What is in this article?:
- Best friends Robyn Ollerton and Melissa Campbell of Pinal County, Ariz., are good 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.
- Ollerton and Campbell share a deep love and appreciation for their families’ deep roots in agriculture.
Mellisa Campbell, left, (holding daughter Stella), and Robyn Ollerton, both of Pinal County, Ariz., are young farm women living an agricultural dream-come true: growing up on family farms, earning college degrees in agriculture, and landing great jobs in their hometowns.
Campbell initially performed office work and quickly learned the ropes of the gin operation. When long-time gin manager Steve Straussner retired, the gin’s board of directors early last year offered the position to Campbell.
Campbell was shocked and excited, but then had to level with the board. She was three-weeks pregnant with the baby due Oct. 1, the beginning of the ginning season.
The somewhat apprehensive board of cotton producers hired Campbell. She is the second female gin manager in Arizona.
After almost a year on the job, Campbell enjoys her new challenge. She said, “One of the people I conduct business with calls me the gin managerette.”
The successful ginning season ended in mid-January with 60,000 bales of Upland cotton grown by 41 grower entities on about 25,000 acres.
Last fall, the nine-months-pregnant Campbell attended the Calcot cotton cooperative annual meeting in Tempe. This journalist sat at the table with Campbell. Her face said it all — delivering a bundle of joy was by far Campbell’s top priority over cotton.
Baby Stella was four-months young when Western Farm Press interviewed the women at the gin in January.
As gin manager, Campbell created the River Cooperative Gin website. She helps conduct public tours of the gin property.
Campbell laughed, “During one tour, a group asked where the animals were that the cotton came from.”
With the first ginning season under her belt, Campbell feels extremely blessed.
“I am very fortunate to work in an industry which I love, with the people I love, near home, and with the ability to help support my family,” Campbell shared.
“I’ve respected the local cotton growers my entire life. I now have these guys on speed dial,” she chuckled. “They are highly respected people. It’s a privilege to work with them.”
Campbell and Ollerton first met while showing livestock at the Pinal County 4-H Fair in Casa Grande. Their focus then was watching each other in the show ring as competitors. The term “friends” back then would have been an oxymoron.
Their mutual involvement in the FFA led to friendship which blossomed quickly. Robyn participated in the Casa Grande chapter; Melissa in the Coolidge chapter. Both women held all chapter office positions.
As young adults, the women participated in the National Cotton Council’s Producer Exchange Program, or PIE tour. Ollerton visited cotton operations in North Carolina; Campbell visited Texas.