Heart of a Rural Sister: Lauren
This is the second installment of an interview type post, where I visit with another rural woman in agriculture! I so love getting to know each woman, hearing her story, learning from the lessons she shares and being encouraged by her resiliency, determination and courage!
Here is Lauren!
Tell me a little bit about yourself!
I live in SE Iowa, “in the middle of nowhere”! LOL. Des Moines and the nearest mall is about 2 ½ hours away! Walmart is about 30 minutes away. My Father passed away when I was 6 months old, so I was raised by my mother, who worked full time off the farm and kept the farm going. She works hard and passed on that work ethic to me! I spent some time away from the farm during college and even spent some time in Denver, but that’s the farthest west I’ve ever been. After college I moved back home to help my mom with the farm, which is 200 acres and includes pasture and hay ground. We have 70 pairs of black angus and we do everything ourselves!
My boyfriend is also involved in agriculture as his family operates an area sales barn. His family raises herefords! In our area black baldies sell best, so it’s a match made in heaven!
As a woman who grew up as a farm kid, do you see it as important to give kids the opportunity to experience life outside or off the farm before college? Do you have any tips for doing this?
Absolutely, every farm kid should at some point experience what is “out there”. My mom was a hard working single parent, so she was focused solely on that. When I did move to the city after high school, it wasn’t much of an adjustment for me. I definitely missed the animals. I think some farm families worry about “letting their kids go”, but if farming is important to them, they will definitely come back.
What is the most challenging part of agriculture?
For me, the emotional investment. Most of our cows have names. I know each one, even though the average person probably couldn’t tell them apart. I am invested in the health and well being of every single cow. Even though the farming process includes selling the calves in the fall, my emotional investment in each animal doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.
Would you mind sharing with us a time that was the most challenging for you and how you made it through?
It would probably be growing up the way I did. My mom worked hard and work came first. Growing up, I didn’t have many opportunities for sports and sleepovers like other kids. Because we farmed, we had different priorities and responsibilities. I wouldn’t change that experience, but I think that should be discussed with farm kids. Parents should try and show understanding of the possible disappointment that farm kids feel when they miss out on things their peers are doing. If you and your family are truly invested in farming, it is a wonderful sacrifice you make.
What do you see as the positives for yourself in agriculture? Do you see lots of opportunities for women in agriculture?
In my area, farming is still very male dominated. Women who are fully invested in farming don’t get the credit for what they are doing. This needs to change.
Do you face isolation and loneliness that many women in ag face? How do you deal with that?
Absolutely. Dating helps! When I’m on the farm with my mom, it is all work. Because we live in such a rural area, restaurants and movies are over an hour away. One of the few social outlets is the bar and I’m not exactly into that. So I, like many rural women, rely on social media as another social outlet! I create friendships and visit with women just like me, across many miles through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
What do you believe are the three most important qualities in a woman in agriculture?
Independence. Patience and Understanding for everything. Work Ethic. If you aren’t willing to work hard, you aren’t going to do so well.
Do you have any daily self-care non-negotiables?
(For some this might be reading the Bible daily, others it’s getting up a little bit earlier than the rest of the family to have a bit of quiet time, others it might be getting their nails done, journaling, etc.)
I love to have time to myself to work on my blog and photography. I think it’s really important to invest in yourself. I pray throughout my day as things come up.
Tell us about your blog and photography business! What is your vision and mission for them?
Well, I was taking selfies before they were called “selfies”. As a child, I loved taking pictures of my animals. As I got older, that interest grew and became a way to create additional income. It started by word of mouth with friends and now I have really “put it out there”, creating ads and such and have grown it into a business. I named it Country Roots Photography and take all kinds of pictures; Birth sessions at the hospital, newborns and milestones, family, engagement and weddings. I also take photos at the Ranch Rodeos that my boyfriend’s brothers put on. I enjoy capturing anything that catches my eye!
Right out of high school, I got a culinary arts degree. Then, I went to NW Missouri State for animal science with a minor in agronomy. One day I was in my Speech class outside of the Agronomy department and I realized very vividly that people did not know where their food comes from. They do not understand GMOs. I see this disconnect in my own family. My brothers who are a lot older than me, never really spent time on the farm. They encourage their kids to experience farm life through 4h and such, but they don’t understand the commitment of it. So, with my blog www.fromgatetoplate.com, I pair my love of photography, culinary expertise, and knowledge of agriculture to increase understanding and awareness in a creative and delicious way.
There is a big movement right now of women becoming entrepreneurs and seeking unconventional ways to provide income and flexibility. Do you see this as a good thing? How do you see this especially helping a woman in agriculture?
Oh definitely! As rural women in agriculture, isolation is common, so to be able to build your own business via social media and provide more income can be so rewarding. Especially, since farming is still so male-dominated, it is such a confidence boost to be an entrepreneur and seen as an equal partner in providing income.
If your best friend came to you and said that she was considering starting her own business, what advice would you give her?
Have confidence in yourself and your business! Grow your knowledge of your business. Know what your cost versus income will be. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Your expertise is valuable. Your true friends won’t devalue your business and assume that they will receive discounts. Foster communication. Build with others. Network. Don’t be scared to connect with others on a similar journey.
Last but not least, what is one piece of wisdom that you would share with another woman in ag?
“Enjoy the life. It is rough, but truly a blessing.” It is easy to be all about work. But I’ve learned you really have to find a balance and have fun through it all.
Lauren has such talent in the kitchen and she graciously shared a recipe!
Country Fried Steak
Thank you so much Lauren, for visiting with me and sharing yourself with us! We may be miles apart, but I’m happy to call you a friend and rural sister! ?
Please follow Lauren in the following places!
If you have enjoyed reading this entry of “The Heart of a Rural Sister”, you might also enjoy reading the last interview with Belinda! You can read it here!