For the third year, the Missouri State Fair is taking time to honor women in agriculture, specifically recognizing two women for their contributions to the industry.
Dr. Linda Hickam, of Thompson, received the title of Missouri Woman in Agriculture, and Ashley Bauer, of Warrenton, received the title of Missouri Woman in Agriculture Rising Star. Both will be honored at the Fair today during a reception, and both chose a nonprofit agriculture-related organization of her choice to receive a $1,000 cash donation from Monsanto.
Frequent fair-goers may recognize Bauer, 21, as the bubbly and outgoing 2013 Miss Missouri State Fair Queen. Although she is now too old to compete in 4-H and FFA shows, she has shown in several types of horse shows, including halter, showmanship, western pleasure, horsemanship, trail, barrel racing, pole bending, hunter under saddle, and hunt seat equitation.
“I have been raising rabbits and horses; I’ve basically grown up around animals my entire life,” she said. “I’ve raised my own rabbits, I’ve shown locally, statewide and nationally some of my horses I have — that’s what I love to do in ag.”
Her love of horses extends past showing them in competitions. She is starting her senior year at William Woods University in Fulton where she is double majoring in Equine General Studies and Business Administration, with minors in Equine Science and Equine Administration. She hopes to stay in the agriculture industry, but in a unique way, by opening her own therapeutic horsemanship facility to help provide human-to-horse interaction therapy options for individuals with special needs, mental disorders, and disabilities.
“I love people and horses, so combing the two will be a perfect career choice,” she said. “I’ve already volunteered about 100 hours, and I’ve fallen in love with the people, I love to make those connections, like when you first meet someone and they’ll barely talk, and then at the end of the lesson they ask when they can come back to see you.
“That’s when it hits home, I realize that’s what I want to do, I’m doing something right. I find happiness in it, and agriculture has given me an opportunity to do that in an unconventional way. Hopefully I’m making a difference in other people’s lives.”
Bauer said it was the Missouri State Fair that sparked her interest in therapeutic horsemanship while competing in barrel racing.
“I was watching some people in my class. A boy with Down Syndrome came in and ran his horse in the same class all on his own. People were screaming and cheering for him,” she recalled. “I almost shed a tear; I thought ‘that is so cool.’ You wouldn’t think anything about it, but just to see this kid go in there on his own with his horse and give it his all was amazing. You could tell he wasn’t doing it because he had to or had to win, he did it because he wanted it.
“To see the smile on his face after his run, I thought, ‘I want to teach people how to do that, help them achieve all the goals they want to achieve.’ That’s when I knew.”
Bauer chose TREE House of Greater St. Louis as her nonprofit to receive the $1,000 donation because the cause is close to her heart as a frequent volunteer.
“I’ve seen the work the volunteers have done there firsthand. I’ve seen changes that occur with students. I’m a firm believer in all they’re doing and working toward,” Bauer said of why she chose TREE House. “It’s such a great nonprofit, but also just a great atmosphere for those who have handicaps or disabilities or any type of disorder. It’s a safe place where they can learn, improve a certain skill. Non verbal to individuals who are veterans or are missing body parts; anyone who could benefit from therapy, mentally, socially, physically, emotionally.”
Bauer said she was “extremely honored” to receive the Women in Ag award and is “very grateful to be presented the opportunity to help out a cause greater than just myself.”
“I definitely think that women are becoming even more of a piviotal role in agriculture than they have been in the past, simply because we’re doing everything we can to expand growing the industry we have,” Bauer said. “The fair does an awesome job of recognizing women. I remember during the 2013 queen pageant, our final onstage question was about women in ag. I was very impressed with how they showcase women and how they are involved and, not that men aren’t, but it’s really nice for them to recognize women are stepping up in the industry.”
Receiving second in the 31-year-old and older age division was Deanna Thies, of Columbia. Receiving second in the 18- to 30-year-old age division was Taylor Loges, of Sweet Springs. These women will receive plaques for their efforts, and all participants in the contest will receive certificates of acknowledgement in a reception to be hosted in their honor today.
In addition to honoring these women, the Fair will also celebrate women in agriculture by offering free gate admission for women of all ages today. Specials will be offered for women at select concessions and vendors, and the free Missouri Travel Council Celebrating Women showcase will be hosted in Lowell Mohler Assembly Hall.
Look for an article about Missouri Woman in Agriculture winner Dr. Linda Hickam in an upcoming edition of the Democrat.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.