Editor’s note: This article is the next in a series of articles featuring the leaders of the Association of Women in Agriculture Benefit Corporation.
DEFOREST, Wis. – It seems fitting that Barb Lee serves as co-chair of the house-management committee for the Association of Women in Agriculture Benefit Corporation. As one of the original founders of the organization’s student chapter – the Association of Women in Agriculture – and then as an alumni member, she helped to secure a house for young women pursuing agricultural degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Lee and nine other young women in 1973 formed the Association of Women Agriculture. At that time there were three organizations on campus for young men – Alpha Gamma Rho, Delta Theta Sigma and Babcock House.
“The agriculture campus was very male-focused,” Lee said. “We wanted a unified group to support women on campus.”
Since the 1970s the Association of Women in Agriculture continues to help prepare members for careers in agriculture. Through its alumni organization – the Association of Women in Agriculture Benefit Corporation – the student chapter’s members receive professional-development skills and networking opportunities. They also may apply for educational scholarships.
The association’s college home was built in 1994. Since then the alumni chapter has helped to fund the home’s preventive maintenance, as well as repairs and updates. As co-chair of the association’s house-management committee, Lee helps arrange for that work.
“Being at the house gives me a chance to meet and get to know student members,” she said. “I also have an opportunity to work with them to share valuable life skills.”
Lee was raised on a registered-Holstein farm near Clinton, Wisconsin. Her family also had a small flock of Corriedale sheep as well as chickens and a few ducks. She was involved in the Clinton 4-H Club and the Clinton FFA Chapter.
Lee was a freshman at UW-Madison when she helped form the student association. To pay for college she worked milking cows at the UW-Dairy Cattle Center. She was the first female ever hired for that job, she said. She also served as a housefellow for UW-Madison’s Farm and Industry Short Course dormitories for a year.
Graduating in 1977 with bachelor’s degrees in dairy science and poultry science, Lee went on to pursue a master’s degree in dairy science. She earned that degree in 1979. She began her career working as the associate editor for the “Brown Swiss Bulletin.” She later became the marketing director for the National Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders Association. She held various positions for about eight years at ABS Global Inc. in DeForest, Wisconsin. She joined in 1995 Kaltenberg Seed Farms of Waunakee, Wisconsin. In 1999 she joined a startup biotechnology company.
For several years Lee also served as a dairy-cattle judge at various district, state, national and international shows. And she and her daughter, Amanda Lee, have long owned Sunburst Swiss, a herd of registered Brown Swiss cattle. The cattle are housed at a farm owned by the Ryan family near Plain, Wisconsin.
Lee is a member of the National Brown Swiss Association. She also is a lifetime member of the National Dairy Shrine and the Association of Women in Agriculture.
“The friendships and connections made through membership in the Association of Women in Agriculture will last a lifetime,” Lee said. “If it’s professional or personal, the organization’s network can be a powerful resource.”
The Association of Women in Agriculture Benefit Corporation’s mission is to advance the education of women in agriculture. The organization also supports the student chapter of the Association of Women in Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Visit awamadison.org for more information.