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Published July 13, 2010, 08:39 AM

Minnesota woman enjoys agronomy career;

GOODRIDGE, Minn. — A dozen years ago, Mishawn Homme began what she thought was a temporary gig at Cenex in Goodridge, Minn.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

GOODRIDGE, Minn. — A dozen years ago, Mishawn Homme began what she thought was a temporary gig at Cenex in Goodridge, Minn.

She’s still there. And though it’s in a role far different than the one in which she began, she enjoys it.

“Agronomy is a wonderful job,” says Homme, whose job title is agronomy-sales.

Homme, stationed in the Cenex fertilizer plant south of town, has many duties. They include scheduling crop tours, collecting soil samples and making recommendations, and selling seed, chemicals and fertilizer.

Traditionally, agronomy has been a male-dominated profession, but she’s had no trouble fitting in, she says.

“They (customers) know me, and they know I can do the job,” she says.

She’s the only woman among the four people who work full time at the fertilizer plant, but that’s not a big deal either, she says.

Homme fits in well, says Steve Bergland, manager of the Cenex locations in Thief River Falls, Minn., and Goodridge.

“She’s very valuable to us,” he says. “She can scout crops and sell the products.

Homme’s gender isn’t an issue, Bergland says.

“Farmers don’t have a problem with her. They see she knows what’s talking about,” he says.

More women

in agronomy

Nationally, women are making a bigger mark in agronomy and related fields, according to an article in the Agronomy Journal.

Women accounted for 27 percent of the doctorates awarded in agricultural sciences in 1995. By 2005, the percentage had risen to 36 percent, the article says.

Another indication that women’s role in agronomy is growing:

In 2005, women accounted for 10 percent of the active U.S. membership of the American Society of Agronomy, based in Madison, Wis.

That same year, women accounted for 33 percent of the undergraduate U.S. membership of the organization.

Ellen Bergfeld knows about women’s growing role in agronomy.

She became the chief executive officer of the American Society of Agronomy in 2003. She was the first woman in the position, which she continues to hold.

“The opportunities (for women in agronomy) are great. The opportunities are open,” she says.

Women are rising to top positions in agronomy and related fields, she says.

Agronomy also can offer flexibility for women balancing career and family, she says.

Many women in agronomy have an ag background, though many don’t, she says.

Working for certification

Homme originally was hired to help out temporarily with computer billing and to answer the telephone.

But Cenex decided to keep her on.

“They couldn’t get rid of me,” she says with a smile, and her duties expanded through the years.

She began working with agronomy, in a limited way, in her second year with Cenex. The company has sent her to many training courses.

“There’s always something new to learn,” she says.

She’s studying to become a certified crop adviser. Becoming certified requires passing two comprehensive tests, accumulating enough work experience and agreeing to uphold the organization’s code of ethics.

One of the attractions of agronomy, especially in Minnesota, is the variety, Homme says.

“Every year is different,” she says.

Asked which part of her job she likes the most, Homme says, “I enjoy being outdoors. But I enjoy all parts of it. I just love my job.”