Eye on Ag: Women in agriculture honored at awards luncheon

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It was an event that brought together some of the Valley’s most notable leaders in the agriculture industry.

But what was so different about this event? Well the honorees were all women.

Of all the farmers in the United States, 31 percent of those are women – making a nearly $13 billion impact on the industry each year.

To many, agriculture looks like an industry dominated by the guys, but Wednesday, it was all about the women who’ve shaped the Valley’s ag industry down in Tulare at the 21st annual Common Threads Awards luncheon.

“I was raised on a dairy, and I married a man on a dairy. Our dairy business was not a business but a way of life,” said Honoree Mary Mello.

Mello, along with three other honorees at this year’s luncheon, were recognized – not just for their contributions to the industry, but also for the difference they’ve made in their communities over the years.

There’s always a need to pitch in and help – whether it’s on your own place or help your neighbor with theirs,” Mello said.

For honoree Betty Morehead of Pixley, it’s not only about helping those in her community, but also continuing the ag legacy.

“I had an opportunity to meet this great team of people, and we wrote grants and we created programs, and then when that ended I continued to go into the community and find other partners and keep doing the same thing. So we now have our own local foundation,” Morehead said.

Approximately 60 percent of current students at Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agriculture are female said Sandra Whitte, the first female dean of the college.

“It is an opportunity to really be inspired and to be humbled by the people who are honored here in terms of what they do and what they give,” Whitte said.

Like the other honorees, Ann Stone has worked for years on ag issues. In Stone’s case, awareness on the Mediterranean fruit fly. But these women will be the last ones to sing their own praises for the years of effort.

“Oh it means so much to be honored. I am very very humbled. I don’t feel like I deserve it but I’m so happy to be here,” Stone said.

This year’s honorees said it wasn’t so much about making a statement as it was about encouraging others in their communities to do good.

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