Women in Agriculture: Ashley Fontenot Van Natta

Ashley Fontenot Van Natta grew up around agriculture and has worked in the industry throughout her career. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science from Louisiana State University. After college, Van Natta took a job at the Department of Corrections in Louisiana as a regional farm manager. After nine years supervising row crop, cattle, and hog farming operations, she made the switch to poultry production.

When Van Natta first came to Sanderson Farms 13 years ago, she started as a broiler service tech in McComb, Mississippi. From there, she advanced to broiler manager in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, and then production manager in Palestine, Texas. When Sanderson Farms was preparing to begin operations in Tyler, Texas, Van Natta was asked to take the top management position. Now as Division Manager, Van Natta oversees all live production operations.

“It’s been really rewarding to be part of the start-up operation for Sanderson Farms’ newest division,” said Van Natta. “Helping our farmers grow the best flocks they can is gratifying. When the birds are growing well, everyone is happy, and the growers are able to spend more time with their families.”

Van Natta says that she’s never felt that being female has held her back from advancing in the industry, and believes the future for women in agriculture is wide open.

“If you work hard, it will be clear that you’re just as capable as anyone else,” said Van Natta. “It’s all about being the person that can do the job. With hard work and dedication, you can go into any field and be successful.”