Women in Ag: Misfits on a Mission

"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 away.

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 priorities. 

Health is fragile.  A member shared her journey with honesty and humor, and even in death, she is still present.

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 skill.

Being fiercely independent makes one foolishly ignorant.

Families can destroy a farm business. A farm business can destroy a family. It's important to honor the family by doing the business right. 

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."

Jolene Brown


Full Rights Consent.  Jolene Brown LLC, West Branch, Iowa, USA, maintains full rights to utilize the content and/or format of all materials submitted by her for the www.PinkTractor.com website in any future speaking, writing, audio, video or electronic format.

Copyright © 2015 Jolene Brown, LLC. All Rights Reserved
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