Today is Day Three of 30 Days of Women in Agriculture, 2014 Edition. Links to additional featured profiles are listed below and follow along daily for features in this ongoing series. Five upcoming giveaways are built into the 30 days so you don’t want to miss any. Subscribe in right column by email. You can follow along on Facebook and Instagram. For day three, I am thrilled to highlight a woman of agriculture that is a fellow North Dakota prairie mama, Val Wagner.
Val was born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin but considers Forbes, North Dakota her hometown. Val shared with me, “I grew up number four of five kids. My parents are Pat and Roger and they have been married (to each other) for more than 50 years.” Today she lives on a farm outside of Monango, North Dakota with her husband Mark. Together they are raising four boys, farming and ranching, along with Val taking full-time online classes and working full-time at a law office.
Val and Mark worked through extreme adversity over the past five years with the medical diagnosis of their youngest son. If it were not for Val’s valiant efforts to get second opinions and never stop being an advocate for their son, he would not have received a diagnosis to save his life. Today he is thriving kindergartner. Val’s tenacity inspires me.
Despite adversity, a full family-life and farm schedule, Val works to be an active woman in agriculture. She has a talent for juggling life’s balls that are thrown at her. Val and Mark have served on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Board of Directors. Val currently serves on the North Dakota Farm Bureau Board of Directors as the Promotions and Education Committee chair. She is an active voice on North Dakota issues, blogging regularly, speaking at local events, and was my roommate at our first North Dakota Republican Convention as delegates together earlier this year. It was there that an elderly man, a fellow delegate from our district looked at Val and me and said, “Agriculture is a man’s world.” Val and I responded. Val blogged about The Anatomy of a Farmer. I have included links to numerous blog posts of Val’s story above and hope you go back to read all of her in-depth writing.
Handsome Wagner Boys
Val is a woman of agriculture who makes me a better person. She expands my thinking. And there are a lot of people who think they are “busy” but busy is what you make it. Val chooses to live a full life. And if we all lived like Val, the world would be a much better place.
Since meeting her on Twitter five years ago, Val has become one of my trusted “prairie mama” (the name we gave ourselves) friends. (I’m including a lot of links because I have blogged about her before and you can look back to see our times together.) We are “neighbors” living 50 miles a part, often driving to meet half way to have a face to face conversation. We have an ongoing group text message among five North Dakota prairie mamas that is a series of prayer requests, funny stories from our days and vents. Val takes time for people, places, things and issues she cares about and it is evident in her life.
What is your role in agriculture today? I tend to wear many hats in agriculture. I know my way around a tractor, I help check cows during calving season, I can drive a semi when needed and am more than willing to learn just about anything, including driving grain cart for corn harvest. I also like to share our farm’s story, so that more people can understand what we do here and why we do it. It’s not that I think that my job is all that important, but I will do whatever I can to ensure that my children have the same freedoms and ability to choose occupations that I did. And if one or more decides to farm in the future, well, I want to make sure that we still have a farm to come back to.
How has agriculture shaped your life? I grew up in rural North Dakota, and swore that I was getting out of town as quickly as I could. I attended a small, private college, with the anticipation of going to law school, living in the big city and coming home every few years to visit. And then I discovered that I don’t like busy places, missed the open sky and couldn’t imagine life anywhere but here. Four children later, I’m back in the workforce, returning to my law roots and living my dream, but with one foot firmly planted in both worlds. I couldn’t be any luckier.
What do you do to encourage others? Who/what serves as a source of encouragement for you? I do my best to be a positive person. Almost anything can be accomplished if you follow God’s plan and keep your goals and dreams in mind. I have a ton of people in my life that serve as a source of encouragement, but I have to say that my number one driving force is my youngest son, Eli. At the age of five, he has faced more adversity in his short life than I could ever imagine. I have spent countless hours at his bedside in hospitals, praying, and crying and hoping for a brighter future. Although he has been through some pretty dark moments, I can safely say that he has defied some pretty tremendous odds. He has taught me that you can thrive in the face of adversity, you can dance on the other side of your dark moments, and that the only one that truly knows what’s in store for us is the Man Upstairs. I do not know what Eli’s future holds, but I do know that he has taught me more about perseverance and living life to the fullest than most adults will ever understand. And for that I am grateful.
What is your favorite home-cooked meal? My favorite home-cooked meal is a great tradition from my grandmother, Vivian Brandenburger. She was a true German cook, who taught me the secrets to her kitchen. Such as the definition of a “pinch,” and what it means to wait for dumplings to “talk” to you (start to fry). I finally put one of her famous recipes down on paper (and the internet), and it’s been a big hit. My go-to favorite home-cooked meal is dumplings, usually with chicken. The dumplings recipe can be found here. I’m also a big fan of knephla or any other German-based meal. Did you know that knefla is spelled 102 ways? Find my knoepfla recipe here.
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be? My message is usually the same…embrace the opportunity to make decisions. It’s not about what you decide, it’s about why you decide it. I do not have a problem with people that choose differently than I do, and that includes food choices as well. My problem starts when others condemn and use false information to try to persuade others.
What makes you smile? The wonder of life. And trust me, with a house full of boys, I have ample opportunity to wonder about life.