Staff Spotlight: Ann Johanns

Although the tasks change with the seasons, farming is a year-round job that requires year-round decision making. No one knows that better than Ann Johanns, program specialist and editor of Ag Decision Maker.

Each month, Johanns is tasked with organizing information relevant to Iowa farmers and landowners – whether it’s the latest custom rate survey, land rent survey, enterprise development budgets or something else.

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Ann Johanns headshot.

The Ag Decision Maker is emailed to subscribing farmers and provides helpful articles called “information files,” as well as Excel Decision tools that allow farmers to enter and analyze their own numbers.

A farmer herself, Johanns enjoys providing information that helps Iowa farmers improve their farms and their lives.

“Ag Decision Maker is the ‘library of farm management materials’, including a newsletter, information files, decision tools and teaching activities,” she said. “I enjoy providing farmers with information that I know is useful and that they depend upon.”

While Johanns enjoys working with numbers, she also aims to promote other areas of ANR Extension and shares timely articles on social issues impacting agriculture. Her newsletter includes commentary on markets, rural living and environmental issues, as well as resources on mental health and farmer well-being.

How long have you worked for ISU Extension and Outreach?

My career with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach began in the fall of 2004. Prior to that, during my undergraduate work, I was also a student employee in the economics department with extension economics faculty.

What do you do for ISU Extension and Outreach?

I am a program specialist on the Farm Management team. Within this, I am the main coordinator for the Ag Decision Maker website and materials housed there. I work closely with our extension economics faculty and the Farm Management team on program efforts throughout the year. I am part of the group effort to provide results from some of our most heavily downloaded surveys, the custom rate survey and cash rent survey along with many other resources. Ag Decision Maker is the library of farm management materials, including a newsletter, information files, decision tools (I love Excel!) and teaching activities. I am involved in the development of these materials, determining what needs updated and working with other authors as well. I have also been involved in various research projects over the years.

What is the best part of working for ISU Extension and Outreach?

My career goal was to be able to help those in agriculture. Getting to provide them data, tools and resources to have the information they need to make decisions is one of the best parts of my job. I enjoy the people I work with and look forward to digging in every day.

What drew you to Iowa State?

I was raised a Cyclone. In high school, I was involved in SOFA (Speak Out For Agriculture), a program that exposed me to Iowa State and careers in extension. The timing of a grant funded position in the department when I graduated was the perfect fit for me, and my role has evolved continuously over the years to become what it is today.

Do you have any big upcoming projects or events?

March is a big update month. The end of February, county yield information is released by USDA NASS, so as soon as that information is available, I put together summary reports that make the data easily accessible on our website. We also just updated the Livestock Enterprise Budgets and the Custom Rate Survey for 2024. Many of our materials are updated on an annual basis and I have a regular schedule set for that process. There are tools that are updated every month, and others that are updated every few years, it really varies. In the coming weeks, I start reviewing materials used in Farmland Leasing and Management programs held in the summer and plan for the Cash Rent Survey that will be published in May.

With your time with extension, what is one thing you would like to accomplish (or are especially proud to have accomplished) in this position?

So many things! There’s always a new topic or issue I want to learn more about. Getting ahead on my ‘want to-do list’? I’m not sure it’s going to happen. There are many moments with Iowans that fill my cup. I appreciate the people who call me back year after year or there are several that stick with me, where I know our discussion really helped them. Those are the moments I’m most proud of.

Name one fun thing about yourself that not many people know.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking. In 2020 when we were home more, I stepped it up and have mastered some great meals and deserts, French Macarons, Crème Brulee, and cheesecake are all favorites. These days, it is just for special occasions or extra fancy field meals.

What do you do in your free time?

When I’m not working, my time is filled helping my husband with cattle, field work in the spring and fall, and running to our three boys’ school and sporting events. We’ve really enjoyed Iowa State wrestling, men’s and women’s basketball this past winter. In the summer, I squeeze in a round of golf whenever I can.

How do you create a better Iowa?

I create a better Iowa by make research-based materials readily available and serving Iowa and the agriculture industry in helping individuals make the best decisions for their situation.