Q&A with 2023 Demeter Award Recipients
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media (September 5, 2023)
Since 2013, Women in Agribusiness has recognized the brightest and most influential women in the ag sector for their exceptional accomplishments and game-changing innovations, actions, and inspirations. And this year is no different.
Meet Dr. Tracie Egger of Bright Changes Leadership Consulting, Connie Herschbach of Novus Ag, and Christine Gould of Thought For Food (TFF) – the 2023 WIA Demeter Award recipients who will receive their awards at the 12th annual Women in Agribusiness Summit this month, September 26-28, in Nashville.
Read more about each of their achievements in this recent press release but read on for a casual Q&A with the recipients, each of whom was asked the same two questions.
1). What accomplishment, relative to supporting women in ag, are you most proud of?
Dr. Tracie Egger [Tracie]: I am most proud of being a mentor and role model for many young women in agriculture. I have had a life full of blessings, including getting to work with successful students who are now leaders in agriculture – worldwide. It is rewarding to see them succeed in their own areas of expertise and grow into pillars of influence in our industry.
Connie Herschbach [Connie]: Throughout my career, I’ve considered the challenging path to career and personal advancement for women, especially in ag, and have committed my efforts to encourage and mentor them to confront entrenched beliefs in our roles. Throughout my career, mentoring and coaching women to help them recognize their own potential and set a plan that is achievable and fulfilling has brought me great pride and happiness. Many women in our industry have the opportunity to coach and champion other women inside and outside their organization, and I challenge every one of us to sponsor just one woman, and we will continue to make a difference. Statistics show that increasing diversity in leadership enables greater success for any enterprise, and we, women in agribusiness, can be a driving force.
Christine Gould [Christine]: Thought For Food (TFF) was conceived with the ambitious vision of inviting new people and fresh perspectives into the food and agriculture industry. Our mission is to fundamentally transform how we address the world's most pressing challenges, and our actions speak to our boldness and fearlessness in championing innovative ideas that have the potential to create impact globally. Central to this mission is, of course, the empowerment of women, and amplifying our voices, ideas, solutions, and approaches to cutting-edge innovation.
I take immense pride in the fact that we are an all-women leadership team, and that over the years, the majority of our funding has been awarded to women-led agrifoodtech startups worldwide. This is a necessary step in leveling the playing field, as women entrepreneurs typically receive only a fraction of overall investments and often face bias and discrimination. At TFF, we're committed to challenging the status quo, and we like to say that TFF could easily stand for "the future is female". We firmly believe that by fostering inclusivity and supporting women entrepreneurs, we are making strides toward a more equitable and sustainable future for all.
2). What does it mean to you to have been selected for the WIA Demeter Award?
[Tracie]: Oh my goodness! Without a doubt, being selected for this award among the other applicants of women who strive for success and achievement each day is quite humbling. I am so proud to be able to represent women in agriculture positively and with passion for the industry. Having grown up deeply rooted in 4-H/FFA, then earning degrees in agriculture, I can say with honesty that my purpose in life is to help others grow into successful citizens, and by focusing on the good, more of that goodness is created. Whether I am judging a youth livestock event or working directly with colleagues in the agriculture industry, my focus of helping others succeed never changes. I am thrilled to be part of an industry that has taught me the importance of measuring success by the seeds planted, not by the harvest I reap, and how dedication to that process is what matters most.
Thank you for your selection of me to receive this award. I will forever be a favorable mentor and steward to those who choose agriculture as their platform for growth.
[Connie]: It is a distinctive honor to be a recipient of the Women in Agribusiness Demeter Award of Excellence. To be recognized in our industry as a woman leader alongside the esteemed women who’ve preceded me is humbling, and I offer my heartfelt appreciation and thanks to WIA and to those who nominated me for this recognition. This award represents the opportunities I’ve had throughout my career working with exceptional men and women leaders championing me and my efforts to pursue my potential and contribute to others. I am thankful to all who enabled this journey. I am inspired to do more to encourage and engage women to step outside their comfort zone and challenge themselves for the multitude of opportunities in agriculture. Crafting a plan must include execution – it is work, but so fulfilling.
[Christine]: Receiving this award as a woman leader in agribusiness is both an honor and a humbling moment in my career. My driving principle in the business of innovation has always been servant leadership. Every day, I'm inspired to serve the TFF Community and the greater good of our food system and world. However, working to affect change within a deeply entrenched and often resistant system can feel like an uphill battle, and doing so while also balancing family and children can be particularly challenging.
This award serves as a powerful reminder that the hard work and dedication we pour into this field is seen, valued, and appreciated. It not only provides a boost of motivation and energy for me, but I also hope it inspires other women in this sector to know that their leadership, efforts, and impact are recognized. It's crucial that we continue to support and uplift each other, and I am committed to using the platform and exposure that this award has granted me to further elevate women leaders across the agribusiness sector.