MONROE, Wis. – Katie Demrow, a grain-marketing manager for Landmark Services Cooperative, acknowledges agriculture's difficult times. But she urges her contemporaries to remember the “why” about why they're in the agricultural industry.
"I’m truly grateful for this industry, even on days that are incredibly challenging," she says.
Please provide a little background on yourself.
Demrow: I was born and raised in Edgerton, Wisconsin. My family now farms near Evansville, Wisconsin, where we have about 50 Simmental cows that calve each year. We produce beef that we market locally. The farm is my happy place; I feel incredibly blessed to have this lifestyle.
Please provide a little background on any ag-related organizations in which you’ve been involved.
Demrow: I participated in 4-H, which is one of the best organizations in which to involve kids. It provided me with leadership, communication and organizational skills as well as socialization, responsibility, and so many opportunities to learn and grow. I met some of my best friends showing livestock at the fair as well as attending camp and planning events at local, county and state levels.
At the University of Wisconsin-Platteville I was a member of Sigma Alpha, Block & Bridle, the Ag Ambassadors and the Collegiate Farm Bureau. Those organizations were so valuable when it came to networking, gaining professionalism and surrounding myself with others who had the same passion as I do for the agriculture industry.
I’m currently a member of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association, and the National Grain and Feed Association. I serve on the weights-and-grades committee for the National Grain and Feed Association. The organizations have helped me expand my professional network as well as broaden my scope of engagement and knowledge within our industry. The industry is so large and encompassing that there’s always something new to learn.
When and why did you join the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association?
Demrow: I became a part of the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association when I started working at Landmark. The association provides excellent information and opportunities to those of us in Wisconsin agriculture.
Do you have a degree in an agricultural field of study?
Demrow: I graduated in 2014 from UW-Platteville with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and animal science. I also earned in 2019 a master’s degree in project management from UW-Platteville.
Tell us a little bit about your career.
Demrow: I’ve been working since May 2014 as a grain-marketing specialist with Landmark Services Cooperative. Before that I served internships with Landmark, the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium, and Edgerton Hospital and Health Services.
As a grain-marketing specialist I help producers establish and manage their grain-marketing plans. I’ve also been able to help plan and organize events such as Landmark’s Her Farm Network, an event for women in agriculture at which to gather and learn together.
I’ve been able to travel to Washington with the National Grain and Feed Association to promote agriculture on Capitol Hill. A career in agriculture is always new and exciting because advances and improvements are always being made.
What do you like most about having a career in agriculture? What do you like most about your current job?
Demrow: My favorite thing about having a career in agriculture is by far the people. I’ve met some of the most honest, hard-working and passionate people. In good times or bad, I’ve never seen a group of people so selfless and willing to help a neighbor, co-worker, community member or outright stranger.
My favorite thing about my job is visiting Wisconsin farms and making a difference for producers. I have the opportunity to help farmers of all sizes create grain-marketing plans, manage their risk and become more profitable. It isn’t often an easy task but working with them to diversify marketing programs and better understand their profitability, break-evens and cash-flow needs and how they all work together can be very rewarding. It’s truly a great feeling when you get to see the value in what you do each day.
Who have been your mentors and in what ways have they most helped you?
Demrow: Josh Grunnet, the senior grain merchandiser at Landmark, has always been more than willing to share his experience and his knowledge. He’s pushed me to work hard and persevere through tough times.
Are there particular women you admire for their leadership or accomplishments?
Demrow: My mom was born and raised a “city kid” but took on farming with full force. You can now find her raking hay, moving cows or doing chores. She's also one of the most passionate 4-H leaders you’ll ever find. She instills in hundreds of kids hard work, responsibility and morals. She’s been the chairperson of the Fulton 4-H Club for more than 30 years. She's watched her kids and now grandkids benefit from the organization. She’ll outwork anyone I know. I hope to one day be half the woman she is.
I also have a wonderful role model in my older sister, Casey. She has given me more advice and experienced-based knowledge than I could ever ask for when it comes to pursuing an education and career in agriculture. She's a superhero when it comes to balancing life as an agricultural professional, farm wife and mom to three amazing kids.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your career in agriculture? Do you face any particular challenges being a woman in the agriculture business?
Demrow: One of the biggest challenges we face in agriculture is that so much of what we do is unpredictable and out of our control. Whether it be the markets, the transportation system, consumer buying habits or weather, there isn’t always much we can do to control them.
As a woman in agriculture it often feels like we must go the extra mile to prove our knowledge and be recognized as professionals. When I first started my career that seemed like a very big hurdle. But I’ve found that by working hard and being persistent I’ve been able to gain so much ground with producer colleagues and competitors.
What advice would you have for other women interested in pursuing a career in agriculture?
Demrow: We continue to see progress with more women in the agriculture field but I still often find myself being the only woman in meetings. I’m also often the youngest person in the room. The only way we’ll see that change is if we continue to become involved and fight for a seat at the table. I would encourage all women to keep learning and networking and to stay passionate.
Please share anything else you’d like farmers and other professionals to know about your passion for agriculture, the importance of agriculture, etc.
Demrow: Our industry continues to face challenges and has experienced several tough years. But I think it’s incredibly important we all take a step back every now and then to remember our “why” – why we wanted to be a part of the industry, why we’re passionate about producing safe high-quality food, and why we wouldn’t want to live any other way. I’m truly grateful for this industry, even on days that are incredibly challenging.