INTERVIEW: First Female President of America’s Oldest Cattle Breed Association

The American Hereford Association helped add a few more cracks to the glass ceiling this past fall when they elected Terri Barber as their first female president. Having spent a lifetime in the cattle business, she jumped at the opportunity and has been enjoying her role ever since. As president, Terri is responsible for growing the Certified Hereford Beef brand and thus helping shape the entire industry. We are excited to share her trailblazing story! 

Q: You are the first female president of America’s oldest cattle breed association. (As you know!) Why is this traditionally a male-dominated field?

Terri: Agriculture in general, specifically raising livestock, was traditionally an occupation that males dominated. Males are credited for bringing the first imports from England, and for many years were the keepers of the gate both on the farm and in the boardroom.

From my vantage point, I have gleaned that more domestic, household and child rearing roles were left to females, thus why we see this depicted in so many westerns, cultural and historic films and books. As society has transformed into acceptable dual roles for men and women, regardless of who the breadwinner is, I think we are seeing more powerful females with the audacity and gumption to take on whatever role they feel called to lead. As with any profession that involves machinery equipment (for farming), livestock to be handled on a daily basis, and the risk (and ultimate reward) that goes with this, it was not a field that women easily felt accepted by society to gravitate towards. While they certainly held their ownboth in the field and the home—women have flourished as successful cattle producers and heads of household to arrive where we are today. 

Since 1881, there have been more than five generations of my family in this business—continuously—since settling the Texas Panhandle from Kentucky. It’s no doubt time a female was eligible and elected to sit at the head of the board table.

Q: Growing up, who were your most important influences? How did they inform who you were as a woman?

Terri: Undoubtedly, my mother was a powerhouse influence. She is known as a total badass—to all who know her—and empowered me to follow my intuition and dreams growing up because I was considered an equal with boys. And honestly I never questioned that or what my qualifications were to do anything I set my mind to. I always knew if I worked just as hard, if not harder, than anyone else I would reap the rewards.

Fortunately, we grew up in a tough and rugged area that demanded strong mental, physical and spiritual awareness. We worked long hours on horseback, in hay fields, gardens and marketing, and promoting our seed stock. My father was equally important in shaping our attitudes and appreciation for the land and livestock. We always worked as a team and celebrated the successes along with sharing the failures of some year’s crops being hailed out, cattle not selling as we’d have liked and the list of setbacks that can easily occur in ranching/farming life.

We also worked closely with other ranchers, such as beef industry icons like Minnie Lou Bradley of B3R Ranches, who is just south of us. She was a pioneer in leading the American Angus Association as their first female president, certainly leaving a favorable impression on me. Leading by example and earning the respect of everyone in our industry is how I was informed of who I was as a positive force to inspire and encourage other like-minded individuals to follow my path.

Q: What is the thing you love the most about ‘cattle raising?’

Terri: Hands down the people are what I love most about being in the cattle business. Just like myself, our family and generations of our families have not only made life-long friends, but these folks are our customers, too. They support us as we do them and know that we are all in this together. The way of life has been extremely enjoyable for me and my folks, as we’ve been able to tend our land and care for it and the livestock in a unique way that only 1% of our population can enjoy—and that’s being responsible for the healthy food that ends up on dinner plates. Few other lifestyle careers afford a person the satisfaction of being able to go out every day and work your land and stock knowing at the end of the day your efforts matter by producing food and sustainably making life better for all. The cattle business has been very gratifying and good for our ranch, and consequently for the cadre of customers we have served and continue to with each sale offering.

Q: How do you hope you influence your co-workers or staff members?

Terri: Unselfishly and inspirationally in bringing dynamic enlightenment to the table is how I would hope to influence others. Previously being a member service advocate for a breed association right out of college, and later in a key government role, allowed me to learn first-hand how to best equip our members with the tools and services they needed to perform successfully. Being on the other side now has allowed me to serve in a different light, giving back to an organization that has provided a bountiful way of life for my family and me.

We just completed a five year strategic plan at the American Hereford Association, which will be the blueprint for the direction our organization—focusing on how to help guide our membership to continued success. This is a key accomplishment and one I’m very proud to have been in a leadership role for, being a major part in its creation. Bringing passion, conviction and a clear vision for success just like former Ag Commissioner and then boss, Susan Combs, did for us is how I hope to best influence those I work with.

Q: When do you feel your most powerful?

Terri: Calling a full board meeting to order is pretty powerful. It’s also powerfully surreal when a young lady contacts me to ask for a letter of recommendation and then to find out they won that award, scholarship, appointment, etc. Empowering other females and watching those I have mentored growing up accomplishing their goals is one of the most powerful feelings I can think of…to date.

We are all about daring at HERdacity (if you haven’t noticed!) What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve done more daring things than are fit to print but I would have to say running for the AHA board four years ago would have to be the most daring in terms of career and impact to myself, my family and our program within the industry. There’s been many great, talented and influential individuals who have run for the board and not been elected, which has deterred them from running again. I think that is a shame because they get discouraged by being beaten and do not have the courage to run again. It’s a very competitive world and if you’re going to be a bear, you might as well be a grizzly!

Daring to reach challenging goals and blaze new trails is what life is all about. Bring on the next one!

Q: Do you have a mantra?

Terri: No regrets. Win all, integrity ALWAYS!

Q: What do you carry in your purse or bag with you every day?

Terri: A business card and a branded ranch logo pen on my person, with a Ruger LCP within arm’s reach can always be found with me.

Q: What are your go-to indulgences or guilty pleasures?

Terri: Riding horseback looking for arrowheads in our Canadian River breaks canyons, fly fishing, hiking and dark chocolate with a fabulous red vino.

Q: You can pick one superpower… what would you choose?

Terri: I would make one SUPER superpower out of three that allowed me to heal diseases by being invisible with teleportation ability like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, but with my favorite cowgirl boots!

2 Replies to “INTERVIEW: First Female President of America’s Oldest Cattle Breed Association”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this …

    I really enjoyed reading this interview. I never stopped to think women weren’t leading agriculture organizations. It seems we should be in leadership positions in every sector–heck, we’re 50% of the population. But I guess we don’t, which is why we need to see stories like Ms. Barber’s. Thank you for sharing and raising our collective awarenesses (is that a word?) around what other women are doing–and not yet doing.

    1. YES! If a woman wants to be in…

      YES! If a woman wants to be in charge of a major agricultural organization— that’s exactly where she belongs! 

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