Huber elected to lead National Grange
● By Steven Hoffman
When Betsy Huber traveled three weeks ago to the 149th annual session of the National Grange, she had no idea that she would be selected as the new president of the organization. But when the delegates gathered and a new slate of national officers was nominated, Huber was the selection for the top post in the country.
“It was a big surprise,” Huber said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I'm honored and humbled to be chosen by the delegates to lead the National Grange, and I'm excited at the opportunities to advance the work of the organization. I look forward to serving the Grange in this new role.”
As the National Grange president, she will oversee the day to day operations of the organization and work with the National Grange staff to advance policies in Washington D.C. She will also travel extensively to granges around the country. Huber is the first woman to hold the top post with the National Grange in the organization's 149-year history, and will serve a two-year term as president.
Huber was born and raised on a dairy farm in Chester County. She said that she first joined what is now known as the Junior Grange when she was five years old. She is a member of Chester-Delaware County Pomona Grange #3 and Goshen Grange #121, and has held numerous leadership positions with the local grange, as well as the Pennsylvania State Grange, through the years, including eight years as the president of the Pennsylvania State Grange. She was the first woman to hold that position, just as she is the first woman to lead the National Grange.
Huber has also served the Pennsylvania State Grange as its government relations director, working to advance the policies of the Grange with the State Legislature.
Huber also previously served as a member of the board of directors of the National Grange from 2007 to 2014, and was the executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Young Farmers Association. She has held various positions in the agricultural community, including serving on the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations, the Governor's Census 2010 Advisory Panel, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection AG Advisory Board. She was also elected to the Penn State Board of Trustees by the delegates from agricultural societies in 2005, and serves on the Committee on Outreach, Development, and Community Relations and the Governance and Long Range Planning Committee.
Locally, Huber has served Upper Oxford Township as a supervisor for the last 24 years. She was the chairperson of the Township Agricultural Security Area Advisory Committee and treasurer of the Chester County Association of Township Officials. She was also employed as a district aide to State Rep. Art Hershey from 1992 to 2002.
As the president of the National Grange, Huber will now represent the Grange's approximately 80,000 members in 2000 local community granges across 41 states. The new position will require a significant amount of travel, but Huber is looking forward to serving the grange in this new role.
“It's really a great honor,” Huber said.
Q & A with Betsy Huber
Q: You were the first woman to serve as the president of the Pennsylvania State Grange. What was that like?
Huber: Serving as president of the PA State Grange was a fantastic experience and a great honor. The Grange recognized women as equal members from the very beginning in 1867, which was 50 years before women got the right to vote. I don’t know why it took so long for PA State Grange to elect a woman president, but I was not treated any differently than my male predecessors.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of women in the agriculture industry?
Huber: Women have always been equal partners on the farm, but only recently have they been recognized as such. More than half of farm operations have one spouse working off the farm for extra income or health benefits. In the past, the husband was always listed as the operator, even if the wife was doing the day-to-day management—that has largely changed now and the wife is more often listed as principal operator. Women are naturally nurturing so they make excellent farmers as caretakers of animals or plants. Often, women are the bookkeepers and record keepers, filling an important role on the farm.
Q: Who or what first inspired you to get involved in agriculture?
Huber: I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Westtown, Chester County, and almost all of my relatives were farmers. I appreciated my upbringing which taught responsibility, and the friendships and cooperation among farm families. The agricultural community is still a close-knit group of friendly, caring folks.
Q: Which people or agencies, if any, supported you in the beginning?
Huber: I was a 4-H member for eight years and a member of the Junior Grange from age 5 to 14. Both of these organizations provided leadership experiences and education in life skills. People can join the Grange as a full member at age 14, which gives self-confidence and self-worth to youth. This experience encouraged me to pursue leadership positions and participate in local government.
Q: What personal qualities do you need to make a living in agriculture?
Huber: Passion, dedication, and commitment.
Q: As an advocate for agriculture, what is the biggest misconception about farmers or farming?
Huber: I hate the term “factory farming” because even large farms are family-owned and operated. Just because they farm a lot of acres or raise a lot of animals does not mean they don’t take personal interest and care about what they produce. At least 97 percent of all farms are family-owned, though they may be incorporated for business purposes.
Q: What special challenges, if any, face women, in your line of work?
Huber: Setting aside time for family. There are so many important things to take care of at work that there is temptation to neglect family and home life.
Q: What advice would you give to young women considering entering the business world?
Huber: Take advantage of every opportunity to learn all you can about your chosen profession. There are many, many opportunities for continuing lifelong education, even easier now with webinars and distance learning. The world is changing so fast that you need to be constantly learning to be successful. Groups like the PA Young Farmers Association provide continuing education for adult farmers.
(Editor's note: This Q & A originally appeared in the 2015 edition of Progress, our annual business & industry review).