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Women in Ag Network - August Feature

By Megan Roberts and Sarah Schieck, Extension Educators

Our August 2019 "Woman in Ag" feature is Chandra Pagel. Chandra is a special education teacher and a dairy farmer. In addition to her busy career responsibilities, Chandra is active in her community; for example, she and her husband currently serve on the Young Farmers and Ranchers state committee for MN Farm Bureau. Below Chandra shares about her farm and more. Thanks Chandra for sharing your story.

WAGN: Tell us about your farm.
Chandra enjoys working with calves on her family's farm.
Chandra: Together with my husband and his parents, I farm in Southeastern Minnesota. As a family, we care for and milk a small herd of Holstein cows. We raise and house all of our replacement heifers on the farm. In addition, we have a small herd of beef pairs. We grow a variety of crops such as corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and rye grass and utilize cover crops to improve soil health.

WAGN: During the school year you are very busy teaching. How do you balance helping out on the farm when you have a full time off farm job?
Chandra: During the school year, the amount of time I spend outside does decrease. However, I typically help milk and feed calves at night during the week. Normally, this acts as a stress reliever for me. On the weekends, I will help milk both shifts, as well as help with feeding and bedding around the farm. 

WAGN: What do you consider to be your proudest achievement on the farm?
Chandra: I did not grow up on a farm, so I feel like I continue to learn something new each day when it comes to farming. I would say that I am most proud when I can help raise a newborn heifer and watch her grow up to be a healthy, strong, and productive cow. 

WAGN: Living on a farm is not always easy.  What are the ways you manage stress and stay positive?
Chandra strikes a pose with some friendly cows.
Chandra: Because I did not grow up on a farm, I went through a lot of changes in terms of stress and my idea of what "normal" looks like. I have found that finding one or two women that also farm, and that understand what you are going through on the farm definitely helps. In terms of stress and positivity, I always try to make time for myself each day. For me, this is a non-negotiable. Sometimes this mean getting up and enjoying a quiet moment before the rest of the house wakes up, reading a book, working out, etc. 

WAGN: What have you learned from other women in agriculture?

Chandra: Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it or when you don't understand something. This is a wonderful lifestyle, but it can be lonely if you do not have people to connect with. Get yourself out there and be involved in different farming organizations where you can meet other women that can serve as mentors for you. Lastly, always double check the gates! 

Thanks Chandra for sharing your story with WAGN for this month’s “Woman in Ag” feature. To learn more about WAGN visit z.umn.edu/WAGN.

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