Rural voices that empower me #140conf

There are many mentors I have that have helped empower my voice, teaching and guiding me to share boldly and proudly about our rural life.

Three of them were able to join me for coffee at no other than Starbuck’s during my time in Hutchinson, Kansas for the #140conf Small Town event. When you live 97 miles from Starbuck’s or any form of pop culture on the North Dakota prairie like our family does, Starbuck’s is a treat.

Starbuck’s with true friends is an even bigger deal for me. Debbie, Janice, Val and I all met on Twitter. Debbie of Life on Kansas Cattle Ranch has 5 kids, runs a working cattle ranch while her husband has a off farm career. She also wear flip flops while feeding cattle.

Debbie of Life on Kansas Cattle Ranch

Also important to know, Debbie actually had 5 kids in less than 5 years. She’s a hero of mine. When I think life is crazy, I just have to think of Debbie to know I can keep going! She has a strong passionate voice. Her kids are teenagers and two are in college now. I can only hope and pray my kids turn out like hers…and my rural life is a success like hers while keeping my sanity.

Janice of JPLovesCotton

Janice who many call JP often has her “social media persona” defined for her by others because of assumptions. She’s the red head that works for Monsanto. Sound devilish? The absolute opposite is true. JP’s career working in public relations has connected her to people like me because she has a passion for farming. She’s a city girl that loves rural. JP is true to who she is on her blog JPLovesCotton. It’s all about…cotton, agriculture, technology, travel, food and connections. She’s kind. She has energy, enthusiasm, a strong will and she empowers me to share my voice. She can debate. She’s open minded. Her career doesn’t define who she is but it opens her thinking to a broader perspective. I respect her because of it. She also makes me laugh until I cry.

Val of Wag N’ Tales

Val, my fellow North Dakota prairie mama, is a friend I would have never known if it weren’t for social media. There are very few people that can get in car together for 1500 miles, share a hotel room, laugh and cry together and still like each other when it’s all over. Val and I seem different in many ways yet we are cut from the same cloth. She’s smart as a whip, extremely intuitive, a fighter like no other mother I’ve ever seen and bold in a quiet, strategic manner. Val, despite 1000 things going around her from her farm to her family, went with me to #140conf. She empowers me in more ways than she’ll ever know. (And she also has the coolest blog giveaway this month on her blog. It’s pink. It’s big. It’s for fighters. It’s in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. If you comment, you enter. So be sure to stop by Wag N’ Tales.)

photo credit Jerry Hirsch

I can talk agriculture, farm families and food daily in my professional career. But to tell my personal story is…personal. It was more difficult than I had imagined to actually sum up our story in 10 minutes with no aids for the #140conf and still make it seem meaningful and relevant. My husband watched me on streaming video. He knew I was more nervous than I normally would be when I speak. He also sweetly pointed out when I got home that I flipped my hair too much. I love an honest man.

Becky McCray and me…photo credit to Ben Smith

4 years ago you could have never convinced me that I would feel more empowered as a rural woman, wife, mom and professional than I did when we moved here from the mighty metropolis of Fargo where I had a Starbuck’s 3 blocks from our home and several along the way to our son’s school or my office.  I thought moving 97 miles from a Starbuck’s meant I was dropping off the face of the earth. My life was over as I knew it.

Instead of dropping off the face of the earth, I have been given a voice, a platform in which to tell our rural story and why we choose to and now love to live 97 miles from a Starbuck’s or any form pop culture . Attending the #140conf in Hutchinson, Kansas helped me find a greater, bolder voice.
I was totally jealous of Jeff Pulver’s matching glasses to his shirt. Photo credit to Jerry Hirsch.
#140conf Small Town came together thanks to the vision of Jeff Pulver, a big city, tech entrepreneurial global success and Becky McCray, a small town visionary and successful rural entrepreneur. Both Jeff and Becky gave me a platform to share my rural story to broader audience that would have never known my tiny little map dot location if it weren’t for social media giving us all a platform to share and connect. 

I was empowered by the #140conf by the many new faces I connected with to share more boldly and to engage more often. And it was thanks to a few women that sat alongside of me in a Starbuck’s in Hutchinson, Kansas that I can thank for giving me added motivation in helping me to share for story.

Who helps you empower your “voice”?


  1. Katie thanks for sharing your conference experience! You are so heartfelt in talking about people who touch and influence your life. Don’t forget that you too are one of those people. You are positively influencing rural women across the country!

  2. what a great group! i feel the pride and respect and companionship pouring out of this post, katie. 🙂

  3. I’m so glad you gals got together! And I’m thrilled that you had the dedication to come join us in Hutchinson, and I really hope you’ll be back next year. Thank you so much!

  4. Katie, I’m honored to be mentioned in your blog and I have to admit that YOU inspire ME! You have so much energy and positive vibes…it is contagious!

    Thanks for meeting me at Starbucks, gals. I wish I could have come back for the #140conf, but it was nearly as good having coffee with you rural women.

    Rock on!

  5. Katie! I love the photo of the four of us together! What a great afternoon of laughter, seriousness and triviality! We’ve set the bar pretty high with that event and hope we just keep raising it!

  6. oh gosh…there was a stage and a microphone…oh my gosh…you are much braver than i!

    you do your job well! 🙂

  7. It is so great to see the faces with the familiar names!

    I’m glad it went so well and yes you do a GREAT job!!!

    Big hugs from Indiana

Leave a Reply to TexWisGirl Cancel reply