Krista Lottinville: Motivator for Young Women in Ag

Thrive contest winner embraces her agricultural roots and inspires many other young women to do the same.
Krista Lottinville
Like many young girls growing up on a farm, Krista Lottinville dreamed of trading in the slow, steady pace of Sheldon, Illinois, for the hustle and bustle of the big city. But exposure to the diverse opportunities that agriculture offers set her on a different course.

Lottinville shared her journey in a 2015 Thrive essay contest, in which Syngenta asked participants to explain how agriculture drives their communities to thrive. Her simple yet poignant account of how agriculture helped a little farm girl grow up to become a role model for dozens of other young women swayed the panel of judges and online voters alike to name her the grand prizewinner. A closer look at Lottinville’s ongoing story reveals a caring, compassionate legacy grower, full-time Burris Seed account manager, and young leader whose roots in agriculture are as strong as her passion for life.

Do Better, Think Bigger

During Lottinville’s early years, she equated a career in agriculture with a lifetime on the farm. After all, her family had lived and worked on its farm for more than 100 years, and she was surrounded by friends with similar backgrounds.

Her high school agriculture classes and FFA program broadened her understanding of what a career in agriculture could mean. She traveled to national events in Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Kentucky, with other highly motivated students who pushed her “to do better and think bigger” about the changing industry. And when a teacher exposed her to the industry’s entire supply chain, she learned that making a living in agriculture could extend beyond the farm into business, manufacturing and policymaking.

“I was surprised when I realized just how big the industry is,” Lottinville says. “But the best part of ag class was talking about it with like-minded, hard-working farm kids with big dreams.”

Yet just as she grew excited about a future outside Sheldon, a devastating loss drew her closer to home. In her junior year of high school, her older brother, Clint, died suddenly, leaving Lottinville the sole remaining heir to run the family farm.

The responsibility to carry that legacy forward renewed her commitment to a lifetime in agriculture. “I embraced the idea and knew that I needed to learn more about the industry, to both work on the farm and supplement with off-farm income,” she says.

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Finding Strong Women in Ag

One specific group helped Lottinville find a place where her deep-rooted passion for agriculture could flourish: Illinois Agri-Women (IAW) and its affiliated program, Women Changing the Face of Agriculture (WCFA), both of which Syngenta is proud to support.

IAW is a grassroots organization of female farmers and agribusiness women that promotes a better understanding of agriculture and family-farm systems. It organizes conferences like WCFA, a series of outreach events that give women the opportunity to explore career paths and network with other female agricultural professionals.

Lottinville began volunteering with WCFA in 2010, when she was a senior studying agriculture business at the University of Illinois. In the six years since then, she has become heavily involved in a number of groups that promote leadership in agriculture, including the Ford-Iroquois Farm Bureau Young Ag Leaders, Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation Program and, of course, IAW and WCFA.

“Girls will come up and say they’re interested in photography,” Lottinville says, “and I’ll say, ‘Great! AgriNews needs people.’ It’s the perfect opportunity for conversations like that. As the ag industry thrives, there are more opportunities for women.”

As the grand prizewinner of the Thrive contest, Lottinville could designate one local charity to receive a $1,000 donation from Syngenta in her name. Not surprisingly, she selected WCFA. Syngenta also presented her with a $500 gift card, which she chose to donate to the group. Lottinville hopes the donation will help the organization continue its mission of empowering her community of women to succeed together.

“I love agriculture, and I want young women everywhere to love it, too,” she says.