Casey Cox began to appreciate her ag background after her first year of college, but she never realized her love of the outdoors would take her to the city – all the way to Sesame Street, in fact.
A sixth-generation farmer from southwest Georgia, Casey grew up on a farm but did not intend to return to the farm or work in agriculture when she graduated from high school. After a couple of months at college, she started to gain a new perspective about her background and her family’s business. She also had the opportunity to intern with the local conservation district between her freshman and sophomore year.
She says that internship was an impactful experience, so she changed her major to Natural Resource Conservation, which was in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “Many of my classes or labs were outside in the woods and refueled my love for the land and opened my eyes to the opportunities available through careers in agriculture and natural resources,” she says.
After earning a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources and Conservation from the University of Florida in 2013, Casey returned to the family farm to work in conservation and agriculture. After leading the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District for six years, she is now beginning the transition to the family operation, Longleaf Ridge Farms, full time.
Longleaf Ridge Farms is named for the longleaf pines along a ridge overlooking the Flint River, and the Coxes grow sweet corn, field corn, soybeans, timber and peanuts there.
They irrigate their crops with Valley® center pivots and utilize remote management solutions to monitor and control their pivots. “AgSense® is one of our favorite technologies we use on the farm,” she says. “We have AgSense units on almost all of our center pivot systems now. This has greatly increased our irrigation efficiency and saved us countless hours of checking systems at all hours of the day and night. Additionally, remote management has alerted us to issues with the pivots so we can quickly resolve the problem before it impacts the crop.”
The variety of crops they grow appeals to Casey. “One of the things I love most about working on the farm is that each day brings new opportunities and challenges,” she says. “Right now, I am very much in the learning phase and spending time with my Dad, Glenn, to absorb his knowledge from a lifetime on the farm.”
She assists with the business operations, technology, and forest management. She is also passionate about conservation and advocacy, and has had “amazing opportunities” to travel and learn from people across the country involved in the agriculture industry.
“I have been fortunate to have mentors, both men and women, who have shared their experiences with me and opened doors for me,” Casey says. “In my first year back home, I had the opportunity to connect with Krysta Harden, who was then the Deputy Secretary of USDA. Krysta, also from my hometown, embraced me and became an incredible mentor and friend. She is one of many people who have made my transition back to the farm so rewarding.”
Casey says that being a woman in agriculture has opened doors for her to fill a unique role within the industry. “Women have always played a vital role in the success of most farm families, but in past generations, they were typically more behind the scenes or their roles were not highlighted,” Casey says.
It’s still a rare occurrence for a daughter to return home and take over the family farm, and Casey says she’s extremely grateful to her parents for supporting that decision and encouraging her along the way. “As a woman, and a millennial, I have the opportunity to connect with consumers and challenge the stereotype of what a farmer looks like. I also hope my return to the farm and involvement in agriculture will demonstrate to other young women that agriculture might be a good field for them, as well.”
She adds that her local community has been “incredibly supportive” of her return to the farm. “The future is bright for women in agriculture. We have a new set of opportunities to contribute to the industry and blaze the trail for a new generation of young women to get involved in ag.”
One of the trails she blazed was down a street that is very familiar to most of us: Sesame Street.
“Appearing on Sesame Street was an absolute dream!” Casey says. “I never imagined I would have the opportunity to be on my favorite TV show from childhood with my favorite character: Cookie Monster.”
She explains that Sesame Street recently started a new segment called “Foodie Truck” to incorporate some agricultural education into their programming, something Casey calls “a brilliant idea.” The concept is that Cookie Monster and a new character, Chef Gonger, are cooking a meal or making a snack and in doing so they learn more about where that particular food comes from. “In my episode, they are making a healthy peanut butter snack and run out of peanut butter because Cookie Monster gets hungry and eats the whole jar – we can relate!” Casey says. “They travel to the peanut farm and the peanut butter factory to learn how peanuts are grown and how peanut butter is made – and to replenish their peanut butter supply that Cookie Monster consumed.”
So how was Casey selected to appear? The production crew out of Atlanta working with Sesame Street reached out to the Georgia Peanut Commission, who connected them with her. She even had to submit a short “audition” video reciting some lines. “My absolute favorite part of the experience was how the entire peanut industry came together to help us pull off filming the clip in February, which is not exactly the optimal time of year to highlight peanut production,” she says.
You can read more about Casey and peanuts coming soon!
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