"Be a lady and dress properly for the occasion."

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting a different leading woman in agriculture each week. Last week, we kicked off the series with Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo. This week, we caught up with cattlewoman Minnie Lou Bradley.

Minnie Lou Bradley, now a sprightly 83, always had a passion for agriculture. Growing up in southwestern Oklahoma, Minnie was the first woman to major in animal husbandry from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater in 1949.  In 1955, Minnie Lou Bradley moved to the Texas Panhandle to found Bradley 3 Ranch with her husband Billy. For decades, Minnie’s vision has catapulted Bradley 3 Ranch into a leader and award-winning ranch for land management and genetic beef breeding. Minnie herself has lassoed a herd of accolades, including being the first female President of the American Angus Association, an inductee into the Saddle and Sirloin Portrait Gallery and has received recognition as one of the nation’s top 50 U.S. Beef Industry Leaders by BEEF magazine.

Minnie still lives and works on her ranch every day.  She took a moment to reflect on how she got to where she is, recognize one of her own heroines in animal husbandry, and offer some sound advice to the next generation of women in agriculture.

How do you start your day?

At 83, I start a little different than I did 20 years. I get up between 6 and 6:30 a.m., get the news, coffee and have a big breakfast. My breakfast is steak (from my ranch) and eggs and a piece of toast.

Imagine you could host a dinner party with anyone – living or dead. Who would you invite and why?

Any farmer or rancher.  I love talking with those that have come up from bootstraps, inherited the land and continued to go forward. Farmers and ranchers have commonsense, a hard work ethic and honesty unlike that of anyone else. It’s important to look at the big picture when it comes to the agriculture industry, and I feel like I am getting the real story when I talk to a farmer or rancher.

What are you reading? Watching on TV?

I watch the local Fox news station.  I read a bunch of ag periodicals (BEEF Magazine, CALF News, Drovers Cattle Network, Angus Journal, Progressive Farmer, Beef Today magazine) for markets, futures, rules and regulations. It’s a 24 hour a day job to keep up with all the industry news!

What’s the view outside your window and how does it influence your work?

Out my window, I can see for about 20 miles in three directions. No houses, no roads—just a beautiful, sunny view of the Texas Panhandle. I live in a very serene place. It’s a tough area with lots of hardships but it gives you a good perspective. I watch the sun come up and go down every day.

Do you consider yourself a woman leader in agriculture?

Laughs. I never did. I was a leader in high school but I had to bear down to get through college. When I got married and had kids, we branched out to the meat business and that’s when people really started to accept me. The ranch wasn’t supposed to succeed but it did. The cattle producers asked me to represent them, be on different committees and that’s exactly what I did.

What advice do you have for women just entering agriculture?

A lot of people have no idea where their food comes from or how we are clothed.  Production agriculture is a hard business. It can be done but you have to have a passion and give your life, a lot of time, sweat and blood to the land.

There are so many opportunities in agriculture to consider. Women have had great success in areas beyond production agriculture. There are opportunities every day. Currently, 80% of students in animal science at Oklahoma State University are women. There are a lot more girls than boys in vet schools across the country. The opportunities are endless.

Who is your heroine in agriculture?

Temple Grandin.  She is world renowned in the field of animal husbandry and everyone in the livestock industry respects her. A city girl who made it work, she went into what was predominately a man’s world of meat processing plants and she also faced the challenges of autism head-on to become a leading problem solver in the livestock industry. She knew what she was doing and she succeeded.

What is the most important myth to be busted about women in agriculture?

In my book, the myth that women aren’t leading is a myth itself.  Women have been chairs of Senate and House agriculture committees, involved on the state and local level too. If we want to share leadership roles with men, we must be equal in our knowledge and passion.

In 7 words or less, what is some advice you would offer to the next generation of women in agriculture?

Be a lady and dress properly for the occasion.

Follow our conversations with #womeninag on Storify. Is there a leading woman in agriculture you would like to hear from? Send us your suggestions using #womeninag or via email at agwomenlead@usda.gov.