Creating Connections & a Platform for Women in Ag with Marji Alaniz of FarmHer

Listen to Marji's episode here or find us on your favorite podcast listening app!
 

Jenny Kreisher:

I'm beyond excited to introduce today's guest, Marji Alaniz, the founder of FarmHer, a content and media community supporting female advocates across the country. What started with a dream and a camera has grown into quite the empire, including a podcast, TV show on RFD-TV, radio show, and even apparel. In addition, Marji has expanded the community even further by hosting conferences, geared toward women of all ages being a source of inspiration for aspiring female ag leaders. It is truly a pleasure to have you on the pod today. Marji, thank you for agreeing for agreeing to speak with me today. farm credit agvocates podcast interviews marji alaniz of farmher

Marji Alaniz:

Thank you for having me. I'm glad to be here.

Jenny:

Growing up in Iowa, I'm sure ag has been a huge part of your life ever since then.

Do you mind just kicking it off by giving everyone a little glimpse into your background?

Marji:

Yeah, for sure. You can't throw a rock and not hit something ag related here in Iowa. That's just the way it is. My parents were not farmers, but my grandparents did farm, but I grew up in the country, but my parents didn't rely on farming as their income and no part of agriculture was their income. I always say there were cows there, on the property, but they weren't ours. Right. I can't claim any sort of responsibility for having to take care of them or knowledge about them. In fact, I just ignored them. I didn’t even think about it. So it was kind of something that was just always there, but it wasn't a thought process of mine, you know? And I definitely wasn't one of those kids who was, I'm going to go get an ag degree.  I didn't even know people did that. It was just always kind of around. Today my uncle and cousins still farm. I'm excited to say that my cousin's daughters both are back at the farm helping him. So that's exciting in, in the extended family farm, but I can't claim a lot.  I was in 4-H as a kid as well. Here's something funny, I showed my cat. All these awesome farm kids, they show horses, they show goats, cattle, chickens, you know, all the things. And I showed my cat.

Jenny:

Well, that's interesting. You also went to college in Iowa, Grand View University.

What was your intended career path when you were graduating college?

Marji:

My undergraduate degree was graphic design, journalism and photography. I loved photography. And when I was in college, I think I thought that I was going to be a wedding photographer or something. I photographed weddings through college and quickly realized that that was not my calling. There are people much better suited to do that than me. So I wasn't really sure where it was going to go out of college. But I landed in a job. I just needed a job and in the communications department at a crop insurance company. So I've landed in the agriculture industry through my, graphic design, journalism and photography degree. It’s kind of a roundabout way to land in this industry for sure.

Jenny:

You were in the communications department.

What was your role there and what were some things that you learned during your time with that crop insurance company?

Marji:

It was good. First of all, I spent 11 years at Rain and Hail, one of the larger crop insurance companies in this country and a really, really important piece of the farm safety net. I came to learn over that, a little over a decade spent there. I came into the company in a communications role. So I worked in the marketing department and you know, I did the things that an entry level person in the marketing department would do, you know, I put together brochures and helped write articles.

Sometimes they would go take pictures. It was pretty basic stuff I would say in the beginning, but it was, it was good. And I learned a lot about how farms work, what the visibility of them was. I learned a lot about the crop insurance industry, which is a very unique part of, of insurance in general and just how it works with the public private partnership with the federal government. So I can say that risk management still today, I know it's such an important thing and it's near and dear to my heart. But you know, it, it's not what I do anymore, but while I started in the marketing department, I was on this path to climb the ladder there. I over the course of those 11 years, I had five different positions.

I moved into more of operational stuff during those years, I got an MBA. I went back to Drake University which is right here in Des Moines, Iowa, and got a master’s in business and kept moving my way up. And I eventually landed into a role where I, my title was long. So I'll just tell you that I was the risk manager, I dealt with re-insurance, which is insurance that insurance companies have to have as a backstop. And the contract that we as an insurance company had with the federal government to implement the crop insurance program. So I learned so much about the inner workings of all of that and how a company, you know, might, right, let's say $2 billion in premium a year, you know from farmers and how they deal with that risk.

And you said, it's, it's so important when I still go to farmers today. I still always asking about how they manage their risk if they have crop insurance, especially if they're fault small farms. I always think it's interesting to understand how they're managing that, but it just, towards the end of my time there, I just kind of found myself going, okay, , you've reached this position that you wanted to be at. And, you know, maybe there's more, maybe there's not here, but I don't feel  I'm doing the best thing I could be doing,  for myself and for something else, you know? So it, it kind of became obvious to me that it was time to move on and figure out what was next

Jenny:

What inspired you to leave a company that you kind of grew up through in 11 years’ time?

Was there a moment or was there kind of an “aha” moment that hit you that kind of inspired you to take the next step with your career?

Marji:

There was a number of things. If I look back, I mean, I still am, what was I crazy? , what was I doing? I walked away from some serious stability and a pretty great paycheck to jump into the deep end. But it was a number of things I at the time I left, my kids were one and three and it was , I could see my life flashing before my eyes,  the speed of everything was feeling really fast. You know, I was in my early thirties. And I blinked and I'm here. And if I blink again, 30 more years will go by, and I won't feel  I put something out into this world that I really could  excel at, you know, but I didn't know what that was.

And during that time the company was sold while I was kind of going through that, introspective, look at myself. And so, you know, a number of things when that happens, it just made it kind of easier to move on. And I have the most supportive husband on the face of the earth. And so when I came up with this idea,  I think I need to step back from this and take a few months and figure out what I'm going to do next, because I felt  as long as I was in it, I couldn't figure it out. I had stability, I had comfort. I had it was somewhat in control of my own world there. And as long as you have that, it's really hard to push yourself to do something different.

While it’s a crazy idea, and I don't know that I would tell anybody else to do it, but for me I had to kind of push myself off that cliff. And that's just how I work. So I left there without knowing what I was going to do. It wasn’t I was leaving to start FarmHer. I was leaving to do something else and just didn't know what that was. So the last day of my job, there was February 1st, 2013. And I remember thinking after I left, Oh my gosh, what did I do?

Jenny:

That is a leap. And it is also great that you had a supportive husband and family behind you to take that jump that you were waiting to do.

Did you take a few months off? How did FarmHer get started? Was it a few months after that, or did it kind of happen suddenly?

Marji:

Yeah, it was pretty quick. So the weekend, right after I quit my job, the Super Bowl was on. I was sitting here in the basement again, thinking, “What did I do?”  I worked a lot, I traveled a lot for my job. And we had a nanny that would come into our house and, you know, there was no need for her anymore, so we'd let her go. And so I thought, what did I do? There's a wonderful three-year-old here, sitting here in the basement, we watched the Super Bowl and a commercial was on a Ram truck commercial set to a speech by Paul Harvey called God, made a farmer and it was beautiful and I loved it. And I'm sure anybody listening can remember that if they're associated with agriculture at all. It was so powerful because of strong words and really great pictures. And that's all it was, it was, it wasn't really video commercial. If you remember, it was just beautiful images and having a background in photography. I think, that's what made me think, this is beautiful. I loved it. But honestly, I didn't think anything of it when I watched it other than, than how much I thought, how beautiful I thought it was. But I read an article a couple of days later that pointed out. Yeah, that was beautiful, but where were the women? And not just in this commercial, it’s not just, you know, that commercial's problem. It's anywhere in agriculture. We just don't see what women do yet. At that time, they made up 30% of the producers in this country, which is a lot. And I read the article and it did not sit well with me, I guess and woke up in the middle of the night and the next night. I had this idea that instead of being frustrated, I thought maybe I could start a photo project and show what some of these women do. So, yeah, it literally was only a few weeks after I left my job, to give you a timeline. And my husband's always, I'm going to take a while off six months and just figure it out. And he’s like, I didn't give you six months. In my brain, I knew that within six weeks you'd be running at something else. April 17th, 2013 to give you a timeline was the first farm that I visited. I reached out to some people in that article and they said, yeah, you can come photograph at our farm. I didn't have the name FarmHer. , I mean, I had the name, it was just a project, but you know what I mean? I didn’t have anything to show them.  they trusted me to come take their pictures when I didn't even know what I'd do with it. That’s kind of how FarmHer was born.

Jenny:

That’s amazing. You started with a story, an interview and some pictures.

How did you grow that? How did you grow your platform?  Was it all word of mouth? Did you get on social media right away?  

Marji:

I mean, looking back today, we do a lot, but it didn't start that way for sure. So my grand goal is to change how people see women in this industry. And I was going to start with seven or eight women that I would photograph that summer. And so I did that and I waited until I had those pictures to launch a website. So in July of 2013, I put up a super basic website.  Literally it was just a blog with photos bait. I mean, there was no business to it whatsoever and launched a social media pages in July of 2013 also. And those are what got the ball rolling.  I still remember, just feeling exhilarated and frightened and overwhelmed and excited all at the same time, because it was almost instantaneous when I put it, put it out there that it started gaining really quick traction.

And I was, oh, I care about this, but clearly the women in this industry care about this too. And they just didn't know that they needed something to get behind. So yeah, very quickly we started getting some national press.  Within three months, we we were in Huffington Post. We were in something called Upworthy. We were in Fast Company, Smithsonian magazine. It just spread, and it was bizarre. I decided that fall, okay, now you need to figure this out.  This isn't just a fun project anymore. You need to figure out something sustainable and, and how we're going to march into the future with this, because it needs to stay.

Jenny:

You definitely scratched an itch and found a voice for people who didn't have one before. And that's, that's pretty incredible to hear that it took off that quickly. Over the past seven years now, since you've launched 2013, you've had the opportunity to travel all over the country and, and beyond, and meet some pretty incredible women in the industry. Do you have - I'm sure this is pretty difficult cause you've met with so many - but

Is there one story that's really kind of made an impact on you throughout the past seven years or maybe one that you really enjoyed getting out into the world?

Marji:

Yeah, there's so many and I always say that the last person that I visited. There’s a couple that I get this question a lot and there's a couple people that I usually share with this answer, but I'm going to share a different one with you because it truly is the last person that I visited that sticks with me. And I really love to be able to tell her story and it's not out in the world yet, but it will be soon. Her name is Maggie Holup and she actually works for Farm Credit here in the middle of the country. I had the opportunity to visit her at her farm just last week in Nebraska. She’s awesome, just so cool. But long story short, her dad got brain cancer a number of years ago, and that's about a series of events that led to her mother basically you know, splitting the farm into two pieces for her and her sister.

And so Maggie had to figure out, how I am going to do this as, you know, a single person, as a young woman who was only a few years into a career. She didn't have huge assets to figure out how to come back and do this with, but she did. And I feel, I don’t know if scrappy is the right word, but she figured it out. And she did on her own, whether it was YouTube videos or whatever it was. She had help of neighbors and friends and stuff too, of course. But when I look at all that she's done and built and kept going and in not the easiest of situations. You’re exactly what a FarmHer is. You know, you're, you're going to push forward at any cost to figure this out because it matters to you and it matters to your family and it matters to your legacy and it's the right thing to do.

On top of that, she really cares about being healthy and bringing healthy activities to rural communities. So she has this mobile workout trailer that she takes to these small towns in Nebraska that don't have any other workout options. People can come and pay a couple dollars and do a workout, maybe once a week. And I worked out and she puts on a good workout. So I did it with her right there on the farm. And so to wrap all that up because I'm sure a lot of people go, well, she sounds  this person that I know or that person that I know, she’s not really that different.  And that's the thing of it is the people that I meet, she embodies that, they're, they work so hard. They're so passionate. She balances the full time job at Farm Credit and she makes it work on the weekends. She it's just, you know, it's just so good. And so down to earth, and just one of those people. She was truly the last person that I visited. And so that one's sticking with me right now.

Jenny:

That's fantastic. I can't wait to see it and read about her. So in addition to the past seven years, getting to meet a bunch of different people, we kind of touched on it earlier, but you've also expanded into so many different channels way beyond the blog that you started with.

What do you think is your favorite way to story tell today and why is it still through a blog or are you more into the podcast? What’s your favorite go to now?

Marji:

That's a good question. I do love to talk. Podcasts is pretty fun. My very favorite thing to do is to tell the story of somebody that probably wouldn't know otherwise. And Maggie, who is awesome, but you may not get all pieces of her story otherwise. I would say that my favorite medium is still a photo because when, when that moment in time is stopped and you can capture it in a beautiful, strong, way that somebody else can have a feeling when they look at it, that's still probably my personal favorite to go all the way back to the beginning. You know, video has allowed us to tell a richer story, right?  In the TV show or on our YouTube channel, you can better experience who these people are, what their farms are or learn something about how they do what they do through video. So it's a richer experience, but I think I'd have to go back to, to, you know, being on a farm, following a person in a pretty non-intrusive way and taking a picture when you see,  when I see what she's doing, I guarantee it's different than how she sees what she's doing. And so the ability to kind of stop that moment and put a mirror up almost is really cool, so I would go back to, but I said, I do love to talk.

Jenny:

You described the use of photography very eloquently because it's true. It does capture a single moment. You don't really think about it at the time, but then when you reflect back, that doesn't mean a lot to a lot of people.

Another way you've diversified is your retail. I personally am a huge fan of your apparel. I've purchased a few things from your store.

What made you get into [apparel sales]? And what was that process for you all?

Marji:

Yeah, I don't mean to be the person who is a story of accidental things that we got into, but I would say it's kind of that open your arms really wide and figure out what to run at to make this sustainable. So the second farm that I visited, it was a goat. They had it was a goat micro dairy. So she made small batches of really wonderful goat cheese. And her name was Lois. And she had an employee there working with her and the employee asked can I get a shirt that says FarmHer? And I thought why does she want a shirt that says the name of my photo projects? And I think that situation made me realize, oh, it's the name of my project, but I came up with a word that can identify who you are to the rest of the world as well. You wear that as badge of honor, this is who I am. And, and so that's been a really fun thing with the name FarmHer and with the clothes. I have fun with it and I still do the designs, most of them, myself. We've got a couple of people who help submit some of them sometimes, but mostly it's just, I design things that I want to wear, you know, and that has worked out really great. It's always fun to me to put a good message out into the world and to help people be proud of who they are. And like I said, wear that on their chest, and allow them to show the world that. And so that's a really fun thing about the merchandise. I never set out to me a tee shirt company, but it's really fun. It's a fun piece of the puzzle. So we, you know, we have the media side of what we do, whether that's digital or TV or podcasts. And then the merchandise is another piece and we used to have a third arm, which was events, but we've changed that a little bit.

Jenny:

I didn't know you did most of the design of those. You and I have a very similar personality then, because I love a pun. And I love seeing what you all come up with for your canned koozies and tee shirts. We love it, my team and I are big fans.

Marji:

Oh, thank you. Yeah, I know. We might as well be lighthearted about it. We don't have to be super heavy all the time. There's plenty of heaviness in this industry. Shirts, there's one that we just had this summer called “winging it “and I love that. I feel like everyone is winging it at some point.

Jenny:

I know you've hosted “Grow by FarmHer”, conferences geared toward high school and college aged girls. Actually, we had an intern with us for a couple of years who attended one of your events at West Virginia University, not too long ago. She spoke very highly of that opportunity.

What prompted that decision to host FarmHer conferences and where are they headed?

Marji:

Well naturally, events are changing right now, but I'll walk you back through, how does it change for us? So let's see, I started this in 2013, by the end of that year, we organize it into an actual business. And I then worked really hard to fill up my calendar in 2014. So anyone who would, let me put up photos or come talk at their event or anything I could do to just get it out there in the world. And towards the end of 2014, I met a young woman at one of those events that I had filled up my calendar with. And she said, I want to intern for you. I thought, you know, I could use some help. You're right. I need an intern. And so we opened up an intern program and it actually she started the following spring.

So in 2015 and on her first day of work, her name is Lexi Merrick. And on her first day of work, she said I kind of already committed us to creating events for women in agriculture. And I said well okay as long as we don't lose money, because we don't have any to lose. We can run forward at this, but by the way, she wanted to create just a dinner. And I said I've been going to this event that's fabulous, but they're not going to expand it out of Illinois. It’s an Illinois group that does it, but it's wonderful. And it's for young women and I think it needs to be everywhere. And so we kind of crashed those ideas together and came up with “Grow”. We had our first one in 2015 that fall. And that was her internship to play on that. And it was fabulous. We sold out 250 tickets. We had young women, upper high school through college age, young women were our focused. And you know, we put awesome women up on the stage to tell their stories and in different ways, some producers and professionals. And our goal was to connect young women to all of the things that are out there in this industry that they can go do or be in. I'm a pretty big believer, if you can see it, you can do it. So why not show them some really cool women who are doing great things? So we did that for five years. We ran it that we had our 20th “Grow” event last November. And as you said, we had one in West Virginia, we had them all over the country. And they were wonderful. Last year at the same time, leading up to our 20th event, we actually had nine events all around the country last year, whether they were “Grow” or other ones that we had for all ages. And between the TV, the podcast, the Sirius XM, the merchandise, everything, you know, we were running really hard at it, all of this. And I can tell you that I hit a pretty big wall last spring at the same time that it was going through a class called Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses. And it was kind of just a perfect storm of taking a step back and looking at everything that we were doing and what was getting us the most traction and how we could reach the most people with the limited resources that we do have.

And so through that, I came to the decision that we were spending most of our time, probably about 80- 85% of our staff time and it was a staff of seven people pulling off those events. They are wonderful and fabulous and they filled all of our cup. I mean, emptied our cups big time and then they filled them up. It's a lot to put on and came to the realization that we were lucky if we were breaking even because it's just an expensive thing to do. And you got to have people to be able to pull that off, you know and we were reaching around 1500 people a year, maybe 2000 between all these events. And while we loved them, the reality was it wasn't a sustainable thing for us to keep doing.

So I made the decision that she had, that we were going to kind of refocus on our media and our ability to tell these stories and how we're telling them and who we're telling them to, and to keep broadening out that circle and to have less of a focus on events. So we did a big staff readjustment last year and we actually had no events planned for 2020, no in person events.

Jenny:

That's ironic.

Marji:

Yeah. I know, right. I don't know that I'd call it lucky, but it was a solid decision despite not having a crystal ball.  I mean, honestly I just got off the phone with someone, telling him that that it was those changes that we made last year allowed us to not feel  we were sinking when everything started shutting down and changing drastically this year. And in backing away from those events, you know, I knew we needed to adjust and refocus the investment that we were putting in those events, we needed to shift that over to our media somehow. And so we brought on a new digital team and kind of revamped how we're looking at digital, so that we aren't just doing the same things so that we're looking at again, doing the same thing and doing it better and reaching more people more consistently a broader message, and just doing an even better job of connecting with people in that world. So again, that's turned out to be a great thing for this year because everybody's living in a digital world more than we could have ever imagined.

That team has been fabulous. They're experts. They're wonderful. They've brought so much to us. So we've kind of re-did our style and our look. We have a new website, that by the time this podcast is out, it'll be launched. Just a refresh look, same FarmHer, but better way to be able to find all of our stories. So if you go to our website and you want to meet one of those farmers, you can see her pictures, you can read the story, you can listen to a podcast, if there is one. You can see the YouTube video of if there is one or you can connect over to the story on RFD TV, if there is one. So we're just giving you a better way to connect in the way that we think that people might want to absorb these stories.

So it's been I would say over a full year of solid change for us, and I feel we're finally certain to level off and understanding where we're at and how we're going to push forward with all of it.

Jenny:

That's exciting to hear though. That’s lot of change happening, but all exciting change. I'm excited to check out the new website when it launches. Speaking of the pandemic, I'd be remiss not to bring it up the toll it's taking on the industry.

How has a FarmHer adapted during [the pandemic]? Have you changed your messaging strategy at all since this hit?

Marji:

I would say we were already in the middle of changing our messaging strategy, to be a little more focused and more consistently they're showing up. And so that's been a really good thing for us. We've seen growth. I think a lot of people have seen growth digitally through this, but it's been good for us to have more focus as we've gone through it. Me personally one of the things that early on you know, I feel  we all were in this situation, whether you're a business owner, whether you work for a company, no matter who you are,  I think we all went through this “oh my gosh. Now what?” The way that my personality is, I was like I have to do something.  And so I started thinking about things I could show that were good. And I mean, if you look at what we share with FarmHer, I mean every once in a while there stories that are tough, right? There's a story where you're probably going to tear up if you hear Maggie, talk about how she lost her dad, you know, or how Barbara's husband died. There is inevitable because it's life. But overall, I think we put really positive, good stuff out in the world and I kind of made it my job to keep focusing on good stuff that we could share. We, and personally, when everything started shutting down, that was my busiest time of year for speaking, being keynote at events and stuff like that. And so I have 12 plane tickets that are sitting there waiting to be used. It’s a bit of an adjustment because I was used to go, go, go, go, and go. But it's been a really good adjustment and I tell you what, for the first time in probably about five years, I kind of was forced home and was around my family more. And of course I love them, but I just realized how much chaos there is in our lives in general. And so I need to slow down even a little bit more and how can I make them a part of my world even more? So we launched this YouTube on the road show where I am, as many trips as I can, I'm going to try to take my family with me, whether it's all of them or one of them and make them a part of it. So we're showing you the behind the scenes. Of course you're going to meet the farmer, you know, that we have other stories that are on YouTube, that you can meet those people, but there’s this whole life that happens in order to be able to tell those stories. And I want them to be able to see it and experience it too.

So that’s been a big shift, really big shift, but a good one again. And you know, business wise, it's a challenge for many businesses. I mean we're blessed, we're, and we’re doing okay. You know, it's not without its challenges in, in reduction of income, whether it's, you know, merchandise sales or speaking engagements or whatnot, but you know we're going to be okay. And, and we've got our health. We sometimes have our sanity.  Again, keeping my family closer to me and spreading a message of even more good. I think those are the things that messaging wise have become even more important.

Jenny:

How have you seen your FarmHer community pull together throughout this time? I know we've seen a lot of farmers in our area changing their business operations to do more outreach and be more out in the public eye and provide local food to people who aren't able to get out of their homes.

Are there any sort of stories that you've seen throughout your FarmHer community similar to that, pull together during this time to help their communities out?

Marji:

Oh yes, so many of them. And we have tried to share a lot of those, because I think we're all in the same boat where we have to figure out how we're going to pivot whether, we have a business, whether we have a farm, no matter what your life structure is, we all have had to pivot. And so we really, throughout the summer have been focusing on stories of how people are changing. You know we talked to a young woman who was getting ready to have a baby. She runs marketing for her family farm, which has Gunther Family Farms and they're out of Indiana and they sold lots of pastured poultry to really high end restaurants in Indianapolis and Chicago. And so you can imagine that their business just keep it whole and change. And then they had to shift really fast. And then she was getting ready to have a baby the weekend I talked to her. And I thought, oh my gosh, how many more things can be thrown at you? But I think that's where we do come together because well, she had her challenges. We all have them, you know, and we all can relate to those stories in some way or another. And I think sharing those matters because, it, it doesn't all just happen in a bubble. So we've been really focusing on those. So, you know, we talk to another small produce farm who really had to pivot and create an online sales platform really quickly. Because they had food in the field that needed to be harvested and get to their customers and, and you know, they're thriving through it. We’ve talked about how risk management is near and dear to my heart. When your business changes a lot of things structurally change too. And you know, how we're all keeping up with that, if we are. Because that matters too, you’ve got to deal with the risk that comes along with your business changing. From a community standpoint, we've just really been trying to put out those stories and people really do connect with those really well. It's, it's great to see people have that kind of comradery of knowing that they all can, can relate to this in some way.

Jenny:

I couldn't agree more. Going back to the main mission of FarmHer which is sharing stories of women in ag and giving them a voice. The there's definitely a growing number of women in ag at all levels. According to the 2018 Ag Census, 36% of U.S. farmers are female and 56% of all farms have at least one female decision maker. I'd love to hear from your perspective

Why it is so crucial that we continue to share their stories and how best we can do this?

Marji:

It is crucial to continue to share their stories. I mean, I think I said it earlier that if you can see it, you can do it. And whether you, you know, that you are an inspiration to somebody else or not, I guarantee that you are. Somebody’s probably looking up to you and that's anybody out there listening too. And so continuing to share your story and put that out there, even when it's really hard, it's important. It matters. I have a Google alert set up about the words, “women” and “agriculture”  and I can't even tell you,  when I first started it was a couple of times a week, maybe there was something and I get 20 or 30 a day now, you know, there's just so much more visibility around women. I think they’re standing up there saying, “Hey, I'm a part of this farm.” It's not like people are flocking into agriculture right now, but they're kind of coming into their own with their roles, you know, and, and how they're being counted with those number increases. And so it does matter if not to you, but to those other people, looking at you that you, take ownership in who you are and what you do and, and find whatever way you can to share your story.  We all don't have to jump in front of a camera to tell it, you know? I mean, there's, there's so many ways that you can, you can do that. So but it's important. It matters, everybody has to do their little part in this industry. Because it's not people are flooding into it at record pace.

Jenny:

That’s my next question actually -

What advice do you have for any woman who might be out there right now listening, that wants to have a career in agriculture or might want to start a business like you?

What advice do you have or what do you wish you knew that you’d impart on them?

Marji:

Great question. Well, for starters, if you think you want to have a career in this industry, I would say that you absolutely can do it. If there is an inkling in you that, “Hey, I might be good at this”, or “Hey, I might want to run after this” then run after it, with everything you've got and don't take no for an answer and be the best at it. You have the ability to do that. And so I would say that if, if you are wondering if you could go and do something, maybe start putting your feelers out, find someone that could mentor you, find somebody that is doing what you think you might want to do and watch them, reach out to them, ask them how they do it.  I've had so many times where I’ve reached out to somebody and connect did just because I was this is cool, this is really great, you know? And it can make a world of difference. That networking piece is so, so, so important.

 I think you asked also if somebody was looking to start something I do. I had a young woman come up to me at the end of one of our “Grower” events and she said  I'm going to do what you do, but I can't even figure out where to be again, because it feels  so much. And I was, here's the thing? Start with one thing. That's what I did. You know, I started where, I mean, there were words, but the really the main thing was those images. And then it turned into a snowball and over time I was able to a team that could help make that happen. You know, it doesn't all happen with one person. So start with one thing, don’t worry about all 20 things that you think you should be doing. Just one thing you just have to get started. Maybe it's just an Instagram account. Maybe it's, you know, just one, one way of doing it. But that’s, that's where I started, you know, the ball has rolled and changed.

So and I think if I could give myself one piece of advice, looking back, it would be, take a breath. It's all going to be okay. You don't have to run at break neck speed all the time.  Pay attention to all the good things around you. As we're doing this on the road piece, it made me realize how much travel I really have done over the last seven years and what cool things I've seen. And I haven't really taken enough time to enjoy those and experience those. So take a breath. It's all going to be okay, you'll get it all done, you know, and, and just keep moving forward.

Jenny:

That's great advice. One more piece of advice I would like from you: if there are women out there who want to connect with their community or a community like yours out in their neck of the woods, where would they start?

Where do you suggest women in ag start to find their network and connect with others?

Marji:

First off, social media is a great place because you can do it from the comfort of your own home and you can do it at your pace or your comfort, your level. I can think of many, many of the women who I've met along the years, who've started to put themselves out there on social media and now have really big followings and they've become really great friends with each other. They bounce ideas off of each other. They support each other. I see the comments that they're throwing out to each other on a daily basis. And it's awesome. Get on Instagram, start looking at hashtags, that'll help you follow the right people that are the community that you think you want to be a part of, you know, check out the FarmHer hashtag. You definitely can find your own place on social media, but I think the other really important thing is you know, you can go to a local meeting and, you know, join up with people who maybe are like-minded. Maybe it's a Farm Bureau media, maybe there's a women in Ag group. And those always seem intimidating when you haven't been a part of those before, but you know, it wouldn't be a group if it wasn't reliant on all kinds of people coming in and joining and giving their thoughts. And that's always a great place to connect with other people. And I, I'm a big believer that when you put yourself out there a little bit good things, what goes around comes around and, and so it will build, it will grow. It will push you forward when you do that. So you know, those, those local groups are good. And even if it’s not an Ag focus group. Joining a group of other business owners, even though you think they're a million times different than you are, because the farm is nothing else. I mean, most businesses have to go through all the same hoops. You know, you have to have marketing, you have to have sales, you have to have the labor, and you have to pay taxes.  you have all the same things. So sometimes it's just figuring out where you want to find your community. And then again, just putting yourself out there, which is probably the toughest part, but I can do it. So I know you can do.

Jenny:

I love that. Once you find that group, you know, when you find your tribe or however you choose to word it, it’s pretty amazing what can come of it. It is always so inspiring, as one woman in ag to another, to see each other to see others lift each other up, especially in times today where we definitely need it the most.

I have one more question for you Marji, before we wrap up today. It's a question we ask everyone, and that would be,

What do you advocate for in agriculture?

Marji:

I think the thing that I advocate for the most would be to connect with other people. I think that's where the growth happens. To piggyback off of that last answer, when you put yourself out there and you meet other people and maybe you gain more perspective about a certain situation, you know, that's where growth starts happening for all of us. And I think the biggest thing that we all can do for ourselves is to keep growing and to keep evolving as a human being and getting better, broadening our horizons. And that's going to make this industry win in the long run to have people who are looking to do that all the time. And so, yeah, I think that's it.

Jenny:

Where can our listeners find you and FarmHer on social media?

Marji:

Our website is the easiest place to find us. It’s FARMHer.com. You can get to any of our social media channels of course, they're there, and you can read the stories. You can watch the YouTube videos. The YouTube is a new fun thing. So I would also say, definitely go check us out on YouTube, its Youtube.com/FarmHer. And any other social channels, you can find us at the @FarmHer1. So we're everywhere. We try to be everywhere on social, but YouTube is a fun, new thing. So if, if your listeners are in that, they can definitely do it there, but you can find it all on our website.

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