Tuesday, October 30, 2018

How farm life motivates four female candidates in Ky.

Left to right: Robin Webb, Rose Ross Elder, Jessica Elliott, Regina Bunch Huff (photos provided)
In a year with an unusually large number of women running for office, Lynn Pruett of rural Kentucky's The Farmer's Pride profiled four who say the values they learned from farming inspired them to seek office. Though all four have grown tobacco, there are differences too: "They come from different regions and are more diverse in party and politics than one might imagine in a traditionally 'red' state," Pruett reports in an article reprinted in The Daily Yonder.

Calloway County (Wikipedia map)
Rose Ross Elder is running a non-partisan race for city council in Murray, a town of about 18,000 in Calloway County. The retired math teacher was raised with her nine siblings on a 200-acre farm near Murray, and her father was a sixth-generation farmer in Calloway County. That background shaped Elder's values. Because she has so many siblings, she had to learn early about compromise and teamwork, and her father taught her that a good harvest only came from personal effort. Elder says the people of Murray and Calloway County are kind but don't trust local government. "Daddy taught us that if we were kind to the horses, we would get kindness back. I expect that works with people, too," Elder told Pruett.

Mercer County (Wikipedia map)
Jessica Elliott, 33, who is running for property valuation administrator in Mercer County, would be the youngest PVA in Kentucky. Though she has been a farm and residential appraiser for two years, she and her husband Steve also farm cattle and sheep on 600 acres, and until this year planted tobacco too. She is secretary of the local Republican Party. The mother of three knows all about hard work: "When I was 35 weeks pregnant with Gracie (now 3), Josie and I packed 5-gallon buckets to feed my 60 baby Holstein calves, making four or five trips each night. I did that every day right up until my C-section," she told Pruett. Her experience as a farmer led her to become an appraiser and then run for office.

State Senate District 18 (ky.gov map)
Democrat Robin Webb is seeking re-election in Senate District 18, which comprises Boyd, Carter and Greenup counties. Soon after she was first elected to the House in 1988, she participated in negotiations for a bill to establish a fund to help tobacco farmers transition from the crop and expand Kentucky's agricultural economy. Webb, an attorney and farmer, said the bill is a model for agricultural diversification. "Tobacco paid my way through college and it was a way to give back," she told Pruett. Her childhood spent helping her father and grandfather farm cattle and pigs taught her to work long hours and pay attention to details, which she says have served her well in her professional life.

State House District 82 (ky.gov map)
Republican Regina Bunch Huff, a former educator, is running for re-election as state Representative for Whitley and part of Laurel counties. Because of her childhood on the family tobacco farm in Whitley, she "learned the relationship between sweat equity and sales early as well as understanding that in farming, there are factors beyond a farmer’s control in production and price," Pruett reports. Bunch says she understands how expensive and uncertain farming is these days and how that deters young people from entering the profession. And though she supports strong borders, she understands agriculture's dependence on migrant labor and supports laws that recognize it.

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