Whether she is negotiating with her toddler over what to eat for breakfast or with a senior leader about which innovation project to communicate to a global audience, every day is exciting for FFA alumna Bekah Mahan. However, things are made a bit more challenging when her toddler speaks partly in German and she is navigating cultural norms with leadership team members as a global communications leader in Monheim, Germany.
Mahan, a former member of the Carlisle County FFA Chapter in Kentucky, credits her experiences in her agricultural education classes with paving the way to an incredible career in agricultural communications.
“My involvement in FFA was the North Star to my entire career,” Mahan says. “My advisor, Mr. Bob Wilson, told me, ‘You know, you should think about studying ag communications.’ Today, as the head of global R&D communications for Bayer Crop Science, I look back and see how that experience and those words shaped my field of study, my career path and who I am. It is in the top five most defining moments of my life.”
Mahan has spent the last 20 years working in agriculture. She has seen how her FFA connections and the respect for the organization have given credibility to her knowledge and leadership potential in a male-dominated industry.
“One exciting vantage point in my current role is to see what agriculture looks like in all parts of the globe,” Mahan says. “While my family farm in Kentucky has been run by mostly men, roughly half of the world’s farmers are women! In some countries, women are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of food production – literally feeding the population. Women everywhere should be proud to work in agriculture and to join generations of others in this noble pursuit.”
Mahan’s career, plus her passion for agriculture and where she lives would not look the same today had it not been for the vote to allow female membership into the National FFA Organization in 1969. Knowing that agricultural education and fellowship through FFA isn’t available around the world, she encourages all members to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them, especially to those interested in international agriculture.
“Take the jump!” Mahan advises. “The world is a big place, and there is so much to see and learn. It may seem so far from your comfort zone, but home is only a flight – or a FaceTime call – away. Take advantage of any opportunity to stretch yourself and to learn about other cultures and ways of life.”