It is no surprise that the advancement of technology in agriculture over the last 20 years has shifted how farms operate. In response to these changes, women have continued to rise up and perform in the ag-tech world. Meet Moriah Rataczak, a precision potato agronomist at Gumz Farms in Endeavor, Wisconsin, and an avid Ag Leader fan. As she pursued a career in ag, she found out what it takes to be a woman in precision agriculture: perseverance and belief in yourself.
In an interview with Ag Leader, Moriah explained what her job as potato agronomist entails. The interview was first published by Ag Leader and is republished here with permission and thanks.
Q: What is your role?
A: One of my roles is working with the precision aspects of the farm. Gumz Farms is a large vegetable operation on muck ground. We grow potatoes, onions, carrots, mint, corn, and soybeans, and this involves a lot of precision technology, which is where I come into play! Across the farm, we have 14 Ag Leader InCommand displays that are used nine months out of the year. I make all the AB lines used for planting through harvest season. I also make field boundaries to ensure row shut-offs, so we have perfect fields. I assist my co-workers when things don’t go as planned, so they call me “on-farm tech support”! I also install wiring, take care of all the monitor updates, and installs. I do all the software management on SMS at the farm, too.
The other side of my job is agronomy focused, working with the potato fields. We grow red and yellow potatoes for fresh pack, and I take care of them from buying seed until they leave storage. I have one of the coolest jobs since I manage our technology and crop development.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: My favorite part is teaching someone how to use the Ag Leader InCommand display. Seeing someone’s face the first time they hit the steering wheel button and the tractor driving itself down the field is something that always makes me smile. They always have the biggest grin on their face, and it makes me excited because I have followed the whole process through!
Q: What is it like to work in the ag industry?
A: I feel that in ag, we are some of the most technologically advanced people out there! I want to help the next generation of farmers keep moving forward and become more technologically advanced to save them time and money. Even though it is expensive to get started in precision, in the long run, it will pay off. I feel blessed to have met the farmers I have and to have seen how far we have come as a farming community. I can’t wait to see how far we will go in years to come!
On a personal level, everyone I’ve worked with has accepted me despite my differences. Even with my lisp and learning disability, I have never been treated differently or disadvantaged in the ag community! My unique perspective helps me bring new ideas to the table when it comes to troubleshooting problems on the job. I’ve grown to see that the way we think and work to solve problems may be different, but in the end, if it fixes the software or planter issue, that is all that matters!
Q: Have you ever felt at a disadvantage for being a female in ag?
A: I have felt disadvantaged at times because I pretty much compete against guys for jobs. While women are taking on more roles in ag, female agronomists are still in a very male-dominated field. I am excited that I represent one of the few females in it.
One thing I had to overcome was the learning curve in college. In the precision-ag field, we must know about display monitors, GLOBE, GPS, electrical wiring, and tractor maintenance. My family helped me learn the basics of machinery maintenance, but there was still so much I didn’t know. In class I had to learn things that many of my male classmates already had experience doing, so, it made me push harder. I wanted to prove that I could keep up with the guys. I never let it scare me because growing up I had always known I’d be compared to them.
Q: Are there any assumptions about women that you would like to change?
A: As a woman in ag, I feel like it is assumed we have less ability than men. But in recent years, that perspective has shifted when people see that we can do what men can do! Women are getting more involved with different aspects of agriculture, from running farms to becoming precision specialists. I have been told a man can do my job better, but women bring different qualities to the industry that many men don’t have and that benefits me in my job. I believe the contributions women make keep pushing ag forward to a better future!
Q: What is your advice for a woman thinking of starting a career in your field?
A: Don’t hesitate, just do it. I struggled with believing I could do it. Looking back at all the different monitors I can run and what I learn every day, now I feel like I’ve made it. You are going to constantly be learning something new and that keeps you moving forward in the industry.
This is one of the stories of the hard-working and driven individuals that keep the wheels of ag technology adoption and innovation turning. Check back in on Ag Leader for more stories of women in precision agriculture.