By Carey Martin
NEW ORLEANS – It all started with horseback riding lessons in a sugarcane field. Little did Donaldsonville native Jamie Lee know that those lessons were the beginning of a journey that would lead her to win the 2018 Louisiana Farm Bureau Excellence in Agriculture award.
Lee was given that honor Thursday night at the 96th Annual Convention of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation. The award is designed to recognize Young Farmers and Ranchers who do not derive the majority of their income from an owned agricultural operation, but are actively contributing and growing through their involvement in Farm Bureau and the agricultural industry.
In an era where many young people are fleeing the farm for a life in the city, Lee has done the opposite. She is now married to a farmer and teaches agriculture at Kaplan High School in Vermillion parish.
"My parents were not farmers," said Lee. "My Mom was a secretary, and my Dad worked at Dow Chemical. But what really got me started in agriculture was that I took horseback riding lessons on a sugarcane farm in Donaldsonville, and riding horses started my passion for animal agriculture.”
That passion inspired her to pursue a double major at LSU in both animal science and agricultural education.
"As much as I loved animals, I realized that my passion is explaining it to others and helping others to experience agriculture," said Lee. "Not everyone has the opportunity to experience agriculture, so I want to explain it and pass it on to the next generation."
Teaching high school is an inspiring experience for Lee, and she sees a lot of potential in her students.
"I have some seriously amazing young men and women in my FFA chapter. We travel the country with these kids, and they are hard-working and respectful," she said. "I can’t wait to work alongside them in the future.”
In addition to teaching each day, Lee takes on double-duty as a farm wife. She met her husband Aaron at LSU and made the transition to farm life with a simple “I do.” Aaron is a sixth-generation rice, crawfish and cattle producer in Vermillion parish.
“It leaves no shortage of fun stories for the classroom,” said Lee. “I get to incorporate everything that I learn at home working with my husband into the classroom to teach kids about real production agriculture.”
At 25 years old, Lee has a long future in agriculture ahead of her. She and her husband plan to expand their farm acreage and to travel around the country to experience other types of production agriculture. And of course, there’s the next generation to consider as well.
“We definitely have some more traveling to do, and we plan to start a family and raise the seventh generation of Lee farmers,” she said.
As the winner of the 2018 Louisiana Farm Bureau Excellence in Agriculture Award, Lee receives $7,500 toward the purchase of a 4-wheel ATV, courtesy of Louisiana Land Bank, an all-expense paid trip to the 2019 American Farm Bureau Federation Convention, $1,500 in equipment rentals courtesy of H&E Equipment Services, as well as other cash prices.