“Poultry farming is so mysterious to many people and there are a lot of misconceptions related to the size of these particular farm operations. I love to tell people that I know turkey, egg and chicken farmers of many different sizes and these are good people. They care for their birds and work hard to make sure they have a comfortable, happy life with good nutrition, a safe home and good health. So many of my farmer members volunteer hours of their time to our organizations to make sure they are being best poultry farmers they can be. And I want to shout from the rooftops that poultry are NOT “pumped up” with hormones or steroids of any kind. Ever. It’s illegal!” Lara Durben, Minnesota mom, wife, farm girl and Communications Director for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota and the Midwest Poultry Federation
When you go to your grocery store to buy a turkey, do you think of a turkey farmer and where that bird was raised? How did it get to your grocery store? Is it even safe to eat? What about eggs? And chickens? It’s Lara Durben’s job to help communicate about turkey, chickens and eggs and the farm families that raise them. I have gotten to know her through social media and we have met in real life a couple of times at AgChat Foundation events. When I buy turkey burger, chicken, eggs and this week a turkey, I think of her while standing in my grocery store. I don’t know all the farmers she works for but I know Lara. And I trust her. She’s a mom of Joe, age nine, who by the pictures I have seen reminds me often of my now teenage son. She’s a wife to Jerry, a 7th grade social studies teacher. She loves cute shoes as much as I do and adores her dog, Earl the Pug. My connection, friendship and trust in Lara has translated to my food purchases at the grocery store. If she is willing to spend 18 years of her career working on behalf of turkey, egg and chicken farmers when agriculture was not originally her passion, I believe in what she is doing, why she is doing it and want to support her and all the farmers she represents.
Not all women in agriculture live on farms. Not all women in agriculture drive tractors. There are women in agriculture like Lara Durben that are vital to the industry that feeds us. This segment of women in agriculture (and a few good men) work on behalf of farmers to help communicate how farmers care for and raise animals, like turkeys and chickens, that naturally have hormones in them but it is ILLEGAL to add hormones to them.
We need more women in agriculture like Lara working passionately to counter the mistruths or half-truths and helping connect the personal side of agriculture that you probably don’t see firsthand unless you are actively working in food and farming. I am thankful for social media and other new media tools to help share farm stories and for people willing to do it, like Lara.
Meet Lara Durben, originally from a family farm in Hector, Minnesota and currently residing in Buffalo, Minnesota in her words.
What is your role in agriculture today? For the past 18 years, I have worked as the Communications Director for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota and the Midwest Poultry Federation. I coordinate a monthly printed publication and weekly e-newsletters for our members; work with the media to pitch our stories, press releases and schedule interviews (and sometimes do those interviews); and manage all of our social media accounts and websites. (The organizations are all separate of each other, with separate Boards of Directors, so each has its own social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest – as well as their own websites.)
Beyond that, I enjoy working together with the National Turkey Federation on various programs plus I get to travel to Washington DC once a year with our members to meet with our Congressional leaders. I also coordinate various aspects of the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention, the largest annual regional poultry show in the U.S. – including the details of the education workshops, attendee registration, marketing and social media.
Right now, I’m working on a super fun project – the National Thanksgiving Turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House, which will feature a turkey raised in Minnesota! You can visit www.minnesotaturkey.com/presidentialturkey to learn more about this and watch some of the videos I’ve put together about the Presidential flock. I am a farmer’s daughter, raised on a corn and soybean farm in southwestern Minnesota, where my brother and father still farm today.
While I’m not actively involved in the farm operation, I visit often with my husband and son. I also have several perennial and vegetable gardens at my own home because I would miss digging in the dirt if I didn’t and watching my flowers grow and bloom makes me happy. And I love to work on my blog,which blends all of my varied interests in one place – I’m proof that you can blog about everything from turkeys and pheasant hunting to cute shoes, wine, recipes and pretty flowers, and somehow it all makes sense. At least, it does to me!
How has agriculture shaped your life? Agriculture has shaped my life in many unexpected, amazing ways. Here’s the truth: when I was 18, I wanted off the farm and into the big city and I thought I’d grow up and write for a big city newspaper or magazine and move to the East Coast. I loved my family but I took the farm – and agriculture – for granted.
Fast forward several years – I had finished college and spent several years at a weekly newspaper, writing and editing and learning more about what I wanted out of life. I applied for a job with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and wondered what I was getting myself into. Turns out, it was the best job offer I could’ve accepted. My job has taught me a ton about turkey farming – but even more importantly, I have realized along the way how important my roots as a Minnesota farm girl are to me and how growing up on my family farm made me the person I am today. I’ve also learned how challenging farming really is and I have a much better appreciation for what my father and brother do every day.
I didn’t start out with a passion for agriculture, but it caught up with me and I am grateful for that. There is nothing I’d rather be doing than lending my voice to agriculture right now.
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be? Poultry farming is so mysterious to many people and there are a lot of misconceptions related to the size of these particular farm operations. I love to tell people who I know turkey, egg and chicken farmers of many different sizes and these are good people. They care for their birds and work hard to make sure they have a comfortable, happy life with good nutrition, a safe home and good health. So many of my farmer members volunteer hours of their time to our organizations to make sure they are being best poultry farmers they can be. And I want to shout from the rooftops that poultry are NOT “pumped up” with hormones or steroids of any kind. Ever. It’s illegal!
What is your favorite home-cooked meal? You’re going to expect that I will say something with turkey, but the truth is, one of my all-time favorite home-cooked meals is my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs recipe – especially this time of year. (But the Thanksgiving meal with roast turkey, my mom’s stuffing recipe and mashed potatoes is a very close second!)
What children’s book best describes your childhood/life? My blog is named after a line from “A Bridge to Terabithia”, a beautifully written book with a very bittersweet story. It doesn’t specifically describe my very happy childhood, but I remember I couldn’t put it down when I was reading it as a young girl. In fact, I hid under the covers with a flashlight to finish it, a lot later than my usual bedtime. I related to the main character, Jess, who felt that being friends with another character in the book made him feel like his “other more exciting self” and because of that, he transformed from quiet to courageous. As a naturally introverted person, I love that line and I think we all know people like that in our own lives – who push us to succeed or make us better versions of ourselves.
What makes you smile? My dog, Earl the pug, who is comical without even trying; a fun pair of shoes (or two or three, let’s be honest); Saturday evenings at home with my husband and son; playing piano; and kneeling in a turkey barn, trying to take interesting and fun photos of a bunch of turkeys. Those birds crack me up!
Stay connected with Lara on her personal blog, Facebook blog page, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram for all things cute shoes, clothes, baking, eggs, turkey, chicken, pugs, a cute kid and fun family life. Connect with her professional LinkedIn profile here. Thank you, Lara, for reminding us to give #foodthanks to turkey, chicken and egg farmers! For those missing out on everyday Pinke Post happenings, connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.
I missed a Women in Agriculture feature on November 22 because I became an AUNT for the first time. Photos are on Facebook and Instagram of our new and perfectly healthy niece and cousin, Nola, named after our Grandma Nola. My sister is lovely, healthy and glowing and my brother-in-law is over the moon excited to be a new daddy. We are blessed.
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Earlier Women in Agriculture features this month include:
November 16: Marie Bowers, Oregon Grass Seed Farmer
November 1: Introducing 30 Days of Women in Agriculture
For a listing of all the 30 Days Bloggers that Holly Spangler rounded up, visit here.