Episode 19: Ag maverick Marji Guyler-Alaniz intersects leadership, passion, gender

 

 

     

 

Shining a light on women in agriculture, Marji Guyler-Alaniz, founder and president of FarmHer, talks about the future of gender, diversity, leadership and entrepreneurship with incredible authenticity. She dove into her passion of photography and storytelling to create the media and events company that now highlights and inspires women in agriculture across generations via a television show, podcast and in-person events. You’ll hear her energy while she talks with Dr. Connie about “right place, right time, right message,” and pursuing – and achieving – a dream from a rural community to create national awareness.

“I want to change the way people think about what a farmer looks like, who a farmer is, or how they engage with that story.”
Marji Guyler-Alaniz
Founder & President, FarmHer

About Marji

              

Marji Guyler-Alaniz, President and Founder of FarmHer, is a lifetime Iowan and lover of photography. That love, combined with graphic design, journalism and photography degrees from Grand View University, an MBA from Drake University and an 11-year career in corporate agriculture working for a crop insurance company, led her to launch FarmHer in the spring of 2013.

Through FarmHer she is updating the image of agriculture by showing the female side of farming and ranching, creating community amongst women in agriculture and outreach to young women interested in agriculture. In addition to the photography side of FarmHer, Marji has expanded the business to include an online community for women in agriculture, a weekly award-winning television show, airing on national cable network RFD-TV called FarmHer, annual events to inspire and inform young women about agriculture and a line of merchandise aimed at women in agriculture. Her work for FarmHer has been featured in an expanse of arenas ranging from Public Television and RFD-TV to USDAs National Ag Day Celebration and O the Oprah Magazine.

 

X

Bold Voices Student Segment

 Listen at 11:24 of Episode 19!

Emily Frenzen, University of Nebraska–Lincoln agricultural and environmental sciences communication student

Emily Frenzen gained her passion for photography and agricultural communications while living on her family’s farm in Fullerton, Neb.

Growing up in a rural community fostered her entrepreneurial spirit which sparked the creation of her photography business through the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program.

During summer 2018, Emily worked, served and lived in McCook, Neb., for 10 weeks as a Rural Futures Institute (RFI) Serviceship student. With her partner Sage, she worked with the High Plains Museum to assess its assets and create an action plan. She also assisted in creating a mastermind alliance and intern program in McCook.

For Emily, it was the opportunity to network with the RFI staff, University of Nebraska faculty and community leaders that drew her to RFI Serviceship. “I just have all these awesome people in my back pocket that I know I can reach out to at any time,” she says.

Learn more about Emily’s Serviceship experience! »

Show Notes

Dr. Connie: Welcome back to the Rural Futures podcast. I’m your host, Doctor Connie, and joining us today is a very special maverick entrepreneur who’s really made rural, not only her life, but her business. Marji Guyler-Alaniz is the founder and president of FarmHer. She’s a lifetime Iowan and lover of photography, and through FarmHer, she shines a light on the female side of farming. Welcome to the Rural Futures podcast, Marji.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Yes, thank you for having me!

Dr. Connie: Well, I am super excited to have you on this podcast because I was one of the people blessed several years ago to meet you at a major women’s conference for agriculture here in Nebraska, and not only that, I know you have a lot of fans here on our campus at the University of Nebraska Lincoln campus where our global headquarters is housed, and we get to hear about you from time to time through our students, and seeing you keynote and just following you through the years, I am so glad you said yes to having a conversation with us today.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Well, I am happy to be here. I love conversations.

(laughs)

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Talking is what I love to do.

Dr. Connie: So tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you’ve sort of evolved to this point with FarmHer.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Yeah, so a little bit about myself, born and raised here in Iowa, my mother’s parents, so my maternal grandparents, were farmers, but my parents didn’t farm, but I did grow up in the country, and so I always say like you could throw a rock and hit something agriculture related. There were cows there; they weren’t our cows, right, I didn’t throw rocks at the cows, but it’s not what my family did but it was all around us all the time. I went to college for design, journalism, and photography, and my first job out of college was working for a crop insurance company, one of the largest ones in the United States, and I spent a little over a decade there, so without meaning to, I landed in working in agriculture right out of college, and that was probably my biggest awareness and connection to it quite honestly, and when I decided that I was ending my time there, I needed to do something different, I just didn’t know what that was, then I left there in February of 2013 and started FarmHer. It wasn’t a plan that I had in place. I always say, I like had to push myself off that cliff of leaving that job, that stable, normal life job, to figure out what was next for me, and, quite honestly, it was a commercial that was on during the Superbowl that helped me realize, the lack of imagery, or visibility, of women in this industry and a realization shortly after that, hey, I can do something about this with my camera.

Dr. Connie: Now, I think that’s such a great story. So I’m just curious, were you already kind of thinking about making a transition when you saw the commercial or was it a real sort of aha moment that you’re like, you know what, I have this idea and I’m going to go for it?

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: So I had quit my job, literally the Friday before the Superbowl was on I was done with my job, and that’s where I was like sitting there going what am I going to do, what am I going to do? I just quit my job of over a decade. But I always knew that I wanted photography to be a part of what was there for me in the future. I just didn’t know what that looked like. And my moment wasn’t when I saw that commercial. I saw that commercial and I loved it. God Made a Farmer, super simple, really, I mean it’s an old speech, and powerful words, and still photos, but it was just striking, it was gorgeous, and I read an article just a few days later that pointed out, yeah, that was amazing, but where were the women, and that’s when I woke up in the middle of the night the next night and thought I can do something about, instead of being angry about this, I can do something about this, and I can do something about this with my camera because that was the best way I knew how at that point.

Dr. Connie: Well, what a wonderful mindset to have, and I think what a wonderful testament to, rather than getting mad or upset and just talking about it, like how can we positively take some action and really bring some solutions to the marketplace that are missing. I just returned from a trip to Japan where we looked at  the rural sector but also the urban sector and thinking about collaborations, but one of the things Japan, as a country, is struggling with is really the empowerment of women. After I gave my first seminar, that was pretty much my take-home message for the audience is you need to empower women now, because without that, you’re not going to find the solutions you’re looking for, but also, you need to take this rural conversation from one of total negativity into one of positivity so you can find those solutions.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Yeah, yeah, and we can’t just talk about it, we have to do something, right?

Dr. Connie: Absolutely, so tell our audience a bit more about FarmHer. What do you do there, what’s the sort of current mission?

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Day one, my goal with this, as a photo project, the way it started April 2013, was to shine the light on the role women play in agriculture and to also help people understand that women play a real active everyday role. Our mission then is still no different than it is now, though it’s grown and changed a lot. So I started with this photo project. I was going to photograph a handful that summer in 2013, and I did that, put up a website so people could see this. I needed people to see these stories, so stories as told through still images and words, and so it was a blog, it was a website, social media pages, throw it out, throw it into the world, and see what happens, and what happened was amazing. What happened almost instantaneously was women from within agriculture, from outside of this country even, started saying, “Yes, thank you, we need this! “We know we needed this, that we love this! “This is important, this matters!” And so it like poured fuel on my fire, right, to keep going with it, and so we got some really great press that fall that helped kind of just roll that ball a little bit further, and it’s grown into, we started a series of events for young women. I think you have to empower them as they’re starting to figure out what their roles could be, and show them what they could go be, and show them that by stories, and that’s what we do. So we created some events for young women called “Grow”, and that was kind of the first thing. I started putting myself out there, asking anybody who would let me come display photos or talk about FarmHer, and I just completely overfilled my calendar. Obviously it started in social media and online, but trying to get it out and in front of people was like, the ball kind of kept rolling. Fast forward a little bit more, we start these events. I was approached by RFD-TV about doing a television show that basically took exactly what I was doing and creating a vision of that for television, so a television show that’s about the woman who is the focal point of my camera, and her story, and why she does it, and what she does, and like a look into her daily life, and we’ve continued to expand our events throughout the years around the country, and we have events now for all ages of women, not just those young women, and so then we got it in a podcast in a SiriusXM radio show, so it’s like we just keep adding pieces. Where I would have said FarmHer, in the beginning, was a photo project, and then fast forward a couple years later and I would’ve said it’s a brand for women and about women, and now I would say it’s a brand and a media business, right? We create media about these women and we want to put it somewhere where you can see it, where you can be inspired by it, where you can engage and connect with it, whether that’s radio, podcast, TV, YouTube, social media, wherever that might be, or an event.

Dr. Connie: Well, I just appreciate all the serendipity that’s sort of happened along the way but that also you’ve created, because I think, when you look back on it, I didn’t grow up on a farm either, but my dad did, my mom did, and I think the role of women on farms really was a missing conversation. They were sort of behind the scenes doing all this amazing work, and you brought it to the forefront, and not only did you bring it to the forefront, you brought it to the forefront in this amazing visual way that really demonstrated these women and the power they brought but also the elegance I think that they’ve brought to farming and the rural sector in so many different ways, and I think people were just so hungry, I mean, and waiting for that, and these women thanking you as testament, but I think also a TV show, Sirius XM radio, podcasting, and you’ve traveled internationally to capture these stories.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Serendipitous is a good way to put it. I think starting with something that you’re super passionate about, and I had almost on expectations in the beginning, I remember telling people, yeah, I have this lofty goal, but I want to change the way people think about what a farmer looks like, or who a farmer is, or how they engage with that story, and that sounded completely crazy five years ago, but I think right place, right time, right message. We’re serious about what we do, but we like to also keep it somewhat light. I want anybody to be able to connect with us, and the photography is a great way to do that, and that’s something I’m passionate about, so it’s like all these pieces like fell into place with this messaging, and we run at this really hard. I get the opportunity, and I am lucky enough to get to work until 11 o’clock many nights and we travel a lot, but I love it, and so running at it really hard is something that I love to do, and I think when you combine that passion and that hard work with something and the need for it out there, that’s that right time, that those pieces just do fall into place. I wasn’t looking for a TV show, but it kind of landed there and it took me a lot to get to the right place mentally to think, yeah, I can do this, but, again, these things don’t always just happen, and it took all of these right pieces like a perfect storm.

Welcome to Bold Voices, our segment with rockstar students from the University of Nebraska who are making a difference in rural.

Katy Bagniewski: Hey podcast listeners, it’s Katy, production specialist of the Rural Futures podcast. With me today is Emily Frenzen, a junior studying agricultural and environmental sciences communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Welcome, Emily.

Emily Frenzen: Hi, thanks for having me.

Katy Bagniewski: Yes, and it’s so nice to have you. Just a note to our listeners, Emily and I have the same major here at UNL, so we know each other pretty well, but our audience does not, so, Emily, how about you start by telling them a little bit more about yourself.

Emily Frenzen: Yeah, so I grew up in Fullerton, Nebraska which is a small town in east central Nebraska, and I grew up on my family’s farm. So that’s kind of where I get my agricultural background and my love for ag communications because my family’s farm is the first place I started picking up a camera which has become a huge part of my life.

Katy Bagniewski: So, let’s dive a little bit deeper into that rural background. Tell me a little bit about what it was like growing up on a farm in Fullerton, Nebraska.

Emily Frenzen: I grew up in a community where everyone was really supportive of one another, and it was a really great community to start if anyone was looking to bring a new business into the community, so I think that’s really where I got my interest in rural and my love for the people that make up a rural community.

Katy Bagniewski: Now, Emily, your connection to RFI is through our Serviceship program. Talk a little bit about that and give us some of your major takeaways from your summer serving and working in a different rural community.

Emily Frenzen: Yeah, so I was placed in McCook, Nebraska with Sage Williams, and the two of us worked on creating a plan of action for the High Plains Museum there in McCook, and then we also worked on creating an internship with the Economic Development Corporation and then also creating the mastermind group. The serviceship was really challenging, but that was so awesome because there was so much growth that came with that. We really had to step out of our comfort zone and make connections within the community, and it was really up to us to make a lot of those decisions.

Katy Bagniewski: Yeah, and how do you think that your relationship and experience with RFI has impacted you in college and then looking forward?

Emily Frenzen: My Rural Futures experience was huge for it provided me with really awesome connections. The RFI staff and some of thee faculty at the university, but also within other communities, I just have all these awesome people in my back pocket that I know I can reach out to at any time.

Katy Bagniewski: So I’d love to know what words of wisdom you’d want to share with our students who may be interested in making their lives in rural.

Emily Frenzen: So it’s really important for those students who are maybe interested in going back to their own community after college to go explore another rural community just because each of those rural communities has different strengths or maybe different challenges that we can learn from and take back to our own communities eventually. So that’s a really valuable piece I also gained from my serviceship over the summer.

Katy Bagniewski: Well, thank you so much, Emily, for sharing your bold voice today. It’s been fun to watch you grow as a communicator and just really as a leader, and I wish you the best for your future.

Emily Frenzen: Thank you so much.

(music transition)

Dr. Connie: I think too, you had this vision and you have worked it. I mean, obviously you’re still energized and still passionate about it. You’re out there and you’re really doing the work that it takes to make that serendipity happen, but I also am wondering, as I hear your story and the evolution of FarmHer, how do you lead an endeavor like this? How would you describe yourself as a leader in this space?

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: It’s interesting because, and I would always tell somebody else, yes, call yourself a leader. I can’t say I’ve looked at myself as a leader. Internally I think we as women are really good about having that dialogue sometimes, called maybe the imposter syndrome, but here I am, and I think, for me, being the leader started with a passion about it versus me trying to put myself in a spot of being a leader about this. I just want to make sure people see my passion about it and then want to make sure that they see the women who I care so deeply about, and I think that there’s something that happens when you care so much about something that it elevates you to a position where you get to be in that leadership position. I mean, so that’s kind of on a big scale, right? Day-to-day, I mean, I’ve never built a business before. I worked in the corporate world for 11 years, and so being the leader within a small business and a growing business, it’s sometimes not for the faint of heart, and there’s a lot of moving parts and pieces and it’s a learning process, and I can say that I probably will never be done learning about my leadership as a business owner or as the president of this company.

Dr. Connie: Well, and also I think you just have so much bravery, right? I mean, you’re totally daring to say, “Oh, yeah, you know what, I’m going to go sit with those execs at RFD-TV and we’re going to figure this out. I’m going to just go do what needs to be done.” So how do you gather up that courage, that risk taking we talk about, in entrepreneurship? How do you say, yes, so I’m going to go do that and just go do it?

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: For me, I mean, it’s hard. I call it big girl pants; I refer to this a lot.

(laughing)

Dr. Connie: Something like that, I love that.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: It’s so much easier for me and my brain to be like this is a really big decision, this is really scary, this is going to change my life, this could change the course of this business, I mean, it could make or break it, it’s really scary to like let the world criticize your third child. There’s a lot of times where I have these decisions to make or these things are in front of me and you hear it all the time, fake it ’til you make it, walk in there, sit up straight, put a smile on your face, and it’s been a series of not saying no, because as scary as these things might seem, or as big as they might seem, or as much as I might think there’s no way I can pull this off, go find out about it. Right, when this call comes in, don’t say no. Drive to Omaha, go sit in that meeting, and make sure that you share what you’re passionate about and see where it goes. You could always say no at some point down the road if it ends up not being right, but I rely on my husband and I would say that for anybody out there, whether you have a spouse or somebody else in your life, you have to have somebody there that you can bounce these things across because there’s been many conversations in the middle of the night of me going “Oh, my gosh, what am I doing? I don’t know, I don’t know!”

Right, but I go with my gut and I try to make sure that I’ve found out all the information that I can and that I’m making the best decision for me and my family and for what I think makes sense for FarmHer, and gosh, so far it’s worked. It can be scary. At one of our I Am FarmHer conferences last year, I stood up in front of them and I said, today, my big girl pants, I had to put on this pair of leopard print pants today because for some reason they made me feel super powerful that day, like I got this, and these are my big girl pants today. So sometimes they’re just like feeling good about yourself when you go in somewhere and knowing that you can sit up straight. And then like feel a little bit proud, and put a smile on your face.

Dr. Connie: I have to have a few pair in my closet as well, and maybe there’s just so, there’s a product there that I think a lot of women are needing, many times because it is super uncomfortable to have to do these things, but I still love that you’re like okay, I’m putting these big girl pants on, I’m going to go do this, and it’s going to happen, and yeah, can I say no later, but I’m at least going to say yes, I’m going to dare to say yes at this point in time to explore this and see what the possibilities are.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Especially with the TV show. I was like, I don’t think this is something that I can pull off. I don’t know, I’m already working what feels like 80 hours a week. I have little kids at home, like how can I travel the country and do this, and I had all these reasons that seemed like a good reason to say no but I’m so glad I didn’t because all the pieces tend to fall into place.

Dr. Connie: Well, and I appreciate that you bring up your husband and that mastermind that’s so important whether it’s  with a spouse or somebody else, but I am going to go there because I think this is also an important question our audience would like. How do you balance all of that? I mean, you are a mom with young children, you are married, you’re running a business, a growing business empire. What advice would you give people around that?

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: If I look back over my life, I’ve always felt like there’s this like golden spot of balance that I’m going to get to. I’ve been the full-time working mom in the corporate world, I’ve been the stay-at-home mom, I’ve been the stay-at-home mom trying to build a business, I now have an office that I can come to while kids are in school. None of these areas has given me that like golden nugget of balance that I thought maybe it would. What I have learned is making sure that my family comes first always. When I’m thinking about making these decisions, I go, okay, I love FarmHer and I love being able to shine the light on these women and celebrate who they are, but if I can’t be me, I mean, I get one shot at my life too, and so I try to always keep that front and center, and having those discussions with my husband about can we do this? There’s a breaking point to everything and what’s it going to take for us to do this. It’s always a juggle. I have learned I have to run almost everyday, I have to do something physical to like let, there’s a lot of anxiety that builds around this in balancing all of it, like 400 balls that you’re juggling in the air, and sometimes some of them drop and that’s frustrating, but having a support team around you and figuring out how you can mentally take on that load and deal with it, and, for me, like I said, that’s running, and I would say over the last year, I’ve hit that almost breaking point a couple times. The first season of the TV show, 26 episodes of a TV show, basically 10 weeks traveling away from home doing something that I have no idea what I’m doing got to be too much. I have set up rules for myself. If I travel this week, I am not going to travel the next week, ways that I can manage this, and unfortunately, it does mean that me saying no to a lot of things that I would love to say yes to, but that’s just the reality of if FarmHer’s going to get to be FarmHer, then I have to do that.

Dr. Connie: Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of power in saying yes, but I think there’s also a lot of power in saying no, especially as the business grows and people want you. I mean, they want Marji, right? No, you’re really a persona now. I think that people are really clamoring to be a part of this growing movement, and I know our students get very excited about just being able to see you and spend time with you, but the family element is really real, and I think for the first time in history we’re in this dynamic of what does it look like to have dual working couples but also  what are our kids learning.? I’m really glad now to see both my daughter and my son, thinking about how they can work together and it’s not just a husband or a wife it is really a collaborative process and everybody should be able to do well in a family including the kids. I’ve changed a lot of my thinking around now from trying to get rid of the mom guilt into thinking about there is still a lot of that but it’s also like what experiences are you giving them that are different than what I had. Being gone in Japan for 10 days was a long time and my son was, he didn’t handle it well, but then he’s now very interested in traveling, and he’s trying to look at the Japanese characters and figure them out, and so I think there’s also good that comes out of some of those challenges.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Yeah, I agree with you. Who I am, this is the best thing I think I can do for my kids is to show them me running after a dream and still trying to make sure I balance my family and not doing it all perfectly because nothing is perfect in this world and making sure I communicate that to them, but I don’t know. I don’t know the best answer to this but when I left my job in corporate agriculture, one of the things that I hold very dear was I want my kids to see mom doing something that she cares about, and I believe fully in the power and necessity of insurance, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t what I was passionate about, and I just kept thinking how can I tell them go run after your dreams if I’m sitting in an office working for a paycheck, just literally working for that paycheck and not wanting to be there anymore? How can I say that on one hand but expect them to do that on the other? It’s this balance that I try to keep in front of me, and I have had somebody approach me after I spoke in an event once and they said, “You left your job so you could spend more time with your kids but now it appears that you’re gone all the time.” And I said, “Well, I am gone a lot, but I mean, it’s a balance in life and they’re learning a lot of valuable things about different ways that you can look at working and at pursuing a passion or pursuing a dream too.”

Dr. Connie: Well, and I think in your case, they’re really looking at how can I live anywhere I want to live, really embrace my passion, and grow my path, and that’s something at the Rural Futures Institute, we’re really excited about helping people understand, if you’re connected and if you have a talent or passion, you can live in a rural community and really pursue your dream. You don’t have to move to go do that, and I think you’re just such a great example of somebody who has done just that. They’ve taken their talent, they’ve made the hard choice of leaving a job they didn’t want and that steadier paycheck to say, you know what, it’s worth the sacrifice, I’m going to do this, and I think it’s also now, that’s how you see people’s dreams pay off is because they did make those what seemed like difficult choices at the time to really go full out and take that risk. I think there’s a lot of truth in the fact that there’s not reward if there’s no risk.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: It was scary. I always say I hope that’s one of the biggest decisions I make of my life because it changed our lives in a massive way. I make about the same that I made my first year out of college income-wise.

(laughing)

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: That’s a decision of mine of how I run the business, but it’ll all be okay. If this is what you want, then you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

Dr. Connie: You’re an example of what we need more leaders to be. You’re actually walking the talk. You aren’t just talking about it, you’re doing it, and I think people are really starting to see through a lot of that where people are just giving out random advice but they’re not really backing it up with how they live their life, and I’m so excited that, here we have on the Rural Futures podcast an example of a leader who’s like, you know what, I’m not just talking about it, I’m doing it, and I’m doing it with a family, I’m doing it, I’m still married, I’m raising my kids, I’m running!

(laughing)

Dr. Connie: I’m still maintaining who I am as a person, but I can make it all work.

(music transition)

Dr. Connie: Alright, Marji, I’m going to ask you to put on your futurist hat now and I’d love to know a little bit more about what major changes you see.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: I think, especially as broadband internet expands in rural areas, we’re going to see even more digital, and you’re just going to see this continued expansion in agriculture. In my area of expertise, I think you’re going to see more and more women enter into this space. Obviously at colleges around the country, degree programs in agriculture have expanding numbers of young women, they’re going to be flooding in that workplace. I’ll describe what my hand looks like. Like, make a tight fist and then expand all of your fingers out as fast as you can. I hope that that continues to happen, yeah, five fingers, boom, that what we’re seeing now continues to expand and increase because people need to eat, the whole world needs to eat. This is not going to contract, what we need in agriculture, and so I personally hope I see young women taking the helm in more leadership positions, and that’s one area in the ag industry that is lacking behind even other more traditional areas of business. I am a big believer of diversity. Diversity in anything matters in any culture, right, and that’s what’s going to help it grow, and change, and be what we need for the future.

Dr. Connie: This is one of the big questions we get from a lot of our young female students, not just in agriculture but in the tax sector, throughout a lot of sectors, how do I graduate and go into the workplace and then be successful in this space? We even see this in higher education. That’s why I have so many pairs of big girl pants, right, I mean most of our higher level decision makers are men, and so thinking about what that looks like and how the workplace is changing, I mean, it’s happening, it’s a very slow speed, I think equity and pay is still 200 years out that some studies have shown. Hopefully we can start moving a little faster on that, but I do think that future is diversity in not just gender but in so many other ways, and leaders have to really be willing to embrace it and leverage that so great innovation can happen.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: I think back to who I was at that age and it can be so hard, and we stand up there and we say you can go do whatever you want, and I will tell you, you can go do whatever you want, but it may not always look like the way that you think it’s going to. It’s tough sometimes navigating, especially as a young woman in these very male-dominated cultures, and I don’t mean that bad against any man. I’ve had great men as mentors, but it can be super super tough. We talked about families, and that balance, and that juggle, you get to a point where you go is this worth what I’m giving up on this side? I mean, there’s a lot of decisions that I think women have to make, and so flexibility in workplaces matters so much to keeping that diversity there because I always think if I would have had the ability to be more of the mom I needed to be and keep that corporate job, I might still be there, I might not either, because, like I said, that passion thing matters too, but it’s really important to me. I have a team of all women here, not because that’s the only people I hire, but those are the only people who have applied for jobs at FarmHer up to this point. They’re committed, and they’re talented, and they’re awesome, and making sure they know that I will give them that flexibility in however they need it to manage their life along with this job is super important, because there’s a tipping point, right, and it gets hard, but there is a path for these young women and that’s one of the things at these Grow events, we love to get strong women, people like you, people who are doing really cool things, and put them up on the stage and remind them, like, you can go do this and we’re going to connect you with the people who can be those support systems for you.

Dr. Connie: Well, I think it’s great for them to see role models making it happen. I’ve had a lot of great male mentors as well but very few female mentors which is frankly because there just weren’t enough out there, and I’m so glad to see that changing now because I think in some ways it’s really hard to get the full mentoring that you need, that support system you need if you don’t have people who sort of have those same values or the same ideas as you, and we see research stating that women are leaving the corporate sector and other sectors like universities, for example, in droves because they aren’t getting the support they need. They don’t have the flexibility they need. I think that’s why they’re seeing entrepreneurship as a viable solution, but they also need to grow those businesses to be successful in a way not just that works for their family but to be financially viable as well. So I’d love to explore with you a little bit about the future of FarmHer in general.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Whenever people ask what I want the future FarmHer to look like, I want to keep operating in the space that we’re in and I want to expand all of those areas. Keeping women at the forefront, and who they are, and what they do, and celebrating them is always going to be the nucleus of what we do, but I want to continue the expansion of that TV show and the audience who might watch it and hopefully weave it into maybe a non-ag audience at some point because I think that matters. So there’s great power in that for agriculture and talking to people who care about food, or who buy food, or who hopefully eat food three times a day, I think that that matters. It’s so important to me that we continue this expansion of who sees what FarmHer is. I think it’s so important for agriculture, and it’s important for the future of our business too. I mean, it just needs to keep happening. If we have all these things coming at us all of the time and it’s one of those things I’m like, you have this balance as a small business, like we’re still a very small business with a handful of employees, can we do it and can we do it well, and balancing that expansion with the need that’s out there is exciting and something that I hope we get the chance to keep doing.

Dr. Connie: Yeah, I think that’s where we align so well, because the Rural Futures Institute, we’re like if you just keep talking to rural audiences, we’re missing the greater opportunity for that collaboration, for that innovation, and the increased understanding that really happens between partnering with whoever wants to come to the table to make things better, not just for rural but for urban and our global society. We hear so many conversations where people just stay so insulated in their space, and I think they’re missing out on so many opportunities to do some amazing work that affects not only them but others as well. It really creates kind of this new global world that humanity is needing to see evolve.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: I couldn’t agree with you more. I mean, it’s just if agriculture is going to be able to feed the people of the world, then those conversations and those interactions need to occur in different ways than what we’ve always done in the past, and many different ways of course, and so making sure that that wall isn’t there of who we talk to and how we talk to them is super important. I want anybody to be able to walk into one of our events and to leave feeling like you have a place and you have a voice wherever you’re going to go and whatever you’re going to do regardless of if that’s agriculture or not, and I think that that’s one of the keys, right, is making people feel welcome and connecting with them.

Dr. Connie: And I think there’s just such an urbanization of agriculture in the food system right now. People are very interested in growing food, knowing where their food comes from, and, there’s more, growing even happening in urban centers as vertical agriculture becomes more prevalent and prominent, so how do we all lend a hand in making this happen so that it’s not an argument, we’re not fighting over territory or a small pie but rather we’re growing the pie and the possibility, and I think this is a great time for people working in the ag sector to really explore that and I’m glad to see people like yourself really leading the charge and paving the trail that it’s going to take to make that happen.

(music transition)

Dr. Connie: As we close this conversation, I’d love to know what parting words of wisdom you have to share with our audience.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: If I look at what I have done over the last few years and what FarmHer is and what it means to me, the best thing I can say is if you are passionate about something, I would figure out a way to share that with people because you just never know what the path will be in front of you, but if you don’t share that passion and spread that passion, then you’ll never know what could happen, so use that passion for whatever it may look like.

(music transition)

Dr. Connie: Okay, Marji, where can people find you?

Marji Guyler-Alaniz: FarmHer.com has everything that we do. You can find our events, you can see clips of the TV show, read the blogs, check out the podcast, all of those things. So it’s just www.farmher.com.

Dr. Connie: Excellent, thank you so much for being on the podcast. We appreciate your advice and insights.