Women fill ranks of ag research and management positions

In addition to stepping into leadership roles at family farms, more women are filling the ranks of agricultural researchers and agency managers.

Katy Coba, who was the first female wheat truck driver on the family farm near Pendleton, has been director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture for the past 10 years. Celia Gould holds that position in Idaho and Karen Ross is secretary of California’s Department of Food and Agriculture.

Two of Coba’s upper level staff members are women: Deputy Director Lisa Hanson and Stephanie Page, who is special assistant to the director.

Female researchers are deeply engaged in agricultural issues. At Oregon State University, weed scientist Carol Mallory-Smith ran the initial tests this spring that determined volunteer wheat plants found growing in an eastern Oregon field carried an unapproved “Roundup Ready” gene.

Also at OSU, entomologist Amy Dreves works to thwart the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive fruit fly that causes severe damage to ripening fruit and berries. Patty Skinkis, a viticulturist, is researching ways to increase wine grape yields without decreasing quality. Sujaya Rao, another entomologist, is involved in a project to learn more about the health of native pollinators by tracking bumblebees’ movements using tiny sensors. Many more women hold teaching positions on campus or work at OSU’s Food Innovation Center or other Extension Service programs.

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