year to help develop leadership and advocacy skills.
Jamerson says women in ag, specifically women of color in ag, are stepping into roles like never before.
“We are here, specifically in the urban farming space. We just need to make it more visual that we are taking an active role. Take advantage of the resources and opportunities so you can be seen and your voice can be heard.”
IFB also recognized Jessica Baggerman, an assistant professor of agriculture in Huntington County; Sarah Jordan, a Dearborn County real estate broker specializing in farm and rural estates; and Hamilton County farmer/Beck’s Hybrids field sales marketing coordinator Rachel Hyde.