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Women in Ag: Laurie Hurner

You might say that orange juice runs in Laurie Hurner’s veins.

A fifth-generation Floridian from a citrus-growing family, Hurner remembers how she and her two sisters grew up in her family’s groves.

“At a young age, we started learning responsibility through hoeing orange trees, putting out dry fertilizer and driving the tractor as soon as we could touch the peddles,” she says. “I’ve had a strong love for agriculture my entire life. The earth, when treated well, provides a multitude of plenty for all. I enjoy being outside, tilling the soil and enjoying what Mother Nature provides.”

Like her father before her, Hurner is a regional citrus agent based at UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County. And like her father, she is also the county Extension director.

“A county Extension director wears many hats,” Hurner says. “We are liaisons between the University of Florida and the county government. In Highlands County, I serve as a director on the County Administrators Executive Team. I prepare and administer the county office budget, and I work with my faculty to make sure that they are progressing toward promotion and tenure. Every day is different.”

An active participant in 4-H as a youth, Hurner continued to take on leadership roles as an adult.  She’s especially proud of being chosen for the Wedgworth Leadership Institute’s Class VII.

“Over 100 candidates applied for the program and I was one of 30 people chosen. Through this program I was exposed to a lot of agriculture even in Florida that I was not familiar with. It strengthened my leadership abilities three fold and brought 29 new amazing classmates from all over Florida agriculture who became not only my friends but my extended family,” Hurner says.

Women have always played a role in agriculture, she says, but today the roles are evolving, and there are more women in leadership positions.

“I am a firm believer that women in general are strong and resourceful. Women in agriculture today come in all forms, shapes and sizes. They have taken on roles that in years past were strictly held for men,” she says.

Hurner says this attitude toward women in agriculture is influenced by her mother’s teachings.

“My momma taught us to be independent and hard working. She taught us that things would not come to us; we had to go to them,” Hurner says. “She represents many agricultural mommas when she told us, ‘go and do anything you want to do, but always remember to be a lady, respect your elders, and say please and thank you.”’