Six Iowa Women Recognized as "Women Impacting Agriculture"
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 2019 Women Impacting Agriculture.
Hannah Breckbill’s story illustrates the results of hard work and preparation meeting opportunity. Hannah is a single woman who was not born into a farm family – but dreamed of farming, decided to do it, and put in the hard work necessary to establish and grow her successful farm business by creating, recognizing and seizing opportunities. As a college math major, Hannah has what she describes as a logical “math brain.” She moved from thinking into activism around food and agriculture. Hannah’s key expertise is focusing on systems, process and community building. She uses that expertise to not only build Humble Hands Harvest but also to build the sustainable agriculture community. Hannah supports natural resource conservation as a certified organic farmer (through MOSA). She uses cover crops and no-till plots. She incorporates sheep (15 ewes) on the landscape and utilizes composted manure on an alternate high-tunnel location. Hannah is most proud of her innovative business plans, and her ability to communicate an alternative vision of what agriculture can be and actually put it into practice as a successful, hard-working farmer who has courage and takes measured risks. Hannah founded Humble Hands Harvest in 2013. This year marks her tenth year in farming.
Beth has always had a passion for production agriculture as well as making sure those with limited knowledge of it are provided the correct information to make an informed decision. Beth is passionate about telling the story of agriculture as well as helping beginning farmers and advocating for farmers as a whole. She was involved in founding the USDA Women Land and Legacy program and contributed to the Iowa Women in Agriculture organization. After a 27-year career with USDA, Beth did contract work for several non-profit organizations, traveling to work with farmers in Nicaragua. She now serves as Executive Director of the Veterans in Agriculture where she enhances opportunities for military service men and women. She was instrumental in establishing the VIA’s equipment donation program. She also started the labeling program which identifies produce and other food products proudly grown by veterans. She is currently designing and launching a registered apprenticeship program for young people interested in agricultural careers. Beth’s networking abilities have strengthened Iowa’s Veterans in Agriculture position as the “go to” veteran organization. The VIA has gained positive publicity from Beth’s hard work.
Jordan Hansen didn’t foresee having the opportunity to continue in the dairy industry when her family sold their cows years ago. Little did she know, she would marry into a family that is influential in Iowa’s dairy legacy. Jordan is the Marketing Manager for Hansen’s Dairy in Hudson, Iowa. The family-owned farm has been operating since 1864. They added on-site processing and agritourism in 2004. Jordan’s impact on the dairy is immense as she continues the efforts of her mother-in-law to provide on-farm, digital, and in-store marketing for Hansen’s Dairy. She also serves as bookkeeper, human resources manager for 30 family and community-based employees, and public relations guru as she builds relationships in the community to share the products and message of Hansen’s Dairy. In addition to creating and managing employment opportunities, Jordan works diligently to engage the community through tours that draw individuals to rural Black Hawk County. The added value of agritourism is fundamental to sustainable success in today’s challenging agricultural economy. Jordan continues to expand tours while strategically creating events and marketing plans to reach diverse audiences.
Jordan serves on the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area Partnership Panel and is finishing her first year on the Black Hawk County Extension Council. She also serves on the Christian Education Committee at church.
Jordan is thankful for her husband Blake and their two children.
Agriculture has been in Rose’s blood since she was a little girl growing up on a small farm. When Rose married her husband, Steve, he was working at John Deere as a mechanic. The young couple started their own small farm and then had the opportunity to join Steve’s father’s farming business. In 1982, Steve suffered a severe head injury in an accident. Rose’s life really changed. She learned to keep record books and make loan payments. Rose learned all she could about the crops and cattle: she ran the tractors and combine, fed the cattle, and took the night watch during calving. Eventually, Steve was able to help with the daily operations on the farm again. As an active community member, Rose served on the USDA Farm Service Agency committee for nine years, and became the first woman President of the Guthrie County Cattlemen. For her extension volunteerism as a 4-H Leader, Youth Livestock Committee member, blood drive organizer and more, Rose received the Honorary 4-H Award. Rose enjoys her service with the Yale-Jamaica-Bagley School TTT (Time Talent and Treasures) organization, where she raises money to send kids to camp. Watching her kids and grandkids learning and working together is very important to Rose and she hopes the family farm will continue into the future.
Liz Kolbe has three overarching interests in Iowa agriculture: a diversified agricultural landscape, profitable farms, and local food production. She works towards these goals everyday as the Horticulture and Habitat Programs Manager for Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI). Liz works with farmers who raise crops ranging from vegetables and fruits to flowers and mushrooms, helping diversify the Iowa agricultural landscape. Her programming is equally diverse, spanning from in-field practices to business management, and even farmer life balance and wellness. Liz primarily works with vegetable and fruit farmers and orchardists, as well as other non-profit and government agencies, and educators around the state of Iowa. Her work goes beyond the plants; Liz is also committed to improving Iowa’s rural economy. She supports natural resource conservation by working with individual farmers on conservation-oriented projects. Liz directs all the farmer-led programming for horticulture farmers. One reason Liz is impactful in her role at PFI is that her position responsibilities align with her own personal values. She is thankful to continually work towards growing the community of farmers around the state of Iowa, connecting them to each other to develop and sustain strong networks. While Liz is quick to attribute the success of the network of collaborating farmers to the hard work and contributions of the Iowa farmers she serves, it is clear that she is a catalyst within this community.
There is a saying – “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture.” Monica has had the good fortune of weaving the science of food and nutrition with the science of agriculture. She was a farmer’s daughter and granddaughter for 21 years, a farmer’s wife for 41 years until she lost her husband to cancer and became the farmer, as well as being a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for the last 46 years. When her husband Larry died in 2011, she had to look at her farm business with new eyes and ears to navigate the decisions and actions. She not only survived, but thrived so that she is now transitioning the farm operation to the next generation. While she provides the financial resources, her two sons, Christopher and Patrick provide the expertise and manpower. They work together to make decisions. Monica also owns Lursen Trucking, LLC, which allows them to have several semi-trailers to use during harvest. Patrick now operates the trucking LLC on his own. Christopher is able to help during peak season. Her goal is to be the glue that holds all of these activities together – which often includes being the home base for her four grandchildren while all four parents work off the farm.