OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND FORESTRY
2800 N. Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4912
PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2018
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Betty Thompson, 405-522-6105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Significant Women in Oklahoma Agriculture
Highlight: Renee Payette
By: Kaylee Snow
STERLING – Comanche County farmers know the familiar face of Renee Payette.
Each time they report their crops or apply for government agricultural programs, they visit Payette at the local Farm Service Agency.
Payette, who has worked at the agency since 1988, was initially hired as a temporary employee but was quickly hired on full time as a program technician. Thirty years later, she still loves her job.
“I’ve been here long enough now I know most the farmers in the county,” she said. “The ones I didn’t know before I started, I’ve learned to know them. I’ve got some good farmers I work with. I enjoy doing it.”
Payette says her sole job is to serve producers.
“I just work with my farmers every day,” she said. “I’ll be eligible to retire in a couple years. I like my job, and I like what I’m doing. Everyone keeps asking if I’ll go and retire, and I’m like well, I don’t know. I kind of like my farmers. I try to take care of them, and I hope they know I do.”
Payette comes from a long line of agriculturalists. She grew up in Sterling on her family’s farm and has lived there nearly her whole life. Her parents, David and Janice Payette, were always involved in agriculture – cattle, horses, chickens, a garden, and even rabbits. However, raising cattle was the main operation.
Payette’s earliest memories revolve around agriculture.
“I have an old picture of me sitting on a bottle calf with my dad holding me,” she laughed.
Payette’s father was “old school and didn’t think girls should be doing” hard labor, like driving a tractor.
Her father said, “Well sis, I don’t know if you ought to do that or not.”
Payette replied with, “Well, if y’all are gone or if y’all are needing to do something, at least I can get on the tractor and drive, so you need to teach me how to drive it.”
“He did finally cave in and showed me how to drive the tractor,” Payette laughed.
She has always had a “watch me” attitude with the goal of proving others wrong.
“He finally saw that I could hold my own,” she laughed. “I was always one of those that if you told me I couldn’t do it, well I’m probably going to do it.”
Payette’s brother, Glenn Payette, is three years and five months older than her, so she followed in his footsteps and joined 4-H.
“Everything he did, I had to follow along and do myself,” she said. “He showed sheep, so I showed sheep. When he was showing hogs, well I showed hogs.”
Payette showed cattle as well and won Breed Champion Hereford Steer at the Oklahoma City show, now known as the Oklahoma Youth Expo, her senior year of high school.
Her agricultural involvement did not stop after her time in 4-H. She graduated from Cameron University in 1986 with two degrees – agricultural education and animal science – and was involved in numerous agricultural organizations throughout college.
When Payette told her mother she wanted to add an agricultural education major, her mother was reluctant.
Her mom said, “Do you think you can do that?”
Payette replied with, “Well, I think I can be just as good as these guys here.”
What did you volunteer for now?
Aside from her career and raising cattle, Payette is involved with numerous agricultural organizations. She’s been on the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee for nearly 30 years and was asked by the CEO of the chamber to chair the committee in 2008.
“I was kind of leery about it, but he said, ‘Oh, it’s only for a couple of years, and then we’ll rotate it out.’ Well, that was in 2008, and I haven’t been rotated out yet,” Payette laughed.
On this committee, Payette helps with longhorn and buffalo sales and local livestock shows. She received her Honorary State FFA Degree in 2011 for her commitment to Oklahoma’s youth and was given the Wayne Gilley Ambassador Award for her efforts in planning and managing agricultural events. She’s a member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, the secretary treasurer of the Tri-County Cattlemen’s Association, and the state and benefits chair for her employee’s organization.
“I stepped back and took myself off the [Comanche County Saddle and Sirloin Club] board the last couple of years,” she said. “I felt like I had too many irons in the fire, and I needed to slow down a little bit.”
Payette, who’s thankful for “phones with calendars and alarms,” says she sometimes gets too much on her plate. She doesn’t say no easily.
“I always feel like I don’t live a very exciting life,” she said. “I just go to work and go home, but then I look at my calendar on my phone, and I’m like oh my gosh I have something to do every day this week.”
Each time Payette would come home from a meeting, her dad would joke and ask her, “What did you volunteer for now?”
She has to keep her “ducks in a row somedays” to make sure she doesn’t miss anything.
“If you say you’re going to be there, then you need to be there,” Payette said, explaining that not showing up for a commitment is her pet peeve.
Payette said her volunteer work is truly rewarding.
“You jump in and do the work,” she said. “It’s just what you do to give back to the community. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t realize – how fulfilling it is to do that. I like going and being around the kids. First thing in the morning at a stockshow, those kids come up so excited, and they’re nervous. It’s the first stockshow, and they just want to talk and visit. They’ve got big smiles on their face. I just like seeing the kids have a good time.”
When Payette’s father passed away in 2016, her and her brother stepped up to take over the farm. During the week, her brother takes care of the livestock, and she’s the “gopher,” often picking up feed and parts.
“On the weekends when I’m home, we try to get everything done that he can’t get done during the week,” she said.
Payette said she is thankful she never “got very far away from Sterling.”
“I’m glad I was there when my dad got sick,” she said. “I was able to be there to take care of him. Since he’s passed away, I can be there to help my mom and my brother.”
Payette said she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else and believes there’s truly no place like home.
“It makes you glad when you go home in the evening and get to go outside in the peace and quiet and get to see the cattle,” she said. “It just makes you appreciate what you’ve got.”
Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series of stories on Significant Women in Oklahoma Agriculture. The project is a collaborative program between the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry and Oklahoma State University to recognize and honor the impact of countless women across all 77 counties of the state, from all aspects and areas of the agricultural industry. The honorees were nominated by their peers and selected by a committee of industry professionals.
Photo Caption: Renee Payette of Sterling is being recognized as a Significant Woman in Oklahoma Agriculture. She has worked for the Comanche County Farm Service Agency for nearly 30 years, raises cattle, and has volunteered for countless agricultural events.
Photo Caption: Payette is shown here helping in the ring at the Wichita Mountains Classic Cattle Show. She’s the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee chair, a member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, and the secretary treasurer of the Tri-County Cattlemen’s Association.