Seed World

Don’t Let Anyone Tell Say You Can’t: Q&A with Jessica Bubert

Jessica Bubert, inbred line breeder with AgReliant Genetics, talks about her experience as the company’s first female corn breeder. 

Seed World (SW): Got a favorite genre of music?

Jessica Bubert (JB): I love live music, so really any type of music I can see in person is my favorite. If I’m just hanging out around the house, I’m a pretty big fan of 80s and 90s country and 80s rock. That’s what I grew up listening to in the tractor with my Dad, so it brings back a lot of happy memories. 

SW: Best thing to do on a Friday night?

JB: Depends on the time of year … during pollinating season, my favorite Friday night activity is going to bed early! Otherwise, I love spending time with my family. If it’s warm, we’re usually working around the farm and in the garden. One of my favorite hobbies is woodworking, so I spend my free time in the cold months building furniture for my house or to give to friends.    

SW: Favorite thing about working with corn?

JB: One of my favorite things is that it’s a tall enough plant that you can stand up while you’re pollinating and don’t have to sit on the ground or bend over all day! Working with a hybrid crop is interesting because you have to deal with the added unknown of heterosis. Not only do I have to think about how my new lines will do as inbreds themselves, but I have to consider how they will do down the line in hybrids as well. 

SW: Being first female corn breeder at AgReliant must come with a lot of pressure! What’s one thing that gets you through the day?

JB: I am extremely invested in what I do every day. The station I’m based at is only 20 miles from the farm that I grew up on and am now a partner in, so in the end I’m really my own customer. I know that when the products in my breeding program make their way through the pipeline, I’ll be buying the hybrid to grow on my own land. That is extra incentive to create something I can be really proud of and is great motivation to push through whatever pressure there may be. Plus, how cool will it be to look out my window every morning at a field and know that all started with my breeding program?  

SW: Anything you’d tell other young ladies interested in breaking into plant breeding?

JB: For starters, I would tell them “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.” When I was younger, I don’t remember seeing any female salespeople, or truck drivers, or grain marketers, or agronomists. Today, the faces we see in this industry are so much more diverse because someone had the confidence to do what they were told they couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t. I was lucky to have supportive parents who built my confidence up and told me I could do anything, so I would just pass that on to the next group of ladies breaking barriers – you can do whatever you put your mind to.  

Secondly, I would tell them to find a position where they have the support they need. I mentioned having a wonderful support system at home, but the professional support system I have is amazing as well. AgReliant is committed to helping farmers grow and they understand that a diverse team is essential to that goal. When I started, I was immediately welcomed, invited to share my thoughts, and felt comfortable as part of the team.  I would encourage young women to pay attention to the organizational culture when they interview for graduate school or a full-time job. Find a position where you will be accepted as part of the team, your ideas will be appreciated, and you’ll have a professional support system to help you thrive.