Farming can’t be a career, they say. Especially for a girl, they say. Why do you want to do that, they ask. There’s no money in that—only hard work. She shouldn’t take classes or earn degrees that will teach her how to clean the hooves of goats, sheep, horses—how to help a mama cow in distress while giving birth to her baby-- or learn to raise pigs, “God’s way” or see the miracle of how a baby chick will crack open its own shell and make its way out into the light and go on to provide eggs for the farmer's family and other families. Don’t take the classes, they say--classes that which will teach her how one tiny seed can define all odds and burst out of the soil and become food for her family, her community, the world. Or how one strong flower root can provide beauty-encouragement-income.
Mamas (and Daddys) Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Farmers is a series of stories about young ladies, women and old alike who have silenced the noise of criticism and boldly said yes to a career in agriculture and farming.
Thank you Gracie Prevette for sharing your story.
Gracie Prevette has experienced some discouragement from others during her educational journey–questions with why would a young girl want to go into agriculture–be a farmer. But Gracie is no ordinary young lady–she is strong in her faith, independent, focused, strong-willed, and an inspiration to many. She realized early on in her life she wanted her own farm and she wanted to be a teacher. And when her plans of becoming a teacher and her love of animals crossed paths with agriculture classes at East Wilkes High School, along with her experiences with the Future Farmers of America–it was there she found her calling and true passion.
And come next spring Gracie Prevette will walk across the stage in cap and gown as a first-generation college graduate earning her Bachelor of Science degree from NC State University in Agriculture Education with concentrations in both Animal Science and Extension Education. While at NC State, Gracie has worked with the College of Veterinary Medicine in the Equine and Farm Animal Emergency Unit. She will be doing her student teaching at Bandys High School in January.
“I think I have always wanted to be a teacher,” Gracie says. “The FFA and AG department at East Wilkes was a huge part of me deciding to do Agriculture. Education. I honestly didn’t know it was a thing until I took the classes. I didn’t know about the opportunity until I was exposed to it. And I am very grateful for that.
“I have a family background in agriculture and I was kinda torn between Animal Science and Ag Education but I feel like Ag. Education kinda combines the two and that will give me the opportunity to do both. Which I really, really appreciate.”
Gracie is the daughter of Reggie and April Prevette and she and her family live on a fourth-generation working farm in Ronda, NC. As a young girl her family had a cow-calf operation and they now specialize in training performance horses along with a square bale hay operation where they grow and bale hay for horse feed.
“We sold the cow-calf operation when I was young and we now focus mostly on training horses,” says Gracie. “And we sell a lot of hay. We spend basically all summer in the hay fields.”
Gracie also grew up in a family that loved the rodeo and when they were not watching it on TV, they were going to rodeos. Her Dad, Reggie Prevette has also competed in rodeo events. Gracie started barrel racing her freshman year of high school and took some time off from training until recently when she received an unexpected gift of a new horse named Onion.
“I started my freshman year of high school barrel racing in rodeos and took a very long hiatus,” explains Gracie. “The past couple years I have really missed it. I truly have a love for horses–particularly performance horses. They are another whole league of athletes and I think that is so cool.
“I adopted a horse last summer and his name is Onion. He is a 17-year old Standardbred. There’s an organization called The Standardbred Retirement Foundation and they rescued him from the kill-pen and he ended up at New Journey Farm, a farm just down the road from where I live. My family works a lot with New Journey Farm with their Standardbred Rescue.
“We were at New Journey looking for a new lesson horse and they hadn’t even pulled Onion out for us to look at because he was friendly, but not beginner friendly. I didn’t know it at the time but my Mom and Dad were looking for a new horse for me for my graduation present. My Dad pointed Onion out first and when I saw him I fell in love with him. I got to ride him and at first I was a little intimidated by him because of how forward he was, but at the same time I realized that was the most confident I had ever felt on a horse and didn’t even have him home yet.
“I went to put my saddle away and while I was doing that, my Mom and Dad bought Onion for me. And literally every day over the summer, rain or shine I would ride him or train with him. He was a harness racing horse so he had never seen or competed in barrel racing events. So in August we competed at Cowgirls with a Cause in Yadkinville. Our times were not good but we showed up and we have some work to do.
“Onion and I have a really special bond. My Dad used to rodeo and that is how I got started. I grew up watching rodeos on tv and going to rodeos with my family. There’s nothing like being able to train your own horse and seeing the progress.”
Sadly, Gracie has experienced discouragement and questions of why–as many young girls do when they express their plans and hopes of furthering their education in agriculture–working with animals and owning their own farm. But Gracie hasn’t allowed herself to focus on the negative, even though at times it has been hard. She has not let that hinder her and the lack of encouragement at times has driven her that much harder to succeeding and completing her goals. And she has learned with any kind of negativity–often comes positive change.
“The amount of grit you have to have to be in agriculture is pretty tough anyway and being a woman in agriculture, you are going to have to have so much more grit,” explains Gracie.
“I experienced that (discouragement and questions) a lot in my own journey to get here, especially when I announced I was going to NC State to study agriculture,” Gracie adds. “It came from some very surprising places. But no matter what you do, I understand there is always going to be somebody telling you, no–you can’t do that.
“You don’t have to justify anything because your actions speak louder than your words. The hard part for me was just letting it roll off my back. Because I take things very personal sometimes. But eventually you get tired of hearing it and quit paying attention to it.
“But I think it is important to identify that no matter how many people are telling you no, that once you make those connections in the farming community they really, really stick. And you will have multiple people that were telling you no, suddenly telling you–yes.
“It is so important to know agriculture is not discriminatory. Everyone has a place in it. We have family farms where kids start helping out as young as five and six years of age. Race, genders, ages–it doesn’t matter. Everyone has to eat. Everyone is a consumer and therefore they are already involved in farming. As a producer they are only taking it to the consumer relationship one step further. Everyone already has a place.
“And I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. The fact of the matter is I can walk into any agriculture business and let them know what I have learned and am eager and want to learn more. Agriculture is always changing. It’s never the same. There is always something new.”
As a life-long horse lover along with her deep and grounded faith in the Lord, Gracie relates the love of a horse to the love of God and the lessons she has learned while working with her horses has grown her faith even stronger. And she believes the community of farmers is a faithful community and she herself has much to be grateful for.
“I feel like horses are an example of God’s grace, His love, and His beauty,” Gracie says. “They are so patient, they are so forgiving. There’s so much you can learn from them.
“I have been on a horse since I was two and I’m pretty sure Daddy had to pray that my Mama wouldn’t kill him when she came home and saw me on that horse by myself at the age of two,” she adds with a laugh.
“There is so much to be thankful for in the ag industry,” Gracie explains. “I don’t want to assume for anybody, but I do believe the ag community is a very faithful community. I don’t know a single farmer personally that doesn’t pray. When my family prays we thank the farmers that grow it, the hands that prepared it, and the Lord that blessed us with it.”
“Think about this,” Gracie adds. “Less than one percent of Americans feed 13% of the world and that in itself speaks to God’s glory. He multiplied the bread and fish for them long ago and now He’s multiplying it for us. His provisions are good. Without Him, I wouldn’t be here. And I could go on and on about that.”
All photos courtesy of Gracie Prevette