Lavonne Baldwin is a beautiful woman; one you’ve never met. She struggled for decades to find a healthy weight and has gained and lost a thousand pounds, trying on and casting off various weight loss plans with the fervor of Hollywood elites trying on fashion trends. Lavonne slurped the shakes, counted the points, read books, popped pills and the weight did come off, but returned with a vengeance. But today, she’s hit on a plan that’s helped her lose 126 pounds and keep it off.

She now does two things actually: she does the work, and she embraces the ‘long view.’ Health is work and it involves sweat, dedication and attention to detail. It’s a perpetual process to find the balance that brings results. No amount of hard work will last, if you don’t embrace the long view. “I had to change my view and think about what I wanted, not just for today, but for the future. I don’t want to be 60 and not be able to walk up a flight of stairs. I don’t want to be 80 and forced to be a hermit, sitting in a chair for days on end because I don’t have the energy to do anything. I am not into denying myself anymore; I’mgiving myself something; I’m giving myself the gift of time.”

Whether it’s expecting change in the mirror or change on the land, we seem to be a society defined by our impatience; if the weight doesn’t come off in a week, we look into pills to kill our appetite and give us energy. And, if 200 years of nitrate fluctuations in the watershed isn’t solved in the lifespan of a sparrow, we get ‘lawyered up’ and sue. Either approach is doomed to be repeated and fail.

I’ve learned something being a runner of 35 years, an Iowa farm girl, Mom, wife and patientdaughter; success comes with relentless effort and a willingness to collaborate, listen and encourage, because everything worthwhile takes patience.

Lavonne now is a runner. A runner without a ‘finish line.’ A runner with an inner fire that keeps her going even through new challenges. That fire kept her going even when doctors found cancer on the bottom of her foot, which turned out to be early stage melanoma. It took skin grafts to replace lost padding on the bottom of her foot where the mole was removed, but she’s running again, setting new goals.

Weight loss takes time and commitment, and miracle cures or government edicts about the size of your soda won’t work. Taking the same approach to water quality—force-fitting government edicts, arming lawyers and rushing to judgement won’t bring progress. The commitment and progress Iowa farmers are seeing through the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is real; that’s because the strategy embraces the long view and provides scientific tools farmers need to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.

I’d like to salute all the hard-working women, hard-working farmers, and the many more who nurture our success—one step at a time. Why not follow in their footsteps? I promise the long and winding road will be worth it.

By Laurie Johns. Laurie is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.