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Women In Ag Network's August Feature

By Megan Roberts, Extension Educator

As the Women in Ag Network grows and evolves in our third year, we asked ourselves how we could create more connections with women in agriculture across Minnesota.  Our advisory committee suggested featuring the stories of Minnesota women that farm and work in ag business. Each month we will interview a woman involved in agriculture and feature it in our newsletter as a way of connecting you to other agricultural women across the state.

Our August 2018 featured "Woman in Ag" is Alison Rickeman. Alison serves on the WAGN advisory committee, is a farmer, and has worked in the agricultural and food industry since graduating from college in 2010.

WAGN: Tell us about your farm and career.
Alison: I currently serve as the state director of the Minnesota Dairy Initiative. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Management Communications from NDSU with minors in Public Relations, Mass Communications, and Ag Communications.  I’ve been with MDI for over 3 years and started as a regional coordinator in 2015. Previous to MDI, I worked on my family’s dairy farm as well as at a large food processing company in Human Relations.

My husband Neil and I were married 2 years ago, and we have an 8 month old baby girl named Natalie. My husband dairy farms with his parents on an 80 cow registered Holstein herd near Hutchinson, MN. I also still actively help at my “home” farm near Stewart, MN of 250 Holsteins on a weekly basis doing chores and driving tractor wherever needed. This fall will be my 10th harvest running the grain cart for my dad.

WAGN: Tell us about a professional challenge you've overcome.
Alison: In 2015 I was faced with the big decision of a career change.  After 4 years in a very stressful job working up to 80 hours a week in an office with no windows, I was offered a position to work with dairy farmers for a non-profit organization. The new job change included a cut in pay, loss of benefits, loss of retirement contribution, and loss of health insurance. On the contrary, the new job would allow me to work for an industry I am passionate about, touch people’s lives, and see cows on a regular basis. It was a huge, difficult decision. As you can see, I decided to enter the field that I love and continue to be passionate about. I am now surrounded by people who continually lift me up, make me feel valued, and encourage the work that I am doing.  It is hard to put a price on that. As the old saying goes “you’ll never work a day in your life if you enjoy what you do”.

WAGN: Working in agriculture is not always easy. What are ways you manage stress and time to stay positive?
Alison: Two things help me relieve stress: running and “cow” time. I am an evening runner. Running helps me debrief, unwind, and find closure in my day. If I can’t finish a project at work or at home, I can always finish my run. Every year, I set achievable goals that make me feel accomplished. I have completed multiple 5K’s, mud runs, and 3 Tough Mudders. Last spring I ran my first half marathon and this fall I plan to run a Trail Ragnar.

Nearly every weekend, I visit my “home” farm and do chores. Walking the pens of cows is so soothing and relaxing. I love observing cow behavior. I enjoy tracking their habits, where they lie down, and who they are socializing with. I find a big feeling of value when my favorite cows come to greet me when I enter their pen. It’s like visiting old friends.

WAGN: What is something you have learned at a Women in Ag Network event? 
Alison: I find it inspiring and rejuvenating to see other women breaking the odds. The panel at the 2018 Women in Ag Network annual conference was no exception. Hearing real-life stories of women overcoming adversity and having the courage to stand in front of their peers and tell their story was powerful. They are not looking for sympathy but simply wanting to encourage other women to keep their heads high in challenging times. Being surrounded by strong women in the agriculture industry is invigorating. It offers a feeling of comfort knowing you’re not alone.

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