Karolyn Zurn is a Callaway, Minnesota farmer, just east of Fargo, North Dakota. She is fierce farmer with a smile on her face.
What Karolyn did as a woman in agriculture for me was push me when I needed a push. If you know Karolyn, you know what I mean. For those that have not met Karolyn, she is high energy, passionate, persistent and just says it like it is while handing you some homemade baked goodies woman.
Karolyn called and emailed me after I left my full-time state agriculture department job in 2013 and just insisted I get involved with CommonGround North Dakota. No was not an answer she would take from me. Suddenly, I was a CommonGround volunteer. CommonGround is a national effort connecting farm women to non-ag audiences. Karolyn volunteered, coordinated and jump-started the North Dakota outreach effort which funded through national and state corn and soybean check off programs. She stepped down last spring to take on new volunteering roles and announced to the North Dakota Soybean Council that I was stepping into her role. Suddenly, I was the CommonGround North Dakota coordinator of our statewide volunteers. Karolyn has led me into new opportunities in my own backyard.
Together Karolyn have been at women’s health conferences together and were apart of the planning of the first ever Banquet in a Field in North Dakota, hands down my favorite North Dakota project I have ever been a part of. Below is a two-minute video of that August 2014 event, with the 2015 event already in the planning stages.
Now what if I hadn’t listened to Karolyn and followed her lead? I would have completely missed out on being a part of local events that I love while meeting and knowing numerous other fabulous people in nearby communities and from across my home state!
Karolyn’s leadership opened new doors for me. Her fierce, won’t take no for an answer approach, gave me confidence. She is also a mentor to me as a woman in agriculture, mom and wife, giving me advice and insight with her years of experience.
Below you will meet Karolyn in her own words. She took the questions I sent her and weaved them all into her story. They encompass so much of who she is. Enjoy.
As a young child growing up in Southern California I did not realize I would return someday to my farm community roots. About 43 years ago while visiting relatives in Minnesota I met my future. My husband, Bill, and I have been married 40 years and have five children and ten grandchildren. All of the family is still involved in agriculture. Two of our sons farm, Eric and Nick. Daughters, Becky, Jess & Kelsey all work in related fields.
It is a joke around our farm that Bill & I are into mid-management. We raised our family to be productive, hard-working, community minded people and the result is my husband & I can spend more time as Ag Advocates.
We believe without volunteers to share their stories about farming and helping the non-farming community to understand our farm practices our children and the next generations will not have a future in farming. We are very diligent about this. Our aim is to leave our land in better shape than when we started. This can be achieved through our efforts using conservation practices that protect the soil, water and air.
We try to get the young farmers and ranchers in the community to become involved with the county commodity groups. We provide information to the FFA chapters and try to be a resource for them.
I serve on the Minnesota AG in the Classroom Board, my county corn & soybean board and I am a Minnesota Soybean Director. I was volunteer CommonGround Coordinator for North Dakota Soybean for several years and presently Chairwoman of the Northern Crops Institute. This summer I became Minnesota Agri-Women President and went to the National Agri-Women Conference to discuss all the vital issues we need to work on to keep our farm & ranch communities informed.
I serve as a mentor with the Minnesota Agri-Women where we help other young women who would like to become more involved with agriculture boards or women in agribusiness who want to understand more about our end of the farming spectrum.
I have always said my husband has been my mentor. He actually has more faith in me that I do in myself. He encouraged me to continue my education after all the children were born and then to take employment off the farm. This helped land a very interesting position in sales with Procter & Gamble. I guess food is my thing. Combining a family, field work and off the farm job was exhausting but fulfilling. My husband encouraged me to be more engaged with Ag Advocacy as he is after I retired. We actually make a pretty good team.
Together we valued family and spent lots of time with 4-H, rodeo, karate, dance and gymnastics.
If I had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people it would be DON’T FEAR YOUR FOOD. There are just too many radical groups and media statements that try to scare the public with myths and basic bad information. There are too many families worried about their food source.
We plan our vacations around agriculture. Whether we are off on a motorcycle trip or just visiting friends here and abroad you can bet it involves agriculture.
You ask me “what makes me smile”? —– And I will say-“looking back at my life”.
Thank you Karolyn for your tenacious approach to agriculture advocacy. Your example makes me work harder just trying to keep up with you! You raise the bar for a next generation in agriculture, definitely leaving it a better place for all of us.
Below are the 23 days of the Women in Agriculture series so far this month. I also have two more giveaways to share with you this week. Look for treats or possible holiday gifts tomorrow and throughout the week.
Visit all the links below as time allows and meet women from across North America who each have a unique role and story. As I have said before, I could feature thousands of women, hundreds of who I know personally to give voice to so many stories. I might be doing this for a lifetime! I hope you are enjoying it as much as me!
Day 23: An 80 year-old California Lemon Farmer, Elaine Cavaletto
Day 22: 5th Generation Florida Peanut and Herb Farmer Sarah Carte
Day 21: From City Girl to a Nebraska Feedyard Foodie, Anne Burkholder
Day 20: Lodge Enamel Cast-Iron Dutch Ovens Giveaway
Day 19: South Dakota’s Agri-Cultured Artist Jodene Shaw
Day 18: North Dakota’s Ag Teacher and Mom That Lives with Prairie Perseverance
Day 17: Iowa’s Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids Meet Val Plagge
Day 16: From a Farm Dream to Reality Meet Pennsylvania’s Sally Scholle
Day 15: 9th Generation Californian to Arizona Beef Lovin’ Girl
Day 14: Minnesota Farm Living’s Wanda Patsche, a hog and crop farmer
Day 13: California Agvocate and Tree Fruit Farmer Karri Hammerstrom
Day 12: South Dakota’s Positively Passionate Amy Pravecek
Day 11: Canadian Mom and Monsanto’s New Social Scientist, Dr. Cami Ryan
Day 10: Grow and Bloom with Insight from Nebraska’s Bonnie Schulz and her 31 years of farm wife insight
Day 9: Illinois Farm Mom & AgChat Foundation Executive Director Jenny Schweigert
Day 8: Sixth Generation Canadian Farmer Patricia Grotenhuis
Day 7: Innovative Annie Carlson and Morning Joy Farm’s NEW Bread and Soup CSA
Day 6: Keeping It Real Through The Lens Of A Farm Girl: Erin Ehnle
Day 5: Sustainability Expert, Cancer Survivor and New Mom, Dr. Jude Capper
Day 4: A Next Generation of Women In Ag, Meet Michigan State’s Taylor Truckey
Day 3: Valiant Val Wagner of North Dakota, farmer, mom, wife, paralegal and student
Day 2: North Dakota’s Sarah Heinrich, television farm broadcaster and rancher
Day 1: Wisconsin’s Carrie Mess AKA Dairy Carrie, farmer, advocate, blogger and speaker
Introduction: Why Am I Blogging About 30 Days of Women in Agriculture