A few months ago, I was researching an article for Iowa Farm Bureau’s Family Living publication about the 25th anniversary of the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa.
The former Iowa Farm Bureau Women’s Committee contributed several historical items to help establish the Iowa Women’s Archives. It got me thinking about all the women I’ve met over the years who serve as leaders and volunteers for the state and county Farm Bureaus.
March is Women’s History Month, and the Iowa Farm Bureau is also celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2018. From its beginnings, the Iowa Farm Bureau has provided leadership opportunities for women, even before women had the right to vote in the United States.
One of the earliest Farm Bureau leaders was Ruth Sayre of Indianola, who earned the name “First Lady of the Farm.”
Sayre helped found the women’s division of the Iowa Farm Bureau back in the 1920s. She advanced into national and international leadership roles as the chair of both the Associated Women of the American Farm Bureau and Associated Countrywomen of the World, a global organization that’s still in existence today. Sayre also served as the only woman in President Dwight Eisenhower’s Farm Advisory Committee.
Now, 100 years later, Iowa women serve in all levels of leadership at Farm Bureau, from county Ag in the Classroom volunteers to Iowa Farm Bureau’s political action committee, which determines the political candidates who receive the coveted “Friend of Agriculture” designation.
The current Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Chair, Laura Cunningham of Nora Springs, was recently named to the USDA Farm Service Agency’s state committee.
In addition, three of the past four Iowa Farm Bureau Young Leader Award winners are women: Stacie Euken of Cass County, Val Plagge of Franklin County and Beth Rachut of Mitchell County (pictured above). These sheroes somehow find the time to lobby at the state and local level on issues important to young farmers, all while working full-time on and off the farm and serving their 24-7 role as a mom to young kids.
And following the path paved by Ruth Sayre, Iowa farm women continue to lead the future of agriculture and our state. Floyd County Farm Bureau member Pam Johnson served as the first woman to chair the National Corn Growers Association. Pam Bolin, a dairy farmer and Butler County Farm Bureau member, chaired the Swiss Valley Co-op board for eight years, the only woman to ever serve on the board.
Gov. Kim Reynolds, the first woman to serve as Iowa governor, and Sen. Joni Ernst, the first woman elected to represent Iowa in the U.S. Senate, are also Farm Bureau members.
The Iowa Farm Bureau continues to support the next generation of women who will fill leadership roles in our state - through college scholarships, including the Ruth Sayre scholarship, and as the sole title sponsor of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU). In the future, Farm Bureau will continue to provide training to help sharpen leadership skills and a platform to speak out on issues important to not only farm women – but all women – who want Iowa to remain the number-one state in the nation to work, play and raise a family.
I encourage everyone to join Farm Bureau’s centennial celebration by sharing your Farm Bureau story. Click here to add your story directly to Iowa Farm Bureau’s centennial website. Or you can share your story on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #ACenturyStrong or by texting 619-350-2191. Let’s show how Iowa Farm Bureau is a Century Strong and remains committed to a vibrant future for agriculture, farm families and their communities.
By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau's Senior Features Writer.
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