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RancHER: Lesley Schmidt

Published on 23 August 2019

Lesley SchmidtRancHER is a column spotlighting female leaders in the beef industry. In this issue, we are featuring Lesley Schmidt, a fifth-generation cattle rancher and farmer in Kansas. She has worked on her family farm all her life and has worked off the farm as a civil designer and a track and field official for almost 12 years. In addition to her on- and off-the-farm jobs, Schmidt serves as vice president of education for American Agri-Women.

How do you balance your job with family and/or personal time?

Each day is different. I try to keep work in the office and leave it there. Sometimes it is hard to stop thinking about tasks at hand, but the drive to and from the office is my downtime to take mental notes, separate and refocus on the next adventure.

When I am at the family farm, it is all family and farm, no office work. No checking emails, no phone calls – which is not too hard when you do not have cell service a majority of the time.

How have your experiences influenced your growth, personally and professionally?

I have seen people who have no idea what they want to do in life spend their lives living paycheck by paycheck. Early on, I realized I did not want to live like that; thus I continued to enhance my skills and qualities. Even if it is on my own time, education never ends.

Figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be was my first step, then continuing to reflect on where I started, where I am and where I want to be helped me focus on my goals.

Through the years, my experiences have not only helped me grow but have provided me with wonderful opportunities and an invaluable network to achieve my goals. The connections I have made over the years have been very encouraging and cultivating.

Who has influenced you in your leadership role? Why?

My family. They continue to remind me of my passion and the reasons why I do what I do. They taught me about perseverance and working hard – and that no matter how bad times are, the good times will come.

What roadblocks have you run into, and how have you overcome them?

One of my biggest roadblocks, I would say, would have been talking in front of groups of larger than five people and trusting my own voice. After taking an intense leadership communication course and learning what my strengths and weaknesses were, I was able to talk to a larger group at the end of that week.

I continue to try to take a leadership course every other year to polish up these skills. I will admit, sometimes I get carried away with work and volunteering; I forget to take care of my own personal needs. Knowing what I want, and being persistent, I will continue to get over these hurdles and share my passion for agriculture.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Spread your wings and fly.” When you spread your wings, you do something new and rather difficult, because you feel more confident in your abilities than you used to, and you want to gain wider experience. I always try to do something new each year, whether it be a class, an event, learning about a culture or challenging myself to a yearlong task.

What advice would you give to other women in your field?

Continue to share your ag story.

It is essential to first understand your audience; you must listen, think and communicate from the inside out. What is their motivation? What do they believe? How did they come to the conclusion of their concern? What can you do to share the truth?

Sharing your story, whether it be through words, pictures or videos, will not only showcase why you are proud of what you do, but it is so easy to show others the passion you have for what you do and how we all focus on the continuous improvements to make us all better farmers and ranchers, every day.

Who are other female role models you look up to? Why?

My grandmother. No matter the challenges she went through in life, she always dug deep and found the inner strength to get through it. She always felt blessed for what she had and who she had in her life – she was always grateful.

What is your favorite thing about ranch life?

It’s a tie between calving season, the smell of freshly cut hay, taking cattle to summer pasture and being outdoors – I call it my rural therapy.  end mark

PHOTO: Lesley Schmidt. Photo provided by Lesley Schmidt.

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