Courtney Leeper uses passion for writing to advocate for agriculture

Growing up on her family’s row-crop farm near Trenton, Mo., Courtney Leeper never thought of journalism as an option for her future. Leeper knew she wanted to make her love of agriculture a career, but after dabbling in a variety of potential professions, she was unsure how.

It wasn’t until late in Leeper’s high school career that her direction became clear. As a participant in the Missouri Agribusiness Academy (sponsored by the Mo. Dept. of Agriculture), Leeper noticed that only certain views were being expressed at a Whole Foods Store the group was visiting. Later, her FFA adviser encouraged her to submit an entry in the Larry Harper Essay Contest. In her essay, “Crossing the Sea of Miscommunication,” Leeper discussed the disconnect that exists between agriculture producers and consumers. After reading what she had written, Leeper realized her passion for writing could be the best way to be a voice for agriculture.

“I thought, someone has to do something about this,” Leeper said.

From there, she began to immediately pursue her newfound love by gaining experience at her local newspaper and radio station before heading off to college. After a promising meeting with her adviser, Sharon Wood-Turley, Leeper decided to declare a major in science and agricultural journalism at the University of Missouri, later adding an English minor.

“Ag communication is where I fit in the ag industry,” Leeper said. “ Find what you’re passionate about … find that, and go for it.”

Dale Leeper, Courtney’s father, has seen this devotion to communicating about agriculture develop in his daughter both personally and professionally.

“When there was something she believed in, she put all of her effort into accomplishing that,” Dale Leeper said. “She’s a hard worker and once she starts working on something, she likes to do it until it’s done to her satisfaction.”

Freshman year of college, through a random roommate assignment, Leeper became acquainted with agricultural education major, Kathryn Coon. The two had met previously at the Missouri Agribusiness Academy and, as fate would have it, were paired as roommates. They have remained close friends during their three years at MU.

“She’s a very sweet person who is responsible,” Coon said. “I know she’s very organized and driven as far as school is concerned. She really cares about her grades.”

While at MU, Leeper has participated in a variety of internships and leadership positions both on and off campus. Her continuous hard work and determination have resulted in Leeper having not one, but two, prestigious summer experiences awaiting her: the International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership Program (I-CAL) and an internship with the Noble Foundation.

Only 12 students from universities nationwide are selected yearly for I-CAL. Organized by the National FFA, I-CAL gives students the opportunity to experience agriculture systems on a global scale by spending two weeks in a foreign country. This year, students will travel to Japan. After completing the thorough application process, Leeper got word that she had been selected.

Upon her return from Japan, Leeper will go straight to Ardmore, Okla., for a summer internship with the Noble Foundation. The Noble Foundation is a nonprofit, privately funded institute geared towards increasing agricultural productivity both locally and on a global scale. From her experience with the Noble Foundation, Leeper hopes to discover whether she is destined for a career in public relations or journalism.

“I’m just very excited for her,” Coon said. “I think for both of those, it’s a well deserved honor.”

As Leeper eagerly awaits her opportunities that lie ahead, she continues to remain true to herself and pursue what she believes in. Whatever career path she chooses, one thing is certain: Courtney Leeper is an advocate for agriculture.

“Everyone has a story inside of them.” Leeper said. “I just think it’s neat when I’m the one that gets to share that story.”

Betty Thomas

About the Author Betty Thomas

Agriculture began to influence my life at a young age. My father is a sixth-generation farmer, so it only seems right to pass on the tradition. I’m from a small, rural community where a large portion of the local economy is centered around agriculture. I was born and raised on a farm outside of Oakford, Ill., and wouldn’t have had it any other way. A friend took a college visit to the University of Missouri one weekend, and I decided to tag along. I immediately fell in love with the hospitality and beauty of the campus. With such a strong agricultural school and journalism school it seemed to be the perfect fit. Looking back there is no place I would rather call home.