of Emily Wilkerson’s first memories is sitting on a barn floor playing
with baby chicks. Animals and agriculture have been mainstays of Emily’s
life having been raised on a small hobby farm in Adel, Iowa, and
they’re a passion she’s incorporating into her future as she pursues a
degree at Iowa State University.
A Passion Strengthened Through Hands-On Experiences
Growing up on the farm ignited Emily’s passion for animals.
parents didn’t have an ag background when they moved from West Des
Moines to Adel,” says Emily. “They decided to start small with poultry
and other small animals while my brother and I were young. As we grew,
so did the size of the animals we convinced our parents to raise.”
Emily and her brother’s interest in agriculture grew, so did the family
farm. After joining their local 4-H and FFA chapters, the children
began showing interest in cattle, and soon after, Emily got her first
breeding heifer. The family now raises Belted Galloway cattle full-time
and has expanded their freezer beef operations.
experiences I was able to have through 4-H and FFA and raising
livestock taught me the importance of working hard, being a caretaker to
others and much more,” notes Emily.
Making it a Career
Emily has loved animals and agriculture since she was a young child, but
she acknowledges it took her a while to realize that agriculture could
be more than a fun hobby.
in ag had always been in the back of my mind, but I didn’t make the
decision until I was about to graduate high school,” Emily recalls. “The
most interesting challenge I’ve had to tackle so far is how to keep my
choice of major connected to ag.”
she’s interested in and passionate about the medical treatment of
animals, Emily knew she didn’t want to become a veterinarian. Figuring
out how to center her career around animals, however, was tricky. Emily
got creative and turned to her strengths — chemistry, math and
problem-solving — which led her to major in chemical engineering with a
minor in biomedical engineering. Emily hopes to make her career in ag
engineering, creating vaccinations and other pharmaceutical products for
Advancing Women in Ag
Emily embraces how agricultural has been an integral part in shaping her
identity, and having strong female mentorship has helped encourage her.
up, I was one of the youngest members in my 4-H club,” Emily recalls.
“But the older female members were definitely mentors for me and took me
under their wing. The experiences I was able to have with them, even
when I wasn’t old enough to be in the club, are what I found most
valuable because it made me more confident.”
also admits that being a woman in agriculture can have its challenges,
but being different than the normal brings new perspective, thinking and
problem-solving. The women who have been part of Emily’s ag journey
have helped her along the path, and she’s already stepped into a
mentorship role to continue to help women find success in ag.
be scared to dive in headfirst,” Emily encourages girls as they
discover their love for ag and find footing in their careers. And for
those women who have experience in the ag world, she offers this,
“Encourage young women to seek a path in ag and share your stories on
how you got to where you are today. Seeing successful women is a great
way to encourage young women that it is possible to also be successful