“Millennials love co-ops they just don’t know it yet,” #NFUCCOC.

What will be your co-op story and how will you achieve success through the cooperatives model? This is what I sought to learn during the 2017 National Farmers Union College Conference on Cooperatives.

We have all grown up in and around co-ops, in fact they are ubiquitous! What companies come to mind when you think cooperatives? Probably your local grain elevators, credit unions, and well known businesses like CHS? But did you know Ace Hardware is also a co-op?

Take a stroll down Main Street in your town and you will notice electrical, energy, local food, and housing cooperatives.

Melissa Miller, Education Director for National Farmers Union, and Cathy Statz, Education Director for Wisconsin Farmers Union, welcomed us to the beautiful Twin Cities on Thursday, February 16, 2017.

We enjoyed a great speaker line-up, beginning with the president of Thrivent Church Solutions Group, Chris Kopka. Chris talked a lot about the WHY behind co-ops. A group of people come together to form a cooperative that is beneficial to all. Cooperatives try to avoid risk, build infrastructure, create respectful work, open markets, and/or create access.  I gained a better understanding of the model through principle identification: (1) voluntary and open membership, (2) democratic member control, (3) member economic participation, (4) autonomy and independence, (5) education, training, and information, (6) cooperation among cooperatives, and (7) concern for community.

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to tour four Minnesota co-ops. I really enjoyed our stops at Becketwood and REI. Becketwood is a senior housing co-op that is located on the Mississippi River and is accessible to St. Paul and Minneapolis. The people made the trip memorable, but it was also their cooperative living style that made it special. It was neat to see the members excited to live, hike, dine, and grow together.

REI, Recreational Equipment, Inc., is a consumer cooperative that focuses on outdoor adventure. Their goal is to invest nearly 70% of their profits to the future of the great outdoors. It was interesting to see how a large consumer co-op cares about their members and customers. They have stood the test of time and made it through many economic down turns.

Saturday night we were treated to the play, Rise Up, O Men,  at Plymouth Playhouse and on Sunday we experienced two panels: (1) Co-ops Here and Now and (2) Global Issues.

The Church Basement Ladies in Rise Up, O Men Plymouth Playhouse Website

The cooperative model is one way to conduct business in a form that helps communities thrive.  Rural America is enhanced by local co-ops.

The conference was great and very informational! A big thank you to National Farmers Union for continuing to support student education and outreach.


Red Fern Farm: A Sustainable Perma-Cropping System

Permaculture is an old term with hot interest.


During the 2016 Farm Progress Show, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Agriculture honored eight women who continue to make positive contributions to the land. “One of the nominees, Kathy Dice along with husband Tom own Red Fern Farm, an innovative tree and perennial plant nursery, as well as fruit and nut productions (ISUEO WIA).”

Red Fern Farm began as a traditional row crop operation and has been transformed into a sustainable perma-cropping system https://www.facebook.com/redfernfarm.iowa/.

Permaculture by definition is a system of agricultural and social design principals centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. Dating back to 1929 when Joseph Russell Smith wrote a book called Tree Crops: A Permanent  Agriculture.

The core principals include:

  1. Care for the earth
  2. Care for the people
  3. Return of surplus

Kathy and husband Tom grow and harvest chestnuts, pawpaws, persimmon, aronia berries, trees, and other perennial plants.


“Our goal is to help decrease erosion by always providing soil coverage.”

There are many opportunities to learn more about permaculture at this years Women Food and Agriculture Network Conference. Panelists will be creating a dialog to discuss sustainability and how we can use native plants to provide. Registration for the conference is open! The conference will be held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5.

2016 WFAN annual conference.



The WFAN Keynote, Karryn Olson-Ramanujan, will also be discussing permaculture. “Karryn began studying permaculture in 1997 and is a lead permaculture teacher and founding board member for the Finger Lakes (NY) Permaculture Institute. She also teaches sustainability-related courses at Ithaca College (WFAN Conference Homepage).” Check out her website below.




Welcome Fall with these Reminder Agritourism Tips

Welcome Fall with these Reminder Agritourism Tips


By Morgan Ball, WIA LN Student Assistant

“Autumn is a Second Spring  when Every Leaf is a Flower,” Albert Camus

Who else is excited about all things pumpkin? Crisp Air, Pretty Leaves, Pumpkins, Sweatshirts, Football, and Apple Cider! Hello Fall!

Many agriculture tourism businesses are booming this time of year. I began working weekends at an orchard this semester and am loving every festive minute of it. While I am busy pouring apple cider, delivering pumpkin pie, and pointing in the direction of the hay-rack ride; my manager is concentrating on marketing, risk management, and making sure the daily chores are checked off.

Fall is a great time to review safety, marketing, and risk management tips for your agritourism business.

Caramel Apples for Thought:

  • There are 2238 orchards in the US
  • More than 800 corn mazes in the US
  • Pumkin sales grew to nearly 106 million dollars last year.
  • Farms with gross farm receipts of $25,000 or more, increased to 4,518 in 2012.

Review a few timely webinar posts:

Agritourism Safety


Risk Management and Your Agritourism Business


Turning Samples into Sales

Farmer’s Market Check List

Picture taken by: http://unicoicounty.org/
Picture taken by: http://unicoicounty.org/

Marketing Your Products: Turning Samples into Sales


Tune-Up your Farm Market Booth to Boost Sales!

Creating Dialog and Action at the 2016 ISU Veterans in Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Conference

Featured on and for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Agriculture https://www.extension.iastate.edu/womeninag/

Written by Morgan Ball, Student Employee for both ISUEO WIA and WIA LN 

joni 2

Monday, August 22, 2016- Veterans, family, service providers, and policy makers came together to create a dialog during the 2016 ISU Veterans in Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Conference. Men and women sought a common ground while searching for a networking and educational opportunities.

The objective of the conference was to provide our participants a community-focused resource fair that provided a place to exchange new ideas and to further influence our policy makers and service providers with solutions that best fit the needs of Veterans and their families.

Organizations, at the resource fair, communicated the importance of program, education, and finance opportunities that are available for Veterans and their families as they enter into agriculture or entrepreneurship.

A panel of policy leaders consisting of: Senator Joni Ernst; Major General Tim Orr, Adjutant General of the National Guard; USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Alexis Taylor; and Barb Carson, Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development discussed programs available for Veterans.

“We are working for a cause greater than ourselves,” said Senator Joni Ernst, as she addressed the connection between serving in the military and working in the agriculture industry.

There is a strong correlation between feeling that moral obligation to serve in the military and to create food to feed our growing planet.

Statistics show that the number of veterans entering into agriculture is growing and with that being said, the percent of women veterans entering into agriculture is also increasing.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Agriculture had the privilege to meet with the USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Alexis Taylor, to discuss all of the great Women in Agriculture events, programs, and resources that are available in our state. Three ISU students also joined the women in ag conversation. During this, they had the chance to share with Alexis their farming stories and their future agriculture career aspirations.

Forming connections is a powerful tool and networking with others may just create a common ground.

Check out an older post “Women, War, and Healing.”

“Women, War, and Healing”


I am New to Transition Planning


Hello WIA LN! My name is Morgan Ball and I am the author behind a lot of the posts you see on the Women in Ag blog. This month I have decided to share my own personal agricultural story. I am going to be a senior in the fall studying Agriculture and Life Science Education/Communication at Iowa State University. I will graduate in May of 2017 with a bachelors degree. I plan to move back home with the hopes of accepting a job in communications/coordination and buying into my dad’s cow-calf operation.

“I am new to transition planning.”

I have begun to discuss the possibility of returning to the farm with my dad. We have a lot of conversations and dinner table discussions to have before the opportunity can take place.

Venezuela is the first cow I helped to purchase

For as long as I can remember; I have been intrigued by the 1300 pound animal that stands before me. Farming has become not only a lifestyle but a potential for future business.

My passion for agriculture began with my 4-H days. I participated in showing cattle, sheep, non-livestock projects, and contests (like agriculture quiz bowls). Attending Iowa State University has spiked my interest and has encouraged me to use my voice to share the story of agriculture.


My dad farmed with my grandpa right after high school. We had a thriving nursery to finish hog operation, cow-calf business, and crops. Life happens and markets crash but farming stays within. We have been working to rebuild our cattle herd and it has been made possible through showing heifer projects and keeping them to calve the following years.


Having a communication background has granted me the opportunity to work for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag, WIA LN, Iowa Farm Bureau, and Clover University, Summer Day Camps. Through my internships; I have been able to share with others the education they desire as well as soak up the knowledge for my own personal use.


The WIA LN is working hard on monthly webinars and online courses. The newest, eXtension WIA LN “Women’s Roles in Farm and Ranch Transition Planning” online course, will be launched soon.

“Transition planning is not easy but it will be worth it when you can look at a business and be proud to call it your own.”



Design Your Succession Plan: Opening the Lines of Communication

webinar recording: https://learn.extension.org/events/2314

The Ultimate Road Trip

Written by Morgan Ball, WIA LN Student Assistant at Iowa State University

Natalina Sents graduated from Iowa State University May 2016 with a degree in Agricultural Business. She is working to change farming misconceptions by sharing stories through online platforms. Not only is she changing the face of agriculture for all farmers; she is breaking the glass ceiling for women in ag.

Photo credit: Beck’s Hybrids

Knowing Natalina personally; I know this will be a a fulfilling and extraordinary trip for both the farming community and for America as a whole. Both being Ag majors; I have had the enjoyment of getting to know her through Iowa State NAMA.

Photo Credit: ISU NAMA
Photo Credit: ISU NAMA

She is building a great network as she embarks in the social media world. Natalina began her “Why I Farm” story with a marketing internship at Beck’s Hybrid Seeds; where she worked on the Why I Farm music video. She had a desire to travel and to learn more about farming practices across the country. She knew there had to be more out there than just corn, soybeans, cattle, and hogs.

Photo Credit: NAMA Nationals
Photo Credit: NAMA Nationals

Natalina prayed, planned and mulled over the idea of a road trip in the hopes that Beck’s would like the idea. Turns out they were all  over it! The idea to do a road trip went well with the goal of honoring American Farmers through the “Why I Farm” campaign.

Two weeks after Natalina graduated Iowa State University; she packed up her green Ford Fiesta “Kermit” with all of the necessities and a plan to travel all 50 states in a course of a year.

Natalina has interviewed farmers in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. This week she is in Washington D.C. after being invited and sponsored by the American Agri-Women. She had the opportunity to speak about her journey with women from all over the U.S. at the AAWflyin16 conference.

Photo Credit: Why I Farm

Natalina is all for possibilities. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to get to know farmers from all 50 states on a personal level.

The first woman Natalina interviewed for the “Why I Farm” campaign was Erin Brenneman. Erin is a hog farmer from Southeast, Iowa. Check out Erin’s story here http://www.whyifarm.com/blog.html#!/blog/posts/Why-I-Farm-Roadtrip-Erin-Brenneman/2

“I am overwhelmed by all the kindness, and hospitality that has welcomed me to each state. I visit strangers and meet new farm families every day, but by the time I pull out of their lane, I feel like I am leaving home.” With all of the support she never feels like she is traveling alone.

Natalina’s personal blog: http://therootsjourney.blogspot.com/

Unpacking the Farm Labor Puzzle

One of the biggest challenges in reaching your farm goals is likely related to employees—finding, training, and retaining them. Without employees your growth is limited. Managing the transition from farmer to boss requires skill, practice and patience, plus a basic working understanding of federal employment law as it relates to agricultural businesses.

This webinar is the second of a two-part series aimed at helping women farmers and ranchers select the right employees and their teams off to a great start this growing season.

University of Vermont Extension’s Mary Peabody is the leader of a multi-state research team that spent the last year visiting with small and medium-sized diversified vegetable farm operators to learn what labor practices help increase the odds of having a good farm employee experience. In this 30-minute webinar, Peabody will take a look at the tips and strategies these farmers shared as their best practices in recruiting, training, and retaining farm employees.

The first webinar in the series, “Labor Law & Your Farm,” focuses on on legal issues small- and medium-sized diversified farms commonly encounter related to hiring and paying workers. Attorney and Farm Commons Executive Director Rachel Armstrong discusses on the following topics:

  • Minimum wage- When do you owe it and can you pay it with food and lodging?
  • Workers’ compensation- Insurance that protects the farm from liability as well as employees from the costs of injury
  • Volunteers- Is there risk and how do you manage it?
  • Discrimination in hiring- Make sure you find the best team by following non-discrimination laws.

These webinars are co-presented by the Women in Agriculture Learning Network and the University of Vermont Extension Women’s Agricultural Network.


Mary Peabody

Thursday, May 19 at 2:00 pm CDT

30 minute session

Labor Law & Your Farm/Ranch Business

One of the biggest challenges in reaching your farm goals is likely related to employees—finding, training, and retaining them. Without employees your growth is limited. Managing the transition from farmer to boss requires skill, practice and patience, plus a basic working understanding of federal employment law as it relates to agricultural businesses.

Join the eXtension Women in Agriculture Learning Network for a special two-part webinar series aimed at helping women farmers and ranchers select the right employee and get your team off to a great start this growing season.

We’ll start on Tuesday, May 17 with “Labor Law & Your Farm,” which will focus on legal issues small- and medium-sized diversified farms commonly encounter related to hiring and paying workers. In this 30-minute session, attorney and Farm Commons Executive Director Rachel Armstrong will briefly discuss:

  • Minimum wage- When do you owe it and can you pay it with food and lodging?
  • Workers’ compensation- Insurance that protects the farm from liability as well as employees from the costs of injury
  • Volunteers- Is there risk and how do you manage it?
  • Discrimination in hiring- Make sure you find the best team by following non-discrimination laws.

This session will start at noon ET (11 am CT, 10 am MT and 9 am PT).

Then, on May 19, we’ll continue with “Unpacking the Farm Labor Puzzle” with University of Vermont Extension’s Mary Peabody. This session will present the tips for recruiting, training, and retaining farm employees. Unpacking the Farm Labor Puzzle will start at 3 pm ET (2 pm CT, 1 pm MT and noon PT). Pre-register at: https://learn.extension.org/events/2647

5 Important Tips of Branding

By Morgan Ball, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Student Assistant


This week I had an important question posed to a article I posted on Facebook that discussed “Five Smart Habits for Young Farmers.”  The question asked me to explain the importance of branding as a grain farmer.

Original article: http://www.agweb.com/article/5_smart_habits_for_young_farmers_naa_sara_schafer-naa-sara-schafer/

I decided to pander the question.

Branding is an influential aspect to any business. A brand allows you to connect to others through your operation. Focusing on building a positive reputation and connections people can relate to.

Laura Cunningham, Marketing Coordinator at Latham Seeds, expresses “A brand is the image portrayed to those around you, it raises a level of professionalism; it even recognizes how your employees represent your farm/brand.”

Developing a brand can help distinguish a difference between your lifestyle and business.

Rather we know it or not; everything and everyone has a brand. Developing and upholding a brand is completely optional but I guarantee your operation has a reputation in the community. Is that reputation a positive one? Is it recognized by your last name? Do those down at the grain bins know your truck as it pulls up? If you answered yes than that as a matter of a fact is included in your farm’s brand.

Developing a brand that you as an individual created can be challenging but ease into it by following these 5 tips.


Tip 1: Make sure to include room in your budget for marketing dollars.

Tip 2: Utilize your new brand to add value to your products (all folks in agriculture have direct or indirect products- might look a little different but doing business with others can be influenced by a positive brand).

Tip 3: Create consistency with your brand.

Tip 4: Meet your primary target market where they are- on social platforms, grain co-ops, auctions, farmer markets, etc.

Tip 5: While developing a brand think about your employees (or those who make decisions- family, business partners, etc.). What is the mission of your business? What brand will drive motivation among your employees?

I hope the 5 Important Tips of Branding were helpful! If you have any questions comment below and I would be happy to discuss the topic further!

In the mean time here are a few extra resources that might spike your interest.

Recent Webinars: https://learn.extension.org/events/tag/womeninag?type=recent

  • Tune up your Farm Market Booth to Boost Sales
  • Direct Marketing Meats
  • Marketing your Products
  • Risk Management and your Agritourism Business
  • Targeting your Market Dollar
  • Social Media and Email Marketing Tips to increase Farm Market Sales

Women in the Agricultural Workplace, an original production by AgCareers.com


Happy Thursday National Women in Ag Learning Network!  It  is a sunny and beautiful day in the heart of Iowa. Students are wrapping up finals week; an indication that Iowa State University campus traffic will soon start to slow down. This morning I was brainstorming topics to blog when I came across an original documentary recently published by AgCareers.com. After watching the video; I decided to write a post highlighting a few of the main points. If you like what you read please take time to watch the whole video. AgCareers.com has gathered a lot of great and valuable information.

All of the statistics you read today is copyright data of agcareers.com2015.

AgCareers.com conducted a recent survey representing 64 percent women and 36 percent men. The data focuses on women in the agricultural workplace.

Women Featured

Christen Clark, Blogger (Food and Swine) and Farmer

Alicia Clancy, Director of Communications, Landus Cooperative

Lindsay Parker and Laurel Pierson, JBS Pork Field Managers

Marji Guyler-Alaniz, President and Founder of FarmHer

Wendy Wintersteen, Endowed Deen, Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Lesly Weber Mcnitt, Chief of Staff, United States Department of Agriculture

Natalina Sents, Agriculture Business Student at Iowa State University

Topics Discussed 

Gender Equality: 80 percent of men and women surveyed thought the change in attitude towards women in agriculture was heading in a positive direction. While 70 percent of women still feel out numbered by men in the workplace.

Wage Gap: Significantly higher percent of men then women earn 70,000+ while a significantly lower percent of men than women earn below 50,000.

Climbing the ladder: 70 percent of women aspire to climb into a higher role, but 76 percent of women who have children find it difficult to advance in their careers.


It was really interesting to hear what the women featured had to say about each category. Different careers, values, and backgrounds had the women learning from on one another as they discussed what they experience in the agricultural workplace.

Check out the video to hear about the rest of the survey statistics as well as the women’s thoughts behind each one.

What do you think? Comment below!