Growing Up in the Field: The Career Choice of a Farmer’s Daughter
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
By: Bethany Gale, Bayer CropScience Biologics’ Greenhouse Manager
My name is Bethany Gale and I work as the Bayer CropScience Biologics’ greenhouse manager in West Sacramento, CA. I have spent most of my life nearby, in the rural town of Winters. My mother has always been an avid gardener and my father farmed for years, so my passion for agriculture and plants started at an early stage. My love of plants continued and I earned a BS degree in Environmental Horticulture from University of California, Davis. During this time as a student, I interned at the UCD Arboretum and Center for Land-Based Learning. These volunteer positions provided valuable skills that ultimately led to the career I have now.
Growing up, I occasionally went to work with my father, where he worked long and hard hours, leaving in the morning before the sun was up and coming home as the sun was setting. These work trips created lifelong memories that have served me well. For instance, he never rolled up the windows of the truck to use the air conditioning, even in the 100+°F California summer. As you might imagine, I was a bit confused and grumpy about this, but it provided some great life lessons. He explained how important it was to get acclimated to the heat, which is vital for avoiding heat stress and now I train others on the same principles. On a deeper level, he modeled leadership and integrity in his people management; he did not want to drive up in a cloud of dust and get out of the nice cool truck cab to direct his team who was working out in the field all day. An added bonus of driving with the windows down was soaking in all the sounds and smells that otherwise would go unnoticed and helping me to realize where our food actually comes from.
My work commute has always been through orchards and fields, where I still get to appreciate the sounds and smells of the land. My commute also provides time to reflect on the seasonality of food and nature. Spring showcases almond orchards in full bloom and wild turkeys showing off to secure a mate. In the long days of summer, fields of sunflowers abound, which are grown for F1 hybrid seed export, not oil. Fall brings harvest time for walnuts, with all the specialized machinery needed like shakers and sweepers. In winter, when we get the majority of our rainfall, fields have bright green wheat or cover crops. However, with the current drought there are more empty fields than usual.
Not everyone has the same sense of place as me, but as women in agriculture we need to use our voice to share our personal experiences in order to help others connect to the agriculture that IS in their lives. It is with increased awareness that people will begin to value food more and appreciate where it comes from. Although I don't actually farm, the work I do for Bayer supports farmers in their mission to feed the world and they need more tools than ever to accomplish this challenging, and often invisible, task. Really, where would we be as a society without our farmers?
Bethany Gale is Bayer CropScience Biologics’ greenhouse manager in West Sacramento, CA. She is from Winters, CA and has a BS in Environmental Horticulture from University of California, Davis.