Women in Agriculture: Christie Harrison

Christie Harrison grew up in a family that worked with horses, cattle, and pigs, but she never imaged she would one day own and operate her own chicken farm. When her husband, Jason, brought up getting chicken houses in 2013, she laughed and reminded him she was allergic to the birds. Everything changed a few years later, when Jason was diagnosed with brain cancer.

“Jason could not go back to work in a public environment, so in October 2015, the woman allergic to chickens bought a chicken farm. It’s the best decision we’ve ever made,” said Christie Harrison, Sanderson Farms Family Farmer. “Farming has allowed us to be our own bosses. When Jason was sick, we were able to take care of his medical needs while still being able to provide for our family.”

Christie and Jason have two daughters, Leslie and Lauren. Leslie, their oldest, will be graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi this year and beginning her career as an elementary education teacher. Lauren, who recently turned 16, plans to be a poultry farmer. Both girls help out around the farm, but Lauren has taken a special interest in a career in agriculture.

“She has no desire to do anything else but raise chicken. She works side-by-side with us and never complains, not one bit,” said Harrison. “Jason and I are so proud to be raising a future farmer.”

As with most farming families, there is often a fine line between farm and family in the Harrison household. Everyone works together to find a good balance. The Harrisons eat dinner together every night, but most of the time, conversion doesn’t stray too far from the goings-on around the farm.

“It’s rewarding to be able to sit down at the end of the day, even if I’m bone-tired, and know that I’m showing my children that it’s worth it,” said Harrison. “Hard work and a good work ethic will pay for itself in the end, and that’s something to be proud of.”

In addition to her family, Christie has a strong support network made up of several female friends who also grow chickens. The women call each other to talk about their birds, sharing experience and advice.

“The industry is mostly men, and years ago, you didn’t hear much about women farmers; but that’s changing,” said Harrison. “Women are natural nurturers, and that’s a strength when it comes to growing chickens.”

Harrison encourages any young person with a passion for agriculture to go after their dreams with everything they have. She feels that women in agriculture have a responsibility to be good role models for the younger women who aspire to follow in their footsteps.

“I tell my daughters: I don’t know how to fail, because I’m going to try my hardest always. Give it your all and you will be rewarded tenfold,” said Harrison.

Harrison has one thing to say to other women working within the agriculture industry: thank you for paving the way.

“For a long time, women were limited in their career choices or told to stay at home, but now we’re stepping out and becoming more industrious,” said Harrison. “It’s the attitude of ‘if he can do it, so can I.’ Women are becoming more willing to step out of their comfort zones and try new things.”