Jenny Schweigert is from Danvers, IL and now lives in Hopedale, IL with her husband, Jeff, and three boys, ages, 12, 9 and 6. Jenny and I first met via our blogs a few years ago. I shared her family’s Dreamy Venison Stew recipe in 2011. From there, our connection grew through her work first in communications and now as the Executive Director for the AgChat Foundation. I am proud to see her journey over the past few years and the leadership skills Jenny has developed and grown with in her roles. Outside of our professional work, Jenny and I have a friendship based on our passion for our families, faith and farms. I love her commitment, passion, and willingness to always pitch in. She is patient. She listens. She gives back. Jenny is a talented woman of agriculture that directs, coordinates and advocates for her livelihood, agriculture. What Jenny probably won’t tell you is that she is also brave. She lives and works through Crohn’s Disease and has for 19 years. I am proud and honored to have you get to know Jenny Schweigert as a woman in agriculture. Stay connected with her on just about any social media platform either through AgChat or her personal pages. The MagicFarmHouse Blog, TheMagicFarmHouse, MapleLawnJerseyFarm and AgChat on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
What is your role in agriculture today? As a wife to a dairyman’s son and mother to our three boys, I assist on our small hobby farm raising manly sheep and layer chickens as well as other 4H livestock animals. My oldest son is a fifth generation Jersey cattle owner/breeder and my middle son just received his first Jersey in his name. Our youngest son will show for the first time next summer. All three are mentoring alongside my father-in-law Dan Schweigert of Maple Lawn Jersey Farm and making their Pawpaw proud as they carrying on the 115 year tradition. During show season, I assist my boys as they prepare for county and state fairs where they show a string of Jersey heifers. In February 2013, after milking cows on the farm since 1909, my in-laws made a difficult decision to discontinue the cow portion of the operation. Prior to the selling of the cows, I assisted with marketing on the farm. Although I no longer feel as though I can be considered a true Dairy Mom, I do carry on a passion for promoting the dairy industry and Jersey breed. Promotion of the dairy industry runs hand-in-hand with advocating for agriculture as a whole. As the Executive Director of AgChat Foundation, a not-for-profit organization connecting farmers and ranchers with customers, I put my passions for agriculture, leadership, communications, graphic design and marketing to work by helping other farmers and ranchers learn how to tell their stories. It is an honor to work with so many people from all walks of agriculture and the education I receive on a daily basis is truly invaluable.
How has agriculture shaped your life? Growing up as a daughter of a molecular geneticist of maize, agriculture has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Although, I wasn’t exposed to traditional field work as a child, I clocked many hours in the field. At the age of 12, I began working for Funk’s G Seed Company in corn pathology doing research on corn bore, rust and a variety of other challenges. As the company evolved into Ciba-Geigy, now Syngenta, the pathology department was re-located and I was moved to breeding through the end of college. These positions required working 12-14 hour days six, sometimes seven days a week in the hot, humid elements of mother nature. Like traditional farm kids, I gained strong work ethic, determination and discipline. All of these attributes shaped my future successes and challenges in life.
What excites you about your community? Amid several events which have occurred recently, I’ve been touched beyond words to be a part of this community. The resolve, compassion, generosity and determination to rebuild and provide hope is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It makes me very proud to be an Illinoisan and part of the Olympia communities.
When was the last time you tried something for the first time? Our family’s meat consumption could be summarized by saying, “if we don’t catch it, shoot it or raise it, we don’t eat it.” As primitive as that may sound, this lifestyle allows us the opportunity to teach our children where their food originates from and to educate them to provide for themselves, if needed. So while my palette has experienced the likes of bear and squirrel, sushi has never been on the menu. Enter nine powerful “Ag Women.” With the leadership and encouragement of these champion women, I tried sushi for the first time. It was an interesting experience and something I have now checked off my bucket list.
What do you do to encourage others? Who/what serves as a source of encouragement for you? In this day and age, we are tuned to respond immediately to situations. While prompt attention is important, I like to motivate people with a very simple phrase a past mentor shared with me and that is, “sometimes the best step you can take is a step back.” Speaking from experience, this advice empowers us to take an unapologetic freeze on the situation and provides an opportunity to gain clear perspective. With a clear stance of the situation you can then identify ways to be proactive rather than reactive. A very wise person once taught me that you should surround yourself with five key people. While I won’t reveal my fab five, I will encourage you to follow this advice by finding people in your life who are positive, authentic, honest, forthright and empowering. These ‘ninjas’ will serve as confidants who are full of encouragement, continuous education, shoulders to cry on and at times, much-needed entertainment.
What is your favorite home-cooked meal? My husband (aka ‘Chef Jeff’) has created a wonderful dish called ‘Dreamy Venison Stew’.
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?Amy Porterfield – Her passion for sharing information about social media is absolutely inspiring. It would be incredible to work with her directly and be surrounded by her unwavering enthusiasm.
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be? Embrace food choices and a ‘pro-farmer/rancher’ attitude. All too often, marketing gets in the way of advocating for agriculture. Marketing sells products, services or ideas based on competitive weaknesses. There are ways to promote your products without sending other types of farming methods or food choices under the bus. Food choice should be celebrated. It does not have to be black and white. It is acceptable for consumers to choose both organic and non-organic, grass fed or corn/grass fed, etc… As farmers and ranchers, we need to take this celebration to the streets and promote a pro-food choice movement.
What makes you smile? A 6’3″ hunk named Jeff (don’t tell my husband) and three crazy boys. Seriously though… When my third grader asks to continue reading after he’s already read for the required 30 minutes, my twelve-year-old leading Jerseys in the All Amercian Pot-of-Gold Sale in Louisville, KY, cuddling with my six-year-old, my dog as she makes herself at home on our bed, the smell of freshly cut alfalfa, the sunset, the chickens running the pasture during the early morning hours, my sweet grandparents and most importantly, my husband, especially when he cooks.
Thank you, Jenny, for being a role model and advocate for many and for pushing us to be more as women, regardless of our circumstances!
For those looking for regular Pinke Post updates, stay connected this month with me on Facebook and Instagram. I am also sharing five giveaways this month through this Women In Ag series. If you are in the Bismarck, North Dakota area, this is the first giveaway that you can enter until November 14, 2014. You can also find links to each feature in the Women in Agriculture series below. Get to know all of these fabulous ladies! Day 8: Sixth Generation Canadian Farmer Patricia Grotenhuis