May 08, 2017
Women’s connection to a life in agriculture never ceases to amaze me, and Jenny Mennenga is the perfect example of that. Jenny grew up in Northwest Iowa on a traditional row crop and cattle farm operation. With no intentions of going back home to the farm, she went to Iowa State University where she found her own love of agriculture through the the study of agronomy and more specifically, the ability of genetically modified seeds to be able to make a real difference in the ability to feed a growing world. After college she moved to Illinois to pursue a career with Syngenta.
It was there that she met her husband and they combined a mutual love of agriculture to create their own farm. They both worked off the farm jobs for years to make ends meet as they grew their operation. While his family had farmed in the area for generations, Jenny and Eric effectively started their own operation, renting and buying land as they worked to build their farm. Through a series of good years and what Jenny calls really good luck (but I am pretty sure is also really good business management), Jenny and Eric continued to grow their farm and their family. With the family complete at three kids and an one farm dog that doesn’t fit the typical mold, Jenny decided it was time to take her place full time on the farm. She is in charge of inputs and crop growing and management decisions while her husband heads up the daily operations. She also runs a Syngenta seed dealership and is in charge of their small but growing cow calf herd and the kids show calves.
On the day I visited Jenny, she had just one of her kids with her at home….to provide just the right amount of help as she put it. Working alongside her mom for the day was Emily, the oldest of the three Mennenga kids. We started the day with a trip out to the corn and then the bean fields where Jenny checked on the growing crops. She shared with me the things she looks for to get an idea of how well the crops are doing including looking at the roots, checking the moisture and the amount of kernels on the cobs and pods in the beans. Emily followed her mom right out to the field, listening intently and often times, repeating her mother’s actions.
From there we went over to a small barn where Emily's show calf stays and Emily got the calf out for a little practice in putting on the rope and walking it around the ring. The county fair was just around the corner and Emily, just like millions of other kids in rural communities around the country, was getting ready to show the calf as the culmination of her hard work.
Next up was a trip a few miles down the road to another pasture where the cow calf herd was. Jenny drove out to the cattle, looking to make sure all of them were healthy and happy. Once we were done with those chores it was back to the house for a drink of water and a brief break from the August humidity. It was there that Hannah introduced me to the family’s dog. The Boston Terrier puppy with lots of energy and Emily wanted to be sure that he had his 15 seconds of fame!
From a start in agriculture to finding her own place, starting her own family farm, and raising her own family in agriculture, Jenny is the definition of a lifelong FarmHer. She loves the land and cares about the sustainability of it for future generations. She also cares deeply about her role and ability to help feed people of the world where food is scarce. She is smart, she is strong and she is a FarmHer.
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