• Just Jump In (Don't Wait to be Asked)!

January 26, 2020 1 Comment

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The winter months always bring plenty of travel to and from conventions and other industry events, especially in agriculture and it’s always such a fun time to catch up with old friends and make some new ones!  On that note…along with the excitement can also come stress.  If you are like me, the nervousness around being around a bunch of people who work in the same industry can be…intimidating.  Networking events where everyone seems to know each other or have the best things to talk - it makes my hands sweat just thinking about it.  Back in my former career I often found myself in rooms filled with hundreds of people talking in tight little circles and then there was me, wandering around awkwardly, trying to spot a friendly face and then hope to heck something worth talking about came out of my mouth.  I know it wasn’t their fault, but the fact that most of the people in the room….ok actually like 99% of the people in the room were men and most of them twice my age didn’t help.  While the women in that industry were few and far between at the time I did manage to find a few and I still look up to them and love to connect with them all these years down the road.  If you aren’t sure how to approach them, try to start with “hi…” ok but seriously, throw out a compliment about their shoes or maybe necklace - that’s always a good icebreaker according to my friend Erin at Nationwide.  Sometimes you just need to find your people, your squad, another woman or two who’s got your back! 

 

This particular trip led me to Austin, Texas, for the Annual American Farm Bureau Convention and right into the heart of what I affectionately call, our people.  I’ve been attending this show for the past few years for FarmHer and have loved every single year.  If you haven’t been, it’s worth a trip and the time spent.  First off, it’s usually somewhere warm and a great time to get away from the cold if you’re from the north like me!  Next up, this show is definitely not like the industry events that I was used to…this one is full of men AND women! 

 

This year’s convention started with guess what?  Breakfast and I just bet a FarmHer had something to do with growing this food!  We partnered up with Nationwide to sponsor this breakfast - in fact, we’ve been involved since the women’s breakfast started three years ago and it’s the perfect chance to meet some old friends and new!

Hint, hint…now’s the time to pull out that necklace or shoe compliment.  And guess what…if you’re still unsure of yourself, no worries.  A lot of other people are too even if it doesn’t look like it.  Find a group of at least 4 people talking, take a breath and introduce yourself!  Oh and for those of you who already have your crew there, be mindful of new faces and try to keep your networking circles less circular and more horseshoe to welcome those ladies in!

 

From here the women break out into their state committees - did you know that the majority of states have specific women’s committees for Farm Bureau and they do local, regional and national work?  Yet another chance to get involved!

While there are so many women from attendees to committee members and staff to a state President, here are a few women I met at the event, that you just need to know more about!

Patti Fisher

Patti is from New York state and her husband, David is actually the President of the New York Farm Bureau.  Patti wasn’t born into farming but fell into it quickly when she married a dairy farmer.  She played a support role on the farm for many years while she worked off-farm in education.  Patti approaches her work within the industry with a fresh perspective being that she hasn’t been around it her entire life.  She also wants to acknowledge that roles shift and if you don’t have the time to get involved today, you might tomorrow.

Yvonne Lesicko

From New York, we’re taking it over to Ohio to meet the VP of Public Policy, Yvonne Lesicko and her drive to get involved.  Yvonne was born into a northern Ohio where her dad did the “farming” and her mom kept the books.  She wanted to run the farm but her dad wanted her to fight the EPA for him so that pushed her to the policy side of agriculture.  She started out as an intern before going on to work in lobbying for many years before she came back home to the Ohio Farm Bureau where today.  Most of all she wants all women to know “we can’t wait to be asked, it’s time to jump in!"

 

Serena Woodward

Oh hey, speaking of iconic organizations in the ag industry, what about the 4H?  I was in 4H growing up and both of my kids are now even though we don’t live rural.  It’s a great way for them to connect with a different group of kids and learn about all kinds of Stem related areas…I love that it gets them out of their comfort zone and trying new things!  4H'er Serena Woodward won the 4H Youth in Action Pillar Award in 2018 and has done some pretty cool things.  She overcame a devastating house fire where her family lost everything and credits her 4H family for helping her through it.  Then, she has gone on to teach workshops to over 40,000 kids through 4H…and she’s just 19!  This girl is going to do big things!

 

Stephanie Smallhouse

Last but most definitely not least I sat down with the President of the Arizona Farm Bureau, Stef Smallhouse.  According to the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture, 49 percent of the farmers in Arizona are women, making it the state with the second-highest proportion of women farmers in the country and Stef heads up the largest farm and ranch organization there.  Having not grown up on a farm, she also married into an ag family - in fact, the ranch has been in her husband’s family for 136 years!  Stef is a pretty cool person and she wants to see all farmers and ranchers have access to the resources and help they need to succeed.  When it comes to young women (and I think this goes for all of us out there…even those pushing 40 like me) “never let anyone tell you that you don’t belong in a room you are in - what got you there is why you belong there.” 

 

If you haven’t quite found your place or fit yet, jumping into an organization like this and maybe even into the women’s group might just be your thing.  I hope y’all enjoyed this look the women of Farm Bureau.  Wherever your place is, just know that there are women engaged all over agriculture, and this industry needs us all in order to thrive! So, take Yvonne's advice and don’t wait to be asked!




1 Response

Nathan Brown
Nathan Brown

June 19, 2020

Just wanted you to know that Yvonne Lesicko passed away last night unexpectedly. I am not sure if you remember me but she introduced us at AFBF when you were interviewing her, I was her mental health board member. We will miss her terrible.

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