Top 7 Things I Learned Working for the Coalition

06-07-2016 in Iowa Livestock Insider

Five and a half years ago, I had the opportunity to join the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers staff full-time. I had just completed my education at Iowa State University and was excited for a career in the ag industry.

The countless hours I’d spent growing up and working on my family’s central Iowa grain and livestock farm had taught me a lot about hard work and the ag industry. My time at Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences exposed me to even more pieces of the diverse ag industry.

But, the truth is, I’ve learned some really important lessons while working for the Coalition.

1. Network, network, network. Don’t ever underestimate the power of networking. My grandpa (also an ISU alum) gave me these words of wisdom before I left for college: “Even if you never use a thing you learn in college, the people you meet and connections you make will be invaluable.” I didn’t really understand the true importance of those words until I was a couple years into my career. Don’t get me wrong, my education has served me well. But the people I met in college, and after, have helped me be successful.

2. Don’t be afraid of a challenge. When I was in college, a family member asked me what I wanted to do for a career. I told him that I wanted to work with farmers. He cautioned me that no company would hire a young female and allow her to talk to farmers. I took that as a personal challenge to prove that I could successfully work and communicate with farmers. And I’ve been doing that every day for the last 5 ½ years.

3. With challenges come opportunities. We have all sorts of challenges in agriculture. From tough regulations, to the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit, to WOTUS, to Avian Influenza, the list of challenges seems never ending. But there are also opportunities. Opportunities to improve conservation and productivity; opportunities to diversify your farming business; opportunities to tell our story; and opportunities to farm in ways our ancestors never dreamed of. (Can you say, “shrimp production in Iowa?” Believe it or not, it’s happening!)

4. Iowa’s farms are diverse. I may have already given this one away, but we have many traditional corn, soybean, alfalfa, pig, cattle, dairy, poultry and turkey farmers in Iowa. (88,637 to be exact. And 97.5% of those farms are family owned!) But we also have fish and shrimp farms, just to highlight a few of the more unique opportunities in Iowa’s livestock industry. Traditional farms are the lifeblood of Iowa’s economy, but diversity provides new opportunities!

5. Farm families make more than a positive economic impact on Iowa. I’ve had the opportunity to visit many farms and meet with countless farm families from across the state. It doesn’t matter where you go, these are truly salt-of-the-earth people who work long hours on the farm, but still find time to volunteer. The Coalition accepts nominations from neighbors for the Good Farm Neighbor award. After receiving the award, recipients always say (unprompted I should add) “I don’t do anything more than what every other farm family does.” Humble. And yet making a positive difference in Iowa’s communities and organizations.

6. Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much. Partnerships and collaboration are the bottom line to success in the ag industry. At the end of the day, everyone in agriculture is on the same team. We are working for a common goal – to be able to care for the land and livestock the best way we know how, and then pass our love for farming on to the next generation. The Coalition is a perfect example of a partnership that is successfully working for the greater good. Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Staying together is progress. And working together is success.” Since it’s launch 12 years ago, the Coalition has provided no-cost, confidential assistance to 3500 families. I’d call that a huge success. And I have to give a shout out to Iowa’s farm and commodity groups who collectively provide the vision, leadership and funding to make the Coalition’s work possible.

7. Never say “never.” I remember these words coming out of my mouth a couple years ago: “I’ll never move to follow a boy. And I’ll never give up my career to follow his dreams.” But sometimes priorities in life change. And that’s ok! This is truly bittersweet to write: my last day with the Coalition will be June 15. This past February, I married a fellow ISU alum who is also a Warren County farmer and Pioneer dealer. I have an opportunity to join my husband Blake Reynolds in his farming operation and agronomy business. I will also be helping out at my mother-in-law’s crop insurance agency. My passion lies in agriculture. And I like working with farmers. This will give me the opportunity to follow my dreams and return to my farm roots.

I’ve truly enjoyed my time at the Coalition and cherish all of the people I’ve met. I look forward to new challenges and continuing my involvement in agriculture.

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