Directors’ Perspective: Laura Braun & Terri Hawbaker
4/15/2021
Laura Braun & Terri Hawbaker

Two moms, female farmers, and GreenStone board members share their story of the importance, and the impact, of being women in the agricultural industry.

 

Laura Braun

Historically, women have always worked as partners in agriculture. While their roles may have sometimes been different, they worked equally hard and with just as much heart and devotion as their male counterparts. The success of American agriculture is just as much the result of their efforts as anyone’s!

 

During each generation, American farmers and ranchers have faced different kinds of adversity and women and their families faced each and every challenge as though their lives depended on it. Indeed their lives, as well as the life of American society, did depend on their dedication.

 

Just as women have always provided value to their family farms, having diverse voices, including women, on the GreenStone board is a strong asset. I think I provide a little diversity not only as a woman, but also as someone with a different background, having grown up in Metropolitan Detroit.

 

Today, one of our many challenges is that a much smaller percentage of the population is directly involved in agriculture. As society becomes further and further removed from the farm, so does the understanding of what it takes to put food on all our tables. It is important that we tell the story of all the good American farmers and ranchers do for our country. 

 

An effective way to tell that story is to have an understanding of a different perspective. As a woman in agriculture, and one from a non-agricultural background, I have the benefit of that understanding. I serve on the GreenStone board and hope to make it stronger by using this strength for the benefit of the cooperative!

 

Terri Hawbaker

Talking about women in agriculture is actually very challenging for me. I grew up on a 100 cow dairy with two sisters and one brother. My parents had the same expectations for us girls as they did my brother. It wasn’t until the passing of my late husband Rick, that I fully came to realize the issue. Many businesses we had long standing relationships with stood beside me, but a few showed doubt of whether I could, or should, be doing – a female at the helm of the dairy farm. 

 

It wasn’t easy to hear their un-asked for opinions, but nobody ever said farming would be easy. Faced with options on how to respond, I reverted back to simply doing good business. My dollar has the same face value as other’s, and I simply spent it at businesses that supported my endeavors. 

 

My advice for women in agriculture would be the same as it would be for men. You cannot go wrong by practicing good business ethics, being trustworthy, working harder than you think you can, being open minded, and taking smart risks. While there may be more noise to tune out by the naysayers, it’s hard to hear them if they can’t keep up.

 

I also believe it’s important for all of us to be involved in the betterment of agriculture. I am grateful to have the opportunity to use my skills as chair of the GreenStone board’s finance committee, and to share the viewpoint, values, and experiences of female farmers and niche farms to help serve that customer base. The GreenStone board is one of the most diverse in the nation. We are known for representing a wide array of ages and farm types by both our male and female directors. This is a result of our customers participating in our elections and the nomination process to ensure we remain diverse. Nicely done, GreenStone members!

 

As we all know, the past couple of years have been challenging for farmers, and it is important to not overlook our health. With the lack of time with others, trying to navigate the daily changes and the unknowns, or possibly one too many zoom meetings, there is a whole new category to manage in an area farmer’s traditionally don’t excel in – mental health. To put things into perspective, we have come a lot farther in terms of accepting female farmers than we have in accepting farmer’s feelings. If we learn only one thing from the women in agriculture, let it be this: be more open and honest about how you REALLY are, admit it, and take a minute to call a friend. 

 

Hear more from Terri and Laura in this exclusive Women in Ag video.

 

 

 


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