"Misfits." That's how one of the husbands described our network
of Iowa ag-connected women. We first gathered in the 1980's when
Midwest agriculture was in a time of great stress: dire net worth
loss, foreclosures, depression, suicides and even murder. All
needed some hope and help, including a group of thirteen women who
reached out to each other. And we were rightfully called "misfits"
because we were nonconformists. We were eager to "march to a
different drum," one of awareness, solutions, caring, vision and
celebration. We met consistently for over a decade and still today,
forever friendships and perspectives are only a phone call or email
In the beginning, we didn't know each other well, yet, the vast
range of member experiences made us very good teachers and eager
students. Members served on advisory boards for hospitals, schools,
churches, libraries, ag finance, and colleges. Others actively led
in roles for agricultural associations, university women and
international women's groups. Some were active farmers, volunteers,
writers, family advocates, and ambassadors for agriculture. Others
worked for businesses or operated their own business. Several were
active in politics and were strong leaders in rural, state,
national and global communities. Mistakes are willingly shared so
that lessons might be learned.
Here are some of the insights from the past that still teach
valuable lessons for today:
The scenes behind a political position are fascinating and
frustrating. Changes in people and policies happen slowly, or very
quickly. Participation is needed and worth the effort.
It's very hard to change the rules of the game unless you
are a member of the team.
A lifetime's work for your home and farm can be blown away
in a tornado. It is the people who are important…family,
friends and neighbors. Define, then live your
Health is fragile. A member shared her journey with
honesty and humor, and even in death, she is still
Whether change is by force or by choice, it can lead you to
a brighter day or a completely different life. Do what you have to
do in between.
Being "sandwiched" between generational needs is physically
and mentally draining. A sense of humor is a survival
Being fiercely independent makes one foolishly
Families can destroy a farm business. A farm business can
destroy a family. It's important to honor the family by doing the
Speaking, writing, consulting and leadership include
vulnerability. You constantly display your knowledge, humor, vision
and heart. All must be congruent because the "audience" would know
if you are not.
Working globally can be dangerous. It also can be life's
greatest reward. There is a world of needs. Individual leadership
and efforts do make a difference.
These lessons and many more were shared by our group of wives,
moms, grandmas, and friends. So, take a look at your world and you
will find everyday people doing exceptional things. One thing I
know for sure, we women in agriculture need each other and we are
"farm strong; woman smart."
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