Melanie Sojourner - Full Bio
Melanie Sojourner was born on January 5, 1968 in Centreville, MS where her mother, Sandra Floyd Sojourner, was living with family members while her father, Jack Sojourner, was serving a tour in Vietnam with the Navy Seabees. A few months after her birth her father returned to the states and the family returned to their home, Oakwood Plantation, in the Kingston area southeast of Natchez, MS.
Melanie was raised a sixth generation on a diversified row crop and cattle operation which has been in her family since 1814. Oakwood Plantation, recognized by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture as a Century Farm, is today believed to be the oldest family owned and operated farm in the state of Mississippi.
Growing up at Oakwood, Melanie took an active role in the family’s cattle operation at an early age. She was an active member in 4-H, was Vice-President of the Mississippi Junior Brahman Association, a director in the American Junior Brahman Association and President of the Mississippi Simmental Association. It was at Oakwood that Melanie learned the value of hard-work, dedication and perseverance. Her grandfather, Boyd Sojourner, taught her the importance of nurturing the land and caring for the animals that had been placed in their care, reminding her constantly that you only get out of it what you put in. Her grandfather served District 2 of Adams County for over 20 years as supervisor. It was through his leadership and service that Melanie also learned the importance of serving others and taking an active role in being a part of the community. A lesson passed down by her great-grandfather, Albert Sojourner, who began his service in the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1916.
A 1986 graduate of Adams County Christian School, Melanie was Homecoming Queen and a member of the basketball and track teams. In 1989 she received her Associate of Science degree from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson where she was a Campus Favorite. In 1992 she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science with a minor in Speech Communications from Louisiana State University. While at LSU she was President of the Block and Bridle Club representing the student body of the Department of Animal Science, Outstanding Member of the LSU Livestock Judging Team and was an Alumni Scholarship recipient. Melanie worked various jobs throughout her time in school including: a sales associate for McRae’s, veterinary assistant for Bluff City Veterinary Services and student receptionist for the LSU Dean of Animal Science.
Upon graduation Melanie worked as a production assistant for a Walt Disney production company filming the Adventures of Huck Finn in her hometown. During this time Melanie learned the vital role the tourism and film industries played in the economy of Mississippi. In late 1992 Melanie went to work for the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association in Jackson in their membership department. Serving as an ambassador for the industry at local meetings and events, Melanie quickly learned of her love and passion for serving the farming families of Mississippi. Following the several years she spent at MCA Melanie returned home to Natchez to start a family and opening the TCBY yogurt store, which she owned and operated for five years.
Melanie stayed in Natchez until 2001 when she moved to Denver, Colorado to work for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Over the next seven years she quickly worked her way up in the organization serving in several roles including Assistant Editor to the National Cattlemen magazine, Director of the Member Services department and Director of Industry Affairs for the Southeast Region. During her time at NCBA Melanie traveled throughout the country serving as a liaison to the association and its grassroots membership. She also spent extended amounts of time in the association’s Washington, D.C. office working on public policy communications and lobbying on behalf of the industry on issues such as private property rights, death tax reform, international trade and environmental issues.
During her time at NCBA Melanie served in many key roles. She was vital in revamping the association’s membership dues structure which lowered the membership dues making membership to the association more appealing to the nations smaller family owned cattle operations. Melanie played a key role in the association’s communications efforts to Congress during their push for death tax reform and protection of private property rights. She played a lead role in creating the associations first-ever field representative position. A position she went on to hold in the Southeast Region where she increased membership numbers and revenue by nearly sixty percent in two years. As a member of the Cattle Industry BSE Crisis Management Team, Melanie worked with a team of industry leaders from across all segments to successfully manage the first confirm case of Mad Cow disease in the United States by never seeing a drop in consumer demand of beef.
Melanie’s career spent working on behalf of rural farming families on the national level were a life-long dream of hers and she treasures the time and opportunity she had to serve the nation’s largest segment of American agriculture. However, her love and passion for her hometown, family farm and her desire to raise her children back there were even greater. For the past several years she has been working for the Mississippi State University as a southwest district area 4-H associate. Since moving back home Melanie has started a small commercial cow/calf operation and is actively involved in the day to day activities of the family operation. Melanie has always been a true outspoken advocate for farming families not only through her career, but on a volunteer level. She is currently an Area Vice-President for the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, Secretary of the Adams County Farm Bureau Federation and member of Natural Resources Conservation Service South Area Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative.
Melanie is a devoted mother of two children, daughter, Kaelin age 16 and a son, Dayne age 12. She has logged thousands of miles helping her daughter pursue her dreams of becoming a singer/songwriter, and for several years has coached her sons youth basketball team and served as a Dixie Youth All-Star team mom. At her children’s school, Adams County Christian School, Melanie served as president of the Parent Teacher League for two years and is the founder and three year chairman of the ACCS Spring Fling, the schools largest fundraising effort.
In 2009 Melanie and a friend set a new course record for the Colorado River 100, a one hundred mile canoe and kayak race on the Colorado River. Which lead to the duo co-founding and operating Everyday Adventure, LLC, which operates two-fold as a personal fitness training program and guided outdoor adventure company. The venture is also being used to promote and market outdoor activities and tourism throughout southwest Mississippi.
Additionally, Melanie is a founding member of the Healthcare Foundation of Natchez Regional Medical Center, Member of the Adams County Youth Coalition and serves on various other community development working groups. Melanie and her children are active members of First Baptist Church in Natchez, MS where she has participated as recreation leader for Vacation Bible School and sang in the Sanctuary Choir.