Flying into Farming

Miranda Barrett went from knowing very little about the agriculture industry to working with some of the most cutting-edge technology in the field.

Article By Haleigh Erramouspe

When Miranda Barrett thought about farming, she said she believed farmers tossed seed in the ground, called it a day and waited for it to grow. Little did she know she would soon be working with some of the most cutting-edge farm technology to date.

In 2013, Miranda Barrett married her husband David, a farmer from San Patricio County, Texas, whose family had farmed on the same land for more than 100 years. Prior to marrying David, Miranda lived in Houston, Texas, for most of her life. She said she had little to no experience in agriculture.

Thankfully, Miranda said she was able to turn to her mother-in-law when she needed help. Debra Barrett, a fourth-generation farmer, not only grew up helping on the farm, but she also served as the primary operator on the Barrett family farm for 15 years. Debra did all the finances, marketed the crops, ran equipment and made crop rotation decisions.

“We like to rotate 50/50,” Debra said, referring to their cotton and sorghum crop rotation. “Cotton follows sorghum really well for herbicide and insect control.”

Debra said she was involved in various aspects of the farm prior to becoming the primary operator and made appearances in the local agriculture community from the time she married into the Barrett family, going to different co-op and gin meetings and helping out wherever she could.

This involvement enabled her to move from a peripheral role and take on a much larger role on the farm when her husband was diagnosed with cancer 20 years ago. Debra ran the farm up until 2016 when her son David was able to return to the farm.

When Miranda joined the family, she said she had a million questions about agriculture and farming, and Debra was able to help her realize not only was there more to farming than throwing seeds in the ground, but women had an important part in the operation.

“I didn’t realize there was so much that went into farming,” Miranda said. “She made me realize that there is a much bigger role to be played for women.”

As Miranda’s interest in agriculture grew, she said she realized she wanted to fill her role on the farm, but she did not know what she could possibly do to help. She was working as a registered nurse at the time and completed her solo flight in 2007, working toward a pilot’s license, but she did not know how to incorporate either of these into the farm.

That was until her husband David called saying he had bought a drone and he needed her to learn how to fly it. Miranda said she had always had an appreciation for aviation, and this new technology allowed her to combine her prior interests with her desire to help on the farm. Miranda said she found her role. She obtained a Part 107 certification to fly drones and has become a trailblazer in the agriculture community in her region.

Since they purchased the drone in 2016, Miranda said she has mapped roughly 35,000 acres of cotton, as well as 10,000 acres on the local wind turbine farm and has progressed to mapping more acres of sorghum and other grains.

Miranda said she can use the drone in innovative ways to help farmers and agronomists write prescriptions for their fields to selectively apply water, fertilizers, insecticides and other technologies in certain areas, as well as map fields for variable rate seeding prescriptions. Miranda said these prescriptions can help farmers decrease their input costs while increasing  their productivity in a given field.

“I am able to write the prescription on the computer and send it to the equipment within 2-3 minutes, and they’re ready to go,” said Miranda. “There [isn’t] any lag time, and they’re saving money by not having to apply across the entire field if they don’t want to.”

Miranda said her experience working with farmers, agronomists and others in the industry for the past four years has helped her to see the extent of the knowledge and education that goes into agriculture. She recalled a time sitting at a table with her husband and several others who she had worked with through field mapping when she realized she was one of the only people at the table who did not have a Ph.D.

As Miranda has found her place on the farm and in the field of agriculture and she and her husband began taking on more of the farm duties, Debra said she has been able to take a step back from the farm and spend more time with her children and grandchildren. She said she sees how passionate Miranda and David are about the farm and is excited to see how their century farm continues to progress.

“It’s so exciting to see how a wife’s role has really progressed and changed,” Debra said. “Equipment technology has changed so much that physical strength isn’t near as important as mental strength. It’s great to see women have an outlet to be able to help with the farm much more than we’ve been able to in the past.”


This story originally appeared in the Fall 2020 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine as a feature.