Women in Agriculture: Lily Brooks

This has been a wild year for Lily Brooks, field employee relations manager for Sanderson Farms. As part of her current position, Brooks oversees the Human Resources side of the business, as well as the safety policies and procedures for Production in Waco, Texas. So, when COVID-19 hit, she found herself with an unprecedented challenge on her hands. Follow that with a rare snow and ice storm that crippled her area, and to say she has had her hands full would be an understatement.

“This year’s been different,” explained Brooks. “With COVID, maintaining everyone’s safety and health has been a priority. It’s been challenging not only redoing how we operate, but also keeping everything clean and making sure the right equipment is in place to maintain social distancing, as well as tracking people and the infection.

“This year has definitely taught me not to take things for granted,” continued Brooks. “I have a greater appreciation for everyone. At Sanderson, we are like family, so we have all had to learn how to keep each other safe and pull together to get through this.”

Brooks said this has never been truer than what she witnessed during the recent ice and snowstorm that devastated Texas. “The recent ice storm affected a lot of people that I work with, many of us didn’t have water or power for days.”

However, Brooks says it’s in these circumstances that she has seen her coworkers shine. “There was this feeling, similar to what we have felt during the pandemic, that we couldn’t stop. People have to eat, and those baby chicks have to hatch, so we have to figure this out and get the job done. Our group really banded together, and those that could make it in through the storm, from hourly to senior managers, came into work to get the job done.”

Brooks believes this goes to show how appreciated and respected the company and its management team are. “I really don’t think they wanted to let anyone down. We are a team, a family, and we acted like one.”

Brooks, who was born on a dairy farm and has held multiple positions in agriculture all of her life, said, “When I saw that Sanderson was building a facility in Waco, I immediately thought, ‘you know here’s a great opportunity for me,’ and here we are 14 years later.”

Brooks continued, “I have a lot of confidence in the future of this company, and I think that’s what I enjoy the most about working for Sanderson. When you see people out in the community, and you tell them you work for Sanderson, they know and admire the place you work. I tell people all the time that it’s a good place to advance your career with a lot of opportunity for growth.”

Brooks, who has an associate’s degree but has gone back to school to earn her bachelor’s degree in human resources, says she is a shining example of Sanderson’s commitment to growth. “I am a mom with grown children and have been doing this job for over 20 years, so I have the experience and know-how,” Brooks concluded. “But this has been a personal goal that I get this degree. Sanderson Farms has let me accomplish this and reimbursed my tuition, so even though it’s been slow going, I will graduate and see this dream come true. They have given me this opportunity.”