Pictured above shows a portion of the audience of around 230 people that attended the Celebrating Agriculture conference at the Crossroads Wesleyan Church conference room in Imperial Feb. 28. (Johnson Publications photo)

Marji Guyler-Alaniz, founder and president of FarmHer, was the morning keynote speaker. She spoke about “The FarmHer Journey” along with photos of just a few women in agriculture that she has photographed and admired. (Johnson Publications photo)

Dennis Kunnemann, local farmer and president of AK Acres Popcorn Company, gave an interesting account of his business experience titled “Popping to Success.” (Johnson Publications photo)

Lorrie Mowry, McCook Community College business teacher, was the first speaker to open the ag conference. Her topic was “Lessons Learned on the Farm.” (Johnson Publications photo)

Positives of industry in spotlight at ‘Celebrating Agriculture’ program

■ Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part story that will continue in next week’s issue.

Mid-Plains Community College (MPCC) Imperial Campus sponsored a first-time event Feb. 28 called “Celebrating Agriculture.”
    The all-day event was held in the conference room at Crossroads Wesleyan Church.
    Brenda Ledall, MPCC Imperial campus coordinator, said it was the perfect venue for the conference. The location allowed plenty of room for entertainment, speakers, tables and seating for attendees, and there was a generous area for laying out food for breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack.
    “It was an excellent location for an event of this size,” she said. “Everything just came together and ran smoothly.”
    The 9th Street Singers, directed by Randy Hayes from Chase County Schools, presented an enthusiastic and entertaining 30-minute program during registration time. They also sang a nice arrangement of the national anthem to kick off the convention.
    Ryan Baker, CEO of BAAM Multi-media, LLC, was the emcee for the ag conference.
    Imperial City Clerk/Administrator Jo Leyland, opened the conference with a few lighthearted words of welcome to a crowd of about 230 attendees.
    Laughter was widespread when Leyland explained to all out-of-towners that, “Imperial residents were all very nice except for three grumps, and they weren’t invited.”
Opening presenter sets stage for ag extravaganza
    Lorrie Mowry, McCook Community College business teacher, was the first presenter of the morning.
    Mowry said she has been involved in agriculture her entire life. She was a former District FFA officer and 4-H member growing up in Kansas.
    The subject of her speech was “Lessons Learned on the Farm” and referred to herself as a farm kid and educator.
    Mowry gave an interesting account of her life and how her agriculture background influenced her choices and goals.
    She focused her talk around agricultural production in Nebraska compared to the rest of the nation. She also expounded on her passion regarding farmers in Nebraska and their worth to the state and country.
    She explained that people, especially youth, who live and work on the family farm are great resources.
    “Farm kids are well prepared to move on in life,” said Mowry.
    Values learned on the farm gird people to be contributors  to society, she stated. Farming is 24/7. It teaches responsibility and the art of being prepared for anything, she continued.
    She went on to say that farm work can’t be copy/pasted. There are no spring breaks. Farm life goes on every day.
    She conveyed her love of agriculture and growing up on a farm. She expressed her gratitude for how being a farm kid shaped who she is today.
    “I used to grow crops and livestock on the farm. Now I ‘grow people’,” said Mowry.
Morning keynote speaker wows crowd
    Marji Guyler-Alaniz, a native of Iowa, is a photographer,  founder and president of FarmHer.
    Having been raised around her grandparents’ farm, she was very familiar with all aspects of agriculture.
    Following graduation from Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa where she majored in graphic design and journalism, Guyler-Alaniz began a career working in the crop insurance field. This position opened her eyes to the large part women played in farming operations, yet they were rarely recognized for it.
    After 11 years, she left that career to do some soul searching to discover what direction she wanted to take her professional life.
    “I was watching the 2013 Super Bowl with the Dodge Ram commercial depicting images of farmers set to Paul Harvey’s speech, ‘God Made a Farmer.’ I loved it,” she said.
    But she noticed how there was a lack of women in the commercial, which made her stop and think about why women were never featured in agricultural commercials and pictures.
    She said she woke up in the middle of the night with a realization that she had always had a passion for photography that began when she was a child. She, in fact, minored in photography while in college, but didn’t pursue it after graduation.
    “I had student loans to pay off, so I went to work,” said Guyler-Alaniz.
    Her real involvement with agriculture came through her 11-year career in corporate agriculture, she said.
    She stated that knowledge, her love of photography and a new-found desire to champion women in agriculture sparked the idea that led to founding FarmHer.
    “Instead of being frustrated, I decided to change the perception of women in agriculture with my camera and share it with the world,” she said.
FarmHer becomes a reality
    Guyler-Alaniz set a goal,  seeking to help women in farming gain attention and respect for their place in agriculture today, she explained.
    According to the 2012 agriculture census, 969,672 women had farming operations in the U.S. Of those, 288,264 were the principle operators. Nationally, 30 percent of all farmers are women, she stated.     
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