Answers, Support, and Education
Story by Susan Collins-Smith • Photos by Kevin Hudson
Cathy Booth strongly believes that agriculture is the backbone of America. Growing up in a farming family and marrying a farmer, she’s had an up-close view of its importance her entire life.
“The work we do clothes and feeds people,” Booth explains. “I am very passionate about agriculture and have always been a very active participant in my own farm.”
Since 1994, she’s worked for Buck Island Seed Co., a business her brother co-founded with two other men in the same year. The company performs custom seed cleaning, treating, and blending for rice, soybeans, wheat, oats, and triticale, a small grain. Booth also raised various row crops with her husband on their Tunica County farm until his death in 2020. She now rents out the land to a producer who grows soybeans, corn, and triticale.
Since she was a child, the Mississippi State University Extension Service has been a constant in Booth’s life. It’s the place her father and later she and her husband trusted to get answers about everything related to their farming businesses, including what to plant, when to plant, and how to treat insects and diseases.
“Anytime Daddy needed anything, he went to Mr. Hayes Farish, the county Extension agent at the time,” Booth says. “Bill, my husband, did the same thing. That was the first place he called when he needed to know something or had a question.”
In 2006, Booth joined Extension’s Women for Agriculture organization, which has helped her increase her knowledge and skills related to her work and farm. A fellow Mississippi Seedsmen Association member recommended she join, and she’s been active ever since.
Booth and her husband always ran their farm together, and the training she received through Women for Agriculture helped them do some long-range planning.
“The first meeting I attended included a training on small-farm estate planning,” she says. “They had an estate planner come in and walk us through all the parts of the process and show us everything that we needed to consider and include in our estate plan. This is such an important process for families with small farms. So many families have to sell their farms to pay the estate taxes.”
Women for Agriculture is instrumental in helping women who are involved in agriculture at all levels.
“The organization opened my eyes to how many female farmers there are,” Booth says. “No matter what your connection to agriculture is, this organization can benefit you. There are a lot of women like me who work in agriculture or are married to farmers, and it’s so important to understand the processes and be involved in the day-to-day activities.”
Over the years, she’s built a strong relationship with Extension, helping to organize the first Seed and Agricultural Technology Short Course in 2015. The course teaches producers, industry professionals, crop consultants, and others about the latest precision agricultural practices affecting seed and crop production. Booth remains a member of the board that helps put the course together each year.
She’s also paying her Extension experience forward by helping get the word out about Extension and organizing educational programs for all ages in her community.
“I encourage everyone in town to use the Extension Service. It’s there for everybody for whatever they need,” Booth says.
Sylvia Clark, coordinator of Mississippi’s Women for Agriculture program, said Extension is a vital resource for all Mississippians.
“You can learn about any subject through Extension, from cooking to horticulture to row-crop stats and prices,” Clark says. “The Women for Agriculture program is just one of the many available.
“Women, like Cathy, who have lost their spouse, may or may not be prepared for all the decision-making being on their shoulders alone. Being a member of Women for Agriculture gives them a support system that will help them find the answers they need to make timely, well-informed decisions and establish goals that will secure the farm for the immediate future,” Clark emphasizes.
The 2022 Seed and Ag Tech Short Course will be held August 15–16; plan to register this summer.