Kate Danner, a farmer in Aledo IL, joined the Illinois Corn Growers Association board in 2017. As an “at large” director that represents every farmer in Illinois, she’s particularly interested in ethanol and its impacts on consumers in Illinois and the way it can better lives in our state and country. She currently sits on the ICGA Exports Committee and on the National Corn Growers Association Freedom to Operate Action Team.
Me: Tell me a little bit about how you knew that you were going to be a farmer when you grew up.
Kate: Funny enough, I never thought about being a farmer was an option. I had no interest in the family farm whatsoever. I went to college on a volleyball scholarship, and the college I attended was based in agriculture with a lot of ag majors and students. The students studying ag there helped me to see the potential I had in my own backyard.
I started asking questions to my dad while coming home on the weekends. By the time I finished my associate’s degree, I wanted to see what life would be like as a farmer. I was not going to pursue an education without some level of experience or drive for a career. Somehow, I convinced my parents into a yearlong farm internship. A ground-level view of my career and life after finishing my bachelor degree. It wasn’t if I could or could not farm, it was if I could farm with my family. Family business isn’t for everyone. The internship gave everyone an easy way out if it didn’t work.
Then I lived in my hometown for a year and saw firsthand what my life would be like as a farmer. I LOVED IT! I really loved working with my dad. Our personalities are very complimentary, and we are a great team. So, for the last seven years, I’ve been a farmer and we’ve been transitioning the farm to me. He’s mostly retired and I make all marketing decisions, seed selection, and management plans. I’m the farmer now! And truly love my life.
Me: What’s the reception you get among your farmer peers?
Kate: I know I don’t look like a “normal” farmer, but when I sit with a group of farmers and we talk about hybrids, yields, fertilizer recommendations, and policy. My farmer peers realize that I am knowledgeable in my experiences, I become a farmer just like everyone else. I feel accepted and welcomed.
I know there are hurdles being a female in a male-dominated career, but I have been very well-received.
Me: What’s your favorite thing about life on the farm?
Kate (without even a second to think): The freedom. The choice of every day. When our forefathers started this country and they decided what America would stand on – freedom, choice and hard work – that’s the summary of being a farmer and I’m privileged to live that every day.