When I first joined Farm Progress in 1997, Sara Wyant was editorial vice president.
I came to understand a few things in short order: First, Sara was tough as nails; I was slightly intimidated. Second, she always had time for a conversation; that made me less intimidated. Third, she knew agriculture, period; that gave me something to strive for. Fourth, she loved ag policy and she had a knack for looking ahead; that inspired me.
Today, she's president of Agri-Pulse Communications, a diversified communications firm with offices in Washington, D.C. and Missouri. Among other endeavors, they publish a subscription-based newsletter reporting farm and rural policy news. Sara is, without a doubt, one of the most knowledgeable people covering ag policy in the U.S. It's long been her passion and her expertise, and she's well recognized on Capitol Hill. I suspect she could pick up the phone and call anyone on the U.S. House or Senate ag committees and they'd take her call.
Sara is a ground-breaker, too. During her Farm Progress tenure, she pushed to get our publications online before others were willing to invest, and she was the first to delve into what leaders of major commodity organizations make for a living – a list that AgriPulse publishes to this day. She's a forward thinker and a mover and shaker for agriculture. It's led to influence, in so many ways.
This past summer, I stood and talked one evening with Sara and my fellow editor and friend, Holly Martin. Holly and I are similar in age and she observed that in her career, she's never once been told that she couldn't do something because she was a woman. I would concur. Further, we know that wasn't the case for the generation of women before us. Women like Colleen Callahan, who wasn't even allowed to be in FFA. Or women like my mother-in-law, who belonged to a separate girls-only 4-H club.
I have long respected Sara's approach to women in agriculture. It was my perception that she wasn't about to take you under her wing simply because you were female. That wouldn't have been fair to her or to you or to anyone else. But if you proved your merit, you did good work and you worked hard, she'd fight tooth and nail for you. When I had my first child and asked to work part-time, it was largely Sara who said yes. My ability to do this job part-time for more than a decade made all the difference to my family and our farm.
That's influence, and simply because she could.
Sara has a long list of accolades, including an Oscar in Ag and the distinction of being only the second female president of the American Agricultural Editors' Association, in 1992. The next 20 years saw 10 more female presidents – I was the 12th in 2013; her time clearly marked the beginning of a significant trend of women in ag communications. It's been easier for us, because of her work and others like her.
"I remember being at my first AAEA meeting when she won an Oscar in Ag," Holly Martin recalls. "She was pretty big-time in my eyes."
Indeed. It's one of many reasons Sara is an agriculturalist who influences.
Agriculturalists Who Influence: The Series
- Day 1: Introduction
- Day 2: Jim Evans
- Day 3: Becky Doyle
- Day 4: David and Nancy Erickson
- Day 5: Katie Pinke
- Day 6: Joe Hampton
- Day 7: Noreen Frye
- Day 8: Carolyn Olson
- Day 9: John and Kendra Smiley
- Day 10: Colleen Callahan
- Day 11: Neil and Debbie Fearn
- Day 12: Martin Barbre
- Day 13: Pam Smith
- Day 14: Jim Esworthy
- Day 15: Erin Ehnle
- Day 16: Al Somers
- Day 17: Tom Carr
- Day 18: Russ and Marilyn Rosenboom
- Day 19: Matt Lloyd
- Day 20: Max Armstrong
- Day 21: Steve Foglesong
- Day 22: Sharon Spangler
- Day 23: Scott and Shantel Beck
- Day 24: Bob Easter
- Day 25: Mike and Lynn Martz
- Day 26: Sara Wyant