Burrier brings different perspective to USB
UNION BRIDGE, Md. — Belinda Burrier is one of eight women currently serving on the United Soybean Board.
The board — composed of now 75 members from different regions across the United States — administers the research and promotion efforts funded by the national soybean checkoff, which equals one-half of one percent of the net market value of U.S. soybeans at the first point of sale.
When she was first appointed five years ago, Burrier admits to being overwhelmed.
“When they’re training you, it’s like drinking from a firehose,” she said.
Part of that training came in the form of a board scholarship for a leadership class, which Burrier notes “prepared me to be a speaker,” an essential part of her responsibilities as a board member. “I used everything I had available when I did my presentations,” she said.
“I was the only farmer and the only non-college degree person in that class,” she continued. “Because of that my classmates — many of whom were pretty high up in their industries — always wanted to hear what I had to say” about the different leadership texts the class was studying.
“That course changed my life,” Burrier said. “My husband will tell you I’m not the same person who started that class.”
She does, however, continue to bring the same outsider’s perspective to the national board that she first brought to the Maryland Soybean Board.
“I didn’t grow up a farmer,” Burrier said. “I don’t have any preconceived farming notions, so I have a wider perspective on the issues.”
Her perspectives, though, are not completely devoid of experiences from working with the land.
The second oldest of four girls, Burrier grew up helping her father in his land surveying business.
She continued fueling her love of the outdoors and nature when she took the Master Gardener course through Virginia Tech in the 1980s.
“Even though I’m not into working formalized events,” she said, “I do use my knowledge in practical ways to help others.”
When she married Dave Burrier 17 years ago, she received “a crash course in farming. The best part for Dave was he didn’t have to unteach me any bad habits,” she said.
Looking back at those first years of learning the ropes, Burrier most appreciates her husband’s meticulous farming habits, which she too has adopted over the years.
“It means we’re ready for international visitors at any time,” she said, an important part of her board responsibilities in promoting U.S. soybeans internationally.
In short, not only does she travel on missions internationally to represent and promote U.S. soybeans, but she also hosts international visitors looking for firsthand information on American soybean farming practices.
Toward that end, Burrier has been trying to up her game on social media, especially since Polly Ruhland, the board’s CEO since November 2017, informed Burrier she was listed at No. 8 in influencers for the soybean industry.
“When I found out about that,” she said, “it made me more proactive with both Facebook and Instagram. It inspired me to do better with my posts. For instance, I’ve been trying to take pictures as the seasons change.”
And, thanks to the confidence she has gained from her participation on the board, Burrier said she has expanded her mentoring outreach.
“I talk to a lot of college-aged women and encourage them to volunteer and try different experiences in agriculture.”
She does so, she explained because “I know that before I was involved in any of the soybean boards, I wouldn’t have thought to talk to any of these folks.”
When the Frederick Fair Board invited Burrier to attend this year’s fair as the board’s representative, she said, “I realized I’m here because of me. Not because of who my family is. Not because I’m a woman farmer. But because I’m just a farmer who brings a different point of view.”