Second Runner up- WELCOME TO THE BOYS’ CLUB- Karen Truter

Hollard Insure and and Agri News Net - Young Agri Writers competition- Second Runner up -

Anyone that knows me personally, will know that I get extremely excited about the Farmer's Weekly, an agricultural show, and a farmer's day.

Basically, anything agriculture-related. There is something exceptional about spending time in nature while listening to each farmers' unique story. It is in this type of environment where I truly realized how much our South African farmers care for their country and its people - despite the opposition that the agricultural industry experiences daily. 

The female gender is normally not abundant in this type of environment, but it never really bothered me. Amid the farmers, I always felt welcome and allowed to share my love and passion for agriculture with like-minded people. However, there has been a time in my life when my excitement for agriculture was subdued. I realized that the majority of agricultural companies didn't share in my excitement about women in their close environment. It was only when I applied for positions in the agriculture industry that I truly realized how difficult it would be to be accepted in the "boys' club". For the public, it is prevalent that there is a massive shortage of agricultural expertise - nevertheless, in private conversations, it is highlighted that there are limited opportunities for women in the industry. I find it a bit contradicting. 

To be completely honest, gender inequality never bothered me. I can agree that agriculture represents a profession that is dominated by the male gender - and I don't necessarily have a problem with that. I can see where the mindset originated. When we go back in time, male domination in the agricultural sector was the norm. Don't understand me wrong. I can fully agree that there are years of knowledge locked up in the "older male generation". Through personal experience, I also learned that some of this knowledge cannot be taught in schools or academic intuitions, it must be carried over through hard work and dirty hands. Nevertheless, to be successful in this process, generation gaps must be narrowed down, and different genders must be willing to connect. 

While there are more women in the agriculture sector than ever before, it doesn't mean that they do not face discrimination. When various candidates apply for the same position, men receive a wide-open door to help close the generation-gap in big agricultural companies. Women, on the other hand, are sometimes not even considered. For me, this is where fairness comes to play. I sincerely believe that a person must be granted a job opportunity based on their knowledge, willingness, and ability to do the work. Simultaniously, I do believe that female candidates with a passion for agriculture can be just as successful as any other male in the same position. Quite frankly I feel sorry for each company that showed female applicants to the door based only on their gender. 

A few months ago, I was offered an incredible job opportunity, and through that, I regained my excitement for agriculture. I get to spend time outside, with our country's food providers, while I do what I am passionate about. Even though perceptions about the agricultural sector are still an unspoken concern, I firmly believe that there is a place for women in the agricultural sector. The male shoes that must be filled in the South African agricultural industry are enormous - but with an open mindset and willingness to convey knowledge, women will also be capable of similar successes. With that said, I truly look up to a few remarkable females that paved their way into well-established agricultural companies. A worldwide effort to level the agricultural playing field for women is gaining momentum, similar efforts must be made locally to welcome women in the "boys' club". Both men and women, from the younger generation, must be inspired to consider a career in the agricultural field. 

I am Karen Truter, I grew up in Potchefstroom but moved to the Western Cape after I matriculated to study agriculture at the University of Stellenbosch. 

Since June 2020, I am an agriculturist for a fertiliser company in the Western Cape (Nitrophoska). My duties include supporting our salesmen with technical information regarding crop nutrition as well as making fertiliser, lime and/or gypsum recommendation for our clients. I am also responsible our precision farming department where I assist in the process to combine soil samples, laboratory analysis, GIS-points and recommendation to provide our clients with maps for variable application of lime and fertiliser. Some of my days are spent in an office, but the majority of my days are spent outside on farms.  

I am extremely passionate about agriculture - and I truly believe in the future thereof. I truly live for the people who spent their days in the sun doing hard work to contribute to our agricultural industry. It is passion and appreciation on a different level. Despite the people, the places that get to see are also one of the reasons that I enjoy my job. I get to spend my days outside in landscapes that most people will never get to experience in their lives.  

Other than my love for agriculture, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends.  I spend my weekend reading books, writing and taking photographs. I am interested in any type of sport, from running, cycling, cross training to rugby.