March 08, 2017
From the minute I met Lexi Marek I knew she was something special. A future FarmHer, who grew up on a sixth generation family farm in Riverside, Iowa. She grew up helping around the farm where they raise crops, cattle and pigs. But Lexi Marek's passion is her pigs. She started showing pigs at livestock shows early on at the young age of 5. That was a show at the Iowa State Fair, where she won the show with a calico spotted pig named what else, but “Calico.” Lexi is the oldest of four girls in her family. As the Marek family grew, Lexi spent more time traveling the country with her dad, going to pig shows. When at home though, the pig barn became a haven for this group of young women, While doing their daily chores, it was their refuge from the rest of the world that can be a tough one to navigate as teenage girls. Whether cranking the music up loud, working together, playing with kittens, or even dancing, the Marek girls have formed some pretty strong bonds over their love of agriculture.
I first met Lexi a few years back when I was looking for my first FarmHer intern and she wasn’t looking for anything other than to go home and work pigs over the summer. The mission of shining a light on the women of agriculture inspired her and she came aboard the FarmHer team. The work, care, commitment and passion she has put into the organization have not only inspired me but have also helped the company grow (literally Grow) in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Shortly into that internship she kicked off a campaign to reach young women interested or involved in agriculture and the FarmHer Grow events were born. Later that year she pulled off a day of inspiration, empowerment and education for 250 young women in Ankeny, Iowa. That event was so successful that she is at the helm of planning four more events around the country this year to impact many, many more future FarmHers. She may not know it yet, but her enthusiasm and hard work has already had a positive effect on the future of agriculture, and on the strong footing of young women in that future.
Recently I had the privilege of catching up with Lexi at the great Iowa State Fair. A fair that I have been at nearly every year of my life and that holds a near and dear place in my heart. It is also a home for 11 days to hundreds or even thousands of families who show livestock there each year. Families who work together day in and day out. Families like the Mareks. The Marek sisters head home to help their dad in the barn the week before the fair, packing up the pigs, enough jeans and boots for a small army of future FarmHers, food, extended family and a lot of love. They head out for the fair days before it starts to get their animals loaded in, and all settled in the camper, right there on the camp grounds. On any given day of the fair you can find a Marek chatting with a friend in one of the pig barns, showing a pig, cleaning a pig, catching a quick nap or eating a meal together. The barns are full of life and it was a pleasure to get a little peek of life into that stockshow and fair life with my camera!
On August 12, 2016, sixteen years after her first show at the Fair, I caught up with Lexi as she was getting ready to show a different calico pig, Phillip. She was in the barns working alongside her sisters, mom and dad to get Phillip ready for her final show. At age 21, she has aged out of FFA and the ability to show livestock through the organization. Her years of working in the barns at home, and traveling the country with her family and their pigs has come to a culmination at one of her favorite places, the Iowa State Fair. Not knowing much about pig shows, I followed with my camera as the family did the final preparations on Phillip, brushing him and sprucing him up for the ring. Lexi then led him to the ring with her boyfriend (also a pig farmer), next oldest sister Macy and her dad close by. She went into the chute, waiting her turn in the ring and the rest of their family made their way over to “Marek corner”
I watched somewhat cluelessly as Lexi made her way into the ring and did a few rounds with Phillip before the judge sent her over to another waiting pen on the side. I immediately felt a little crushed….I thought that meant she was done! In reality it was just the opposite. The judge had picked Phillip and Lexi as one of the finalists in that round. A few minutes later she was back out, with a determined look on her face, leading Phillip around the ring. Before she entered the ring she told me a little about show pigs and said that they need to hold their head up and walk smoothly. She said Phillip actually looked like he glided when he walked, and she was right, he did. Lexi and Phillip won that round and then then next which put them into the Grand Drive.
We had a few hours before the Grand Drive so Lexi took a little of her precious time to show me one of her favorite things about the fair….the pulled pork macaroni at The Rib Shack. She says it’s a fair “must” and after trying it, clearly she was right.
As Lexi entered that ring for the final time, the anticipation, excitement and a little bit of sadness were evident. This was the end of a stage of this future FarmHer’s life that has been instrumental in building who she is and what she loves. Knowing Lexi outside of the show ring, I had to fight to hold back tears of pride in knowing such a strong and amazing young woman! She circled the ring with Phillip and again was sent to the pen on the side to wait as one of the finalists. Back into the ring she went with Phillip gliding by her side. The judge started to talk about his final decision and I felt like I could hardly breathe….he just HAD to be talking about Phillip! I watched and clicked away with my camera as he made his way over to Lexi and declared her and Philip the winners. The audience and specifically the Marek family burst out in excitement and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. From there it was a flurry of congratulations, more tears, a little bit of squealing, more tears and a whole lot of smiles.
As the day wrapped up, I couldn’t help but think about the series of events that had led me there. From starting FarmHer, to meeting a young woman just as passionate about promoting young women in agriculture as I am. Through months of hard work, lots of miles on the car together, and now here at the Iowa State Fair. A place that holds a special place in both of our hearts, where she, and really the whole Marek family, took home the top honors for a pig that they bred and raised right there in those pig barns in Washington county. Those pig barns filled with lots of Marek girls, the ups and downs of life and the love of a family. I couldn’t be more proud to know Lexi, to have her as a FarmHer team member, and to get to watch her in the ring that day, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Lexi Marek is a FarmHer that at the young age of 21 has already made her mark on the world, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.
March 15, 2017
Loved the show. The dancing while during chores reminded me of doing chores at home. Just wished it had been closed captioned for the hearing impaired.
March 10, 2017
April 24, 2017
April 24, 2017
April 17, 2017
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