Women have a been a critical component of agriculture since the beginning of time. But now, more than ever, women are shaping the future of agriculture. The 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly 1 million women are working America’s lands. That's nearly a third of our U.S. farmers. Together, these women are generating $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales and they have powerful stories to tell. We'd like to share of few of those stories impacting Virginia agriculture here:
Tish Bostic was born and raised in Goochland County. She has always had a passion and love for animals large and small. She started out helping her dad on the farm with his cattle operation when she was knee high to a grasshopper and her love of horses followed closely behind. She worked as a vet tech for several years in a small and large animal practice and started her own herd of black angus in 2012 alongside her father. Over the years, Tish began growing and expanding her herd and took over in 2017 when her father passed away.
Currently operating 80 head of cattle, she works closely with her veterinarian, Dr. Bom Harris and her local Amelia area cattleman’s association; consigning bred heifers and selling VQA steers as well. In her spare, time she enjoys riding and showing her horses and spending time with family in West Virginia. She would like to continue to expand and help to educate children and the public on local sustainable beef and the importance of animal health.
The Elgin sisters - Erin, Ashley, and Molly - make up the later part of J-Team Dairy. The daughters of Jim and Terri Elgin of Orange, Va., the women grew up being as hands-on as possible on the farm alongside their parents. Now grown and married, each are still employed in different facets of agriculture and all still work on their family dairy.
Ashley is married to Matt Hardesty whose family owns and operates Harvue Farm, a dairy farm in Berryville, Va. They have two children, James and Lilly, who love to help on the farm any chance they get. Ashley manages all of the young stock on the farm. In 2020, Ashley branched out into the niche market of making and selling cheese made from their own milk. They currently sell directly from the farm, at local farmers markets, as well as it being available in more than 25 stores and several wineries.
Erin, her husband Wes, their children, Carly, Emily and baby-to-be reside on the family dairy farm. Erin works for Farm Service Agency at the national level and is currently the Automation Specialist for the Dairy Margin Coverage program. Her passion and love for agriculture and helping the dairy industry plays a big role in her job. On Erin's days off from her ‘real job' you can often find her helping around the farm and she fondly refers to herself as ‘third string back-up.’ Their oldest daughter Carly shows a great love for agriculture and has already established herself as quite an asset to the daily workings of the farm. She enjoys assisting with herd check and caring for the calves.
Molly and her husband Russell McWilliams live in Barboursville, Va. and she commutes daily to the dairy farm. Together they have started M & R Farms and are contracted with Cargill raising 20,000+ turkeys. On the dairy farm, she works closely with her dad, Jim, to manage every aspect of the family farm. When not on the farm, Molly is the program coordinator for the Virginia Dairy Princess Program, serves on the board for the Dairy Alliance and is part of the MD VA leadership council program.
Sarah Williams runs the goat milk creamery on Bees Knees Farm together with her husband Dennis, who manages the pastured pork and poultry operations. She moved to King William County to keep horses, but when they picked up a few dairy goats as complementary grazing animals, she fell in love and the rest is history. After a few years of keeping goats, they turned the hobby into a licensed dairy selling chevre and other fresh cheeses along with goat milk caramel. Together with a few friends, she helped to create the Twin Rivers 4H Dairy Goat Club, which is an active group of 4Hers spanning King William and New Kent County. When not on the farm, she is an Associate Professor of Forensic Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Working alongside these and many other women who are working to sustain their families and feed the world is part of what makes our work here at Old Dominion Veterinary Services so fulfilling. We especially love to see the next generation, young boys and girls, developing a passion for farming that will shape their future. Thank you to all the farmers out there making a difference every day!