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'I never thought of it as a man's world': Hamilton County woman is inspiring women in Agriculture

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Posted at 7:24 AM, Mar 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 07:36:02-04

HAMILTON COUNTY — “I never thought of it as a man's world because I did see my mom and my grandma and my cousins and my aunts contributing so much to the farm,” Rachel Hyde said.

Rachel Hyde is the seventh generation farming on her family’s land.

As a woman in a male dominated field, she wants to make sure women and young girls know a career in agriculture is possible for them.

“It’s a really neat feeling to know I planted these beans and now I get to harvest that same field it's just the coolest feeling,” Hyde said

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The combine was one of the last pieces of equipment Hyde learned to use because she was nervous. She said now it's cool to plant and harvest the same crop every year.

Hyde grew up in Hamilton County working on the Flanders’ family farm.

“I’m the seventh generation farming on our family’s ground,” Hyde said.

From showing sheep to planting and harvesting crops Hyde has done it all on the farm.

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Hyde has been showing animals in 4-H for most of her life.

“My dad always wanted to give my brother and I the same opportunities,” Hyde said, “When you ask what it's like to be a woman in Ag, I would just say it feels normal to me because from the time I was a little girl I was given the same opportunities.”

Since she was a little girl, she’s known she would make a career for herself in the “man’s world.”

“Agriculture is the single only industry that touches every single human being on the planet. In order to survive we all have to eat and so to provide food, fuel and fiber for generations to come we can't limit ourselves as women. So just don't think of it as a man's world think of it as agriculture,” Hyde said.

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Rachel Hyde is the 7th generation working on the Flanders' family farm.

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s latest Farm Census from 2017, more than 31,000 farmers in Indiana are women.

Today Hyde works full time in the corporate world of agriculture and during the farm’s busy season helps with planting and harvest.

A trend she said the industry is seeing.

“Back in the day you farmed full time and there were less folks in our business but in today's day and age and most people do have an off-farm job as well,” Hyde said.

She said while farming is still considered a man’s job that too is starting to change.

“If you look at Purdue University, which is where I got my degree there are more women in the College of Ag than there are men. Now, if you look at organizations like 4H and FFA that I was part of those are actually either even or higher with girls now,” Hyde said.

Hyde said she like to show young girl both sides of life in agriculture.

“You don't have to be some tomboy out here changing oil covered in dirt to be a farmer,” Hyde said.

She said if you join the farming industry you’ll be met with kindness and love.

“A farmer cares about each and every one of us they care about their enemy and their neighbor just as much because they're providing food and fuel and fiber for everyone,” Hyde said.

Hyde also recently started judging 4H shows. She said even that is male dominated right now and she’s enjoying being a mentor and a resource for young girls.

Hyde is a member of the Hamilton County Farm Bureau board, a member of the local FFA Boosters leadership team, and an avid 4-H volunteer on the county level, while also judging sheep and goat shows across Indiana and neighboring states.

In 2022 Hyde won the Indiana Farm Bureau YF&AP Discussion Meet, a competition where contestants participate in a group discussion that simulates a committee meeting and solves issues that are currently impacting agriculture.

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Hyde won the 2022 Indiana Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ag Professionals Discussion Meet

Hyde advanced to the national Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet held during the 2023 AFBF Annual Convention, where she was the only female finalist who placed in the top four of the competition.

Hyde was also selected too speak at the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Boot Camp [fb.org] in Washington D.C. next month.

The workshop is an intensive training opportunity for women in ag interested in advancing their communications skills to share their farm stories, sharpen skills for ag advocacy efforts, engage with consumers and lead in their communities.

Rachel was one of 15 female Farm Bureau members selected across the nation to participate.