Best friends Robyn Ollerton and Melissa Campbell of Pinal County, Ariz., are picture-perfect examples of rural women who cherish growing up on family farms, attending college to study agriculture, and returning home to land successful agricultural jobs in their hometowns.

In an economy still impacted by recession, Ollerton and Campbell are grateful for their new career paths. Some of their friends from college are less fortunate; still seeking good career opportunities.

Both women credit their success to their farm families, local agricultural communities and a strong, loyal friendship. “It’s great to be back in Casa Grande, a community which gave so much to me,” said Ollerton, a fourth-generation farmer. The 25-year old earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Arizona, followed by a master’s degree in agricultural communications from Texas A&M.

Last November, Ollerton landed her dream job as the marketing coordinator for Casa Grande-based Fertizona, the largest fertilizer company in Arizona.

Ollerton was born and raised in Casa Grande. She is the daughter of Paul (Paco) Ollerton and Karen Geldmacher. Paco owns and operates Tierra Verde Farms, a leased 700-acre cotton, wheat, barley, and alfalfa operation. Geldmacher is a plant and soil science professor at Central Arizona College.

“At Fertizona, my responsibility is to market the company’s dry and liquid fertilizers and chemicals, plus seed for agriculture,” Ollerton said. “I am developing a marketing strategy for the turf grass and landscape industries and working to enhance company relationships with customers and the general public.”

Ollerton’s career path was far from a given. Agriculture was not always her first choice to study in college. During high school, she wanted to attend beauty school. After college, Ollerton’s plan was to leave Casa Grande in the “rearview mirror.”

“I laughed when I left for Texas A&M because I did not want to come back to Arizona,” Ollerton says.

Melissa Campbell’s maiden name is Bagnall. The Bagnall family owns and operates Morning Star Farms, a 3,500-acre cotton, grain sorghum, wheat, barley, and alfalfa operation on leased land in Florence.

The family includes Melissa’s parents Dennis and Deborah, plus siblings Michael, Nicholas, Wyatt.

After high school, Bagnall trotted off to Arizona State University to study agricultural business and earned a bachelor’s degree. Bagnall, a third-generation farmer, met the man of her dreams, Michael. The couple was married in the middle of a Bagnall farm cotton field in November 2011. Ollerton served as a bridesmaid.

As the new Mr. and Mrs. Campbell returned from their honeymoon and landed at the Phoenix airport, Melissa’s cellphone rang. Her father encouraged her to report the next day at the River Cooperative Gin in Coolidge to start a new job.