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A random introduction many years ago provided me with the opportunity to accept a position with a community bank which has turned into a 30-plus year career I have loved. During that time, I have worn many hats, taken on lots of assignments and worked to help customers. My current role as a Community Bank President and Commercial Lender in a rural area allows me to work with customers and their individual lending and investing needs. One of the many things I have learned is I really enjoy ag lending. The banker and farmer work together and, over time, establish a banking relationship that is built on respect, trust and teamwork. As you get to know your ag customers, you begin to understand each individual farm operation and will discuss crop plans, input needs and costs, equipment needs and, of course, financing options for the year. Together, we spend time adjusting last year’s plans to improve on the upcoming year and make sure that all the necessary financing is in place. Then, the conversations change to topics like “are the crops all planted, how are current weather conditions affecting the crops, what are today’s crop prices and how do your cotton, corn or soybeans look?” The fall season brings on the harvest with long days and short nights to reap the benefits of all the work put into these crops. When you finally do see your ag customers after the harvest is complete, conversations change and include “did you have a good crop, what prices are you seeing and wanting, are you going to store or sell crops, do you want to pay interest on your operating line now or in January” – essentially planning for next year. 

My career in agricultural lending occurred much like an August rain – unexpected and with great appreciation. When I started my career, there weren’t many women represented in my field. I had some hurdles to overcome, but I learned so much from each obstacles. Each obstacle taught me valuable lessons on how to be a better person, banker and friend. 

A new dawn is rising for women both in banking and agriculture. Throughout my career, I have been one of the few, if not the only, women in the proverbial room. However, I was always confident in my abilities and knowledge. I was fortunate to have the support of both my supervisors and my customers. They often pushed me outside my comfort zone and encouraged me to establish my own roots in these predominantly male-dominated areas. 

With more representation, awareness, support and opportunities, that allow and encourage more inclusivity in both banking and agriculture, women are becoming increasingly invested in pursuing careers in these predominantly male-driven fields. For centuries, women have been essential to both , but they now have more opportunities to elevate themselves to the forefront of these industries. Women are now able to be recognized for cultivating their own legacies of stewardship, innovation, credibility, and success in both industries. Increased representation in both fields leads to greater awareness, support and opportunities for women. New initiatives are emerging to provide support to women in these roles. These initiatives provide networking platforms, mentorship programs, and professional development opportunities. One of these initiatives is increased financial literacy to help women in agriculture feel empowered to make knowledgeable financial decisions and navigate the lending process. While much progress has been made, ongoing efforts are needed to ensure women feel confident in pursuing careers in the closely-related businesses of agriculture and banking. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Andrea Hughes and are not endorsed by, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, Simmons Bank. Simmons Bank does not provide tax, accounting or legal advice.

Andrea Hughes is the Community Bank President and Commercial Lender of Simmons Bank. 

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