Female farmer acts as spokesperson for industry

By Tristan Bennett
Delta Digital News Service

WALDENBURG – A young, female farmer is taking the Arkansas agricultural world by storm by acting as an ambassador and a role model for others like her.

Originally adopted from Russia, Jenna Martin grew up on her father’s, Dennis Martin, farm in Hickory Ridge, Arkansas. She went on to pursue a degree in agriculture business and continued her work in an industry dominated by men.

“This is just something in my gut. It’s just what I want to do,” Jenna said. “It’s what I think about all the time, it’s what I want to learn about, it’s what I talk to Dad about all the time.”

Men dominated the agriculture field for centuries, so a stigma surrounds women who work in the industry. However, the 2017 census stated 36% of U.S. farmers are female, and that number continues to rise. Jenna works as a role model for many young girls wishing to pursue a career in agriculture.

Both of her parents grew up around agriculture, so it became a part of Jenna’s life early on. She began helping Dennis on the family farm as soon as she could walk. Her mother homeschooled her, so the flexible schedule gave her plenty of time to spend where she said she really wanted to be: on the farm.

“When she first started, she would help us move equipment from field to field, and as she got a little bit older, she started driving tractors and putting out all the Polypipe,” Dennis said.

She solidified her choice to stay in agriculture while still in high school and began learning as much as she could and promoting the industry. Along with staying active in 4-H for 15 years, Martin also held the title of 2013 Miss Arkansas Rice. The Miss Rice program encourages agriculture education and promotes rice as a major part of Arkansas’ economy.

After graduation, Jenna chose to attend East Arkansas Community College in Wynne before transferring to Arkansas State University to pursue a degree in agriculture business and minor in strategic communication. Even though she wanted to farm, she said her parents wanted her to have a degree to fall back on.

“I chose community college because it was close to home and closer to the farm,” Jenna said. “EACC was a good transition before I went to A-State.”

During her time at A-State, Jenna remained involved in the College of Agriculture, held many leadership positions and created good working relationships with her classmates and professors. Bert Greenwalt, professor of agricultural economics at A-State, worked closely with Jenna during her time at A-State.

“She immediately became involved in all activities of the college,” Greenwalt said. “The thing about Jenna to me is she’s just so enthusiastic. Very positive, very enthusiastic and always ready to jump in, lend a hand and make a difference.”

Jenna served as the president of the A-State Collegiate Farm Bureau during her senior year, and worked as a teacher’s assistant under Greenwalt, assisting with the annual A-State Agribusiness Conference as well.

Jenna explored different careers in agriculture during her internships with Farm Credit Midsouth and Pioneer Seed, but ultimately returned to Dennis’ farm and chose to remain in production agriculture. During harvest, Jenna handles the grain carts as Dennis mans the combine.

“Usually day-to-day I go out to the shop, get everything ready and then go out to the field and stay there until 8:30 or 9,” Jenna said. “In the summer I go around and help Dad with all the water. Like I said, irrigation is huge.”

While she feels perfectly confident with her work in the field, Jenna still struggles with the business aspects of running a farm. Dennis runs his operation the old school way: everything on paper, and Jenna learned about how to handle finances on the farm from him. However, in a world where technology reigns, even farmers must adapt to new equipment and tools.

“Something I wish I could have done more of in my degree is more on the technology side,” Jenna said. “It’s growing so much, and I think that’s a big thing.”

As far as being a woman in a traditionally male industry, Jenna is not intimidated.

“I’m pretty good about just jumping in with the guys, and they’re pretty cool about responding,” she said.

More women pursue careers in agriculture today than ever before, and Jenna acts as a role model for each young girl.

“Jenna has an interest, ability and a passion for speaking about our industry,” Greenwalt said. “She is someone I know will continue to be a leader in the industry.”

Jenna said she hopes to take over the family farm someday. In the meantime, she continues to help Dennis on the farm and work on acquiring land to cultivate on her own.

“We’re leaving that 100% up to her,” Dennis said. “If she wants to pursue a future in farming, we’re behind her.”

Editor’s Note: Feature Photo shows Dennis, left, and Jenna Martin. Photo taken by Tristan Bennett