Women in Ag: Tracing Kayleigh Koch’s #RootsinBoots
Kayleigh Koch’s roots in boots runs deep. When she was a child, her parents couldn’t get her out of the tractor on their family’s corn and soybean operation in Hawkeye, Iowa.
Her favorite memory is the first time her dad let her plant. She started planting in the field right next to the driveway by their house. As luck would have it, she accidentally left a large triangle of unplanted ground. Not only did she have to see her mistake every day for the entire growing season, but her family also never let her live it down! Now she looks back on it and laughs. It was definitely a lesson she won’t forget, and she’s honed her planting skills over the years.
Kayleigh rented 20 acres of farm ground from her dad for her high school FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE). She made all of the decisions for that land from seed selection and planting date to herbicides and harvest. Kayleigh had very little nerves starting out, because she had been helping her dad for years, and he continued to guide her throughout her SAE project. When she started, they had two drought years in a row, so corn prices were high. Even though yield was down, the prices compensated the yield loss so she was able to start out on a great foot on her first year. From using this as her SAE, she was able to successful earn her FFA American Degree. To earn this degree, an FFA member must earn $10,000. Kayleigh successfully reached that benchmark and was able to earn that profit over four years of selling corn and soybeans on the 20 acres. She will now have the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis this fall to receive the highest honor an FFA member can earn. As a result from this SAE, she gained a great appreciation for the detail and care that farmer’s put into their businesses.
During her junior year of high school, Kayleigh’s sister convinced her to buy steers and show them at the county fair. The girls didn’t grow up with livestock, but Kayleigh is thankful her sister pushed her to try something new. Kayleigh enjoyed learning about another facet of agriculture and wishes she had shown cattle her entire life! Kayleigh is a member of the North Fayette Valley FFA Chapter and have served various roles. She served as the Sophomore Vice-President, Secretary and President. As a junior in high school, she was elected to serve as the Northeast District Reporter.
Experiences in FFA and on her family farm led Kayleigh to major in Agricultural Business at Iowa State University with a minor in Entrepreneurial Studies and a focus on Agronomy. Before becoming involved with FFA, Kayleigh wanted to be an anesthesiologist. Looking back, she considers it lucky that pursuing a career in the medical field was just a phase.
“My classmates kept talking about Iowa State, and that’s when I realized how many career paths there are in the agriculture industry alone,” says Kayleigh.
Anybody active in the agriculture industry knows how vast the opportunities are, and Kayleigh admits that this fact can be a bit daunting! Kayleigh considers the flexibility of an ag degree to be a blessing because she’s not afraid to blaze her own trail in agriculture. She is open minded about where her career path will take her, but she does know that she wants to own a business one day. She plans to be active in her community and do everything she can to promote the agriculture industry. Currently, she is an ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State and gets to promote both agriculture and Iowa State’s diverse opportunities in the life sciences. When recruiting young female agriculture enthusiasts, she likes to use these three selling points:
- The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University is 51% female which proves that women are a growing demographic that is making a larger impact on the agriculture industry than ever before.
- The ag industry is very tight-knit. Everyone knows each other, and it’s like one big family!
- There is something in the industry for everyone. Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to stand out.
Kayleigh has used her involvement in FFA and at Iowa State to build a promising career. This past summer, she was an agronomy sales intern for Heartland Cooperative at its Prairie City location. She got to work with agronomists, deliver seed to farmers, scout fields, and attend BASF, Winfield and Helena Chemical events to increase her knowledge in agronomy.
“Let’s just say that I learned way more about weeds, insects and diseases than I ever planned on,” says Kayleigh. “But I loved every second of it! I love knowing that what I learned this summer, I will be able to utilize in any future career.”
While scouting fields for farmers, Kayleigh noticed that some farmers didn’t take her scouting as seriously as she did. Whether that is because she is a female or she’s just young, she has learned that you have to work to gain trust in this industry, but she’s up for the challenge!
“Being a woman in agriculture may mean we have to work a little hard and dig a little deeper to earn respect and trust,” says Kayleigh. “But the challenge is what makes this career path a true blessing.”
Find more inspiring #RootsinBoots stories below:
- Women in Ag: Tracing Amy Rohe’s #RootsinBoots
- Women in Ag: Tracing Kilah Hemesath’s #RootsinBoots
- Women in Ag: Tracing Jenna Braun’s #RootsinBoots
- Women in Ag: Tracing Ali Luety’s #RootsinBoots
- Women in Ag: Tracing Jessica Faust’s #RootsinBoots
Without strong women to help shape and manage our company, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds would be a very different company than it is today. We understand the key roles women play in everything from purchasing seed to marketing grain, from public relations and event planning to sales and customer service. That’s why we’re celebrating women who are doing what they love. From now through November we’ll be showcasing women in agriculture by telling their #RootsinBoots stories. Follow along and be inspired by FarmHers across Iowa!