How does she always stay positive? That’s the question I often ask myself after I have visited with my fellow prairie mama, Katie Heger. Katie is a positive encourager, no matter the situation. She is a mother of five children. Ben (12), Libby (9), Christian (6), Nellie Jo (3) and Piper (17 mo) and a wife to her farming husband, Steven. She has spent 13 years as an educator in schools, worked for the Department of Public Instruction in North Dakota and now is home full-time but still goes into the classroom to substitute teach and spends more time than any volunteer I know thinking of ways to integrate agriculture into elementary classrooms. This is not the way Katie was raised. She was a city girl, born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and she shares about that today and what she thought agriculture was until marrying Steven and becoming a farmer herself. She moved to Underwood, North Dakota to start her life as a woman in agriculture after Steven and she were married. Katie and my husband knew each other at their small, private liberal arts college. But I didn’t meet her until we became active in North Dakota Farm Bureau together. She is a fabulous positive role model as an educator, mother, wife and farmer. Get to know, Katie Heger, below in her own words.
What is your role in agriculture today? For our farm I run the support team: office manager/ accounting, parts runner, tasty treats chef. I also work to share the story of agriculture on our farm via social media, with my neighbors and students. I also belong to a few organizations that work to make sure agriculture is not taken for granted, swept under the rug and is accurately portrayed and understood.
How has agriculture shaped your life? Growing up in Minneapolis, I did not know what agriculture was really about. I thought farming was a simple process. I have come to understand the vast impact it has on every aspect of our lives. I cannot make it through the first hour of my morning without encountering at least 100 items or conveniences that agriculture is a part of. Being a farmer, I have come to know that it takes every day of every year to produce the crop we raise. It takes planning, budgeting, more planning, trouble shooting, on-going training, and 100’s of hours (often closer to 1000) each month behind a wheel, at a desk and performing manual labor to get the job done! In addition, I work with my children ( and sometimes their friends)to raise a garden. About 50% of the produce goes to the school in the fall for the lunch program. The other part gets eaten straight from the garden or is canned! We love making pickles, salsa and spaghetti sauce!
What excites you about your community? I am excited to see many young people moving back to our Ag and Energy community. There are several events throughout the year that are family orientated and parents and kids can have fun and visit with others. We have a large 4-H club and more kids are showing interest in livestock. I am also excited because our community is always looking at what is needed to keep it viable and works hard to make the town a welcoming place for individuals, families, and small business.
When was the last time you tried something for the first time? I am always experimenting in the kitchen and when I eat out. The last thing I ate at a restaurant was collard greens. They were tasty! At home, I can say that I almost never use a recipe. This year we planted a few acres of cover crops, crops that provide nutrients and break through the hard layers of soil allowing water to be absorbed all while minimizing erosion. We planted turnips and white radishes. I made a salad out of these ingredients and a few more. To my surprise my whole family ate it!
What do you do to encourage others? Who/what serves as a source of encouragement for you? I try to encourage others by keeping things positive. I attempt to see the silver lining in each situation. I will also ask people questions to get them to think about the positive outcomes. In addition, I will write notes and mail them and randomly send a message to people thanking them or sharing their impact on me. A wide variety of people serve as a source of encouragement. Mostly, it is my family. After that it is the people around me. I choose to surround myself with people who lift me up, not drain me. With that being said, the people around me don’t always see eye to eye with me, but help me to broaden my understandings while encouraging me to stand on my own two feet and lead.
What is your favorite home-cooked meal? My FAVORITE meal includes anything with gravy or bacon! On a fall day, a bread bowl with a hearty beef stew hits the spot!
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor? I am not sure that I could pick just one person, nor would they be famous. I would pick people who are in a similar place in life, farming, raising kids, doing side jobs, and volunteering. I think we could be a great support for each other. Right now there are several of us “Prairie Mamas” who reach out, share and support each other and this is an invaluable friendship/ mentorship.
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be? Take time to read, listen and ask questions. Communication is key!
What makes you smile? Seeing others smile, be successful and happy!
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What is your favorite home-cooked meal? (I agree with Katie. For me, bacon and gravy makes everything my favorite.)