Stacie Euken says she realized at a young age as a 4-H member that she had a passion for educating others about agriculture and speaking out on behalf of farmers like herself.
Whether it’s helping the local pork producers at a grill-out, teaching kids about agriculture at community events or meeting one-on-one with legislators in Washington, D.C., Euken doesn’t hesitate to volunteer whenever the opportunity arises to support farmers and the ag community.
"Somebody has to tell our story. We have to share what we do on our farms and really work to educate others and to be involved. And when you see a need, you just do it," says Euken, who farms near Wiota and currently serves as the Cass County Farm Bureau president.
In recognition of her dedication to agriculture, Euken will receive the 2015 Bob Joslin Award at the Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting Dec. 1-2 in Des Moines. The award, presented by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), honors young farmers who demonstrate outstanding leadership in Farm Bureau, agriculture and their communities.
The award is named for Bob Joslin, IFBF president from 1986 to 1987, who was known for his support and encouragement of young farmers.
Euken and her husband, Eric, grow corn and soybeans, have a cow/calf herd and run a small farrow-to-finish hog operation, supplying show pigs to local 4-H and FFA students.
Euken also works as a personnel specialist for AgriCareers in Massena. The Eukens have two sons: Colby, age 23 months, and Evan, just 1 month old.
Ag in the curriculum
Euken grew up on a hog farm in Cass County and studied ag education and communications at Iowa State University (ISU). While she was an ISU student, Euken interned at the Iowa Pork Producers Association, where she helped introduce ag in the classroom curriculum to teachers.
The internship further sparked her interest in educating others, particularly children who may never step foot on a farm, about agriculture, she says.
So when Euken graduated from ISU and joined husband Eric on the farm, she answered "yes" to any volunteer request that came her way to reach out to consumers and share agriculture’s story.
"When you come back to the farm, you are looking for ways to network with people," Euken says. "I just needed an outlet to be active in some way other than work. So that kind of got me out of the house, too, and got me involved in other areas and to really share my passion with other people."
Euken says her family has always been active in Farm Bureau, which is why she joined the county Farm Bureau board. Euken has worked her way through the ranks and is now serving a third year as Cass County Farm Bureau president.
Like many county Farm Bureau boards, Euken says the Cass County Farm Bureau is trying to break away from the traditional "let’s donate money to something" and instead be more creative in how they reach out to the community and raise awareness about agriculture.
This summer, the Cass County Farm Bureau partnered with other county Farm Bureaus in southwest Iowa to host their first-ever teachers academy. A group of 15 teachers participated in the academy. The teachers toured local farms and agribusinesses, met with farmers and learned more about how they can incorporate agriculture lessons in their classrooms.
Euken, who served on the planning committee for the workshop, says the county Farm Bureaus would like to make the southwest Iowa teachers academy an annual event.
In addition, the Cass County Farm Bureau hosted a booth at Atlantic’s "Produce at the Park" farmers market last fall. Euken and the other county Farm Bureau volunteers offered hands-on ag in the classroom projects for kids. They also talked to parents about how farmers work to conserve soil and water quality.
Euken stresses that it’s important to stay open-minded when communicating with those who don’t necessarily share your opinion on food and farming issues.
"You can’t force your viewpoint on people. You have to try to see it from their perspective and then share your ideas and start a discussion with them," Euken says. "If you can just reach one person, you can make a difference."
Euken is also a graduate of Farm Bureau’s Ag Leaders Institute, where she participated in a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., and met with Iowa lawmakers about issues important to young farmers.
However, Euken admits that she wasn’t all that interested in politics before she went through the Ag Leaders training.
"I still don’t enjoy politics ...," Euken says with a laugh. "But it really helped me understand that it’s our future as farmers, and we should all invest some time in that and really try to understand it. And if there is a call to action or something we can do, then take the time to do it."
Telling agriculture’s story
While young farmers today often must find a balance between family life and farm duties, Euken encourages her peers to take the time to volunteer in whatever way they feel comfortable — and to tell agriculture’s story whenever they get a chance.
"The organizations, whether it’s Farm Bureau or the cattlemen or pork producers or anything, they are always looking for new people to get involved. It doesn’t mean you have to serve on the board. It doesn’t mean you have to go to meetings clear across the state or the country. There is something for you at every involvement level that you wish to give," Euken says.