2018 Women Impacting Agriculture

For the third year, the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Program is recognizing “Women Impacting Agriculture.” This year, six women were chosen by ISU Extension and Outreach staff and recognized as women who are making positive changes and creating a more sustainable Iowa by improving economic resiliency and stability; conserving natural resources; and being influential agricultural leaders, family members and community volunteers. Meet the 2018 Women Impacting Agriculture.

Sarah Carlson, 2018 Women Impacting AgricultureSarah Carlson
Sarah wants to fill rural church pews and school buses by helping farmers diversify their operations and protect their soil. She joined the Practical Farmers of Iowa staff in 2007 and currently serves as the Strategic Initiatives Director. Sarah transfers agronomic research about cover crops and small grains to innovative farmers through supply chain projects, articles, blogs and presentations. She listens to farmer’s concerns and seeks solutions for integrated crop and livestock production. Sarah completed her graduate studies in Sustainable Agriculture and Crop Production/Physiology though the Iowa State University Department of Agronomy. She continues to work with ISU researchers to improve cropping systems in Iowa. She also sits on the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service State Technical Advisory Committee. Recently, Sarah co-chaired the Cover Crop Working Group as part of the Conservation Initiative. In 2018, the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture presented Sarah with a Leadership in Conservation Award. Sarah teaches 3rd and 4th grade Sunday School at Oakwood Methodist Church and coordinates food for the summer vacation bible school program. She also supports her daughter’s Girl Scout troop by serving as the cookie Mom. Sarah has supported her step-son’s Boy Scout troop as the popcorn fundraising chair.


Sarah Ham, 2018 Women Impacting AgricultureSarah Ham
Sarah is proud to work with conservation-minded farmers as a Soil Conservationist with the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service in Washington County. She is a leader on the southeast Iowa Soil Health Team, which focuses on promoting soil health practices and research. She also serves the southeast Iowa Geographic Information System (GIS) Team by supporting 21 NRCS offices. In addition to technical duties, Sarah finds the time to mentor new NRCS employees. Sarah is a great partner and supporter of ISU Extension and Outreach. She educates landowners at Annie’s Project courses, Agronomy in the Field for Women, Beginning and Young Farmers, and other extension programs for women and men. Sarah frequently shares her knowledge with others in the community through Women Land and Legacy, livestock associations and schools. Sarah is a 5-year board member of the Soil and Water Conservation Society where she has coordinated social media and represented the organization at national meetings. She is a volunteer for the Iowa Public Television Telethon, daily team leader for the Iowa Conservation Team RAGBRAI Tent, co-chair of the Kossuth County Economic Development Intern Committee, and board member of the Kingdom Kids Preschool.


Leslie Miller, 2018 Women Impacting AgricultureLeslie Miller
Leslie works with farmers in a true partnership approach, financing their operations in ways that will allow them to be productive and profitable while achieving the same goal for the bank. Leslie is the Vice President and Agricultural Loan Officer at Iowa State Savings Bank. On the farm, Leslie and her husband make joint decisions and implement filter strips and rotational grazing to reduce soil erosion. Leslie co-founded the Farm Financial Standards Council, which arose after the farm crisis to produce guidelines that improve the ability of farmers, bankers and regulators to analyze farm credit. Throughout her career, Leslie held many leadership positions including chair of the Iowa Bankers Association Ag Bankers Committee and member of the Chicago Federal Reserve Advisory Board. Leslie is a graduate of Iowa State University where she continues to assist Animal Science and Economics professors in solving agricultural credit issues. She is an extraordinary community leader; volunteering with ISU Extension and Outreach - Marion County, serving as president of hospital and school boards, and co-founded Iowa Women in Agriculture. In 2018, Leslie became the second woman to receive the Jim Leach Leadership in Banking Award by the Iowa Bankers Association.


Caite Palmer, 2018 Women Impacting AgricultureCaite Palmer
Caite mentors other young farmers on the business side of things as part of her passion to keep more farmers on the land and improve the rural economy through local foods. Caite and her husband are raising two young children along with grass-fed and grain-finished Angus cross and Normande beef cattle and Katahdin lambs on the Palmer family century farm in Northeast Iowa. She markets these products directly to consumers. Trained in culinary arts, Caite enjoys sharing farm-to-table cooking. Conservation is a priority for the family’s 300 acres of row crops, pasture, hay, prairie and pollinator CRP, woodlands and grass waterways. Caite valued the Annie’s Project course provided by ISU Extension and Outreach Allamakee County in 2017. She worked with extension professionals to establish beginning farmer and food networks. She led bookwork days and hosted field days on her farm. Caite sees ISU Extension and Outreach as putting actual people in the community to lead groups and answer questions. As the Vice-President of the Winneshiek Farmers Market Board of Directors, Caite manages relationships, leads marketing, and plans special events. She is active with Practical Farmers of Iowa and serves on the Iowa Food Hub board.


Val Plagge, 2018 Women Impacting AgricultureVal Plagge
Val is most proud of her husband and four young children. Working alongside her husband and being with her children as they grow is an opportunity she cherishes. Val leads the finance and marketing components of their hog, corn and soybean farm business. In 2018, Val was honored to be part of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library’s Tall Grass to Knee High Special Exhibit and received the National Outstanding Young Farmer of America Award with her husband. Val is a December 2006 graduate of Iowa State University with a communications major and enjoys being a Franklin County 4-H communications project leader. She is an original member of a long-running women’s grain marketing group guided by ISU Extension and Outreach in Hardin County.  At the Latimer Immanuel UCC Church you will see Val involved on the Christian Education Board. Val founded the Latimer Little Free Library, volunteers for Make-A-Wish in Iowa, and supports the local FFA chapter. Val educates the public about agriculture through her ‘Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids’ blog, Common Ground, Rooted in Conversation, the National Pork Board’s  #RealPigFarming, and Iowa Farm Bureau’s F.A.R.M. Team. 


Margo Sievers, 2018 Women Impacting AgricultureMargo Sievers
Margo is an advocate for lifelong learning as a retired teacher. Margo used her Master Gardener and Master Food Volunteer certifications from ISU Extension and Outreach to start two very successful businesses. She opened Sievers and Sons Gardens to teach about plants and landscapes through tours and workshops. Margo’s Not Quite Julia traveling show uses comedy to teach cooking, health, science, math, art and food safety. She volunteers in Buena Vista and Clay counties to teach 4-H, elementary school, and adult workshops on topics ranging from soils and worms, to groovy grains, to planting and cooking gourds. In 2018, Margo hosted the northwest ISU Extension and Outreach Crops Team Agronomy in the Field for women. Margo is a minister and serves on the Board of Trustees and Administration Board of her church. She contributes her leadership of Farm Bureau, Parent Education Organization, Federated Garden Club of Buena Vista County, Loess Hills Gourd Group, and Plant One Feed One. Margo is a five-year winner of the Buena Vista County Environmental Awareness Award, and the Women in Denim’s Inspiration Award. She lives on her husband’s family farm where she contributes to weed management and hauling grain.