March 24, 2023 at 7:28 p.m.
An evening of inspiration
“I wanted to put together a group for women in agriculture and give them a chance to put themselves first,” Hakala said. “We’re really good at putting others first, but I want you to start putting yourself first. Everyone around you benefits if you do that.”
Hakala and her husband, Justin, milk 550 cows at ACE Dairy. More than 30 ladies attended the event held in the farm’s shop March 4 that took place from 3-8:30 p.m. Featuring guest speakers, Annaliese Wegner and Emily Reuschel, the night provided an opportunity to mingle, network and get inspired while having fun at the same time. At the end of the event, the women left with ideas and motivation for working toward their goals.
The ladies started the evening by making charcuterie boards. These appetizer masterpieces were filled with a variety of cheeses, meats, crackers, candied pecans, dried cranberries, grapes and more. Veterinarian Liz Strahl from St. Anne Veterinary Clinic in St. Anne guided the charcuterie process and offered tips to creating a satisfying board.
The winner of the most creative board took home a basket containing all the supplies needed to make their own charcuterie board at home. Door prizes were also given to the person who drove the furthest to the event and to the person who was the first to register.
Next, Wegner took the floor. She and her husband, Tom, and their children, Lane and Sage, and Tom’s parents farm in Ettrick where they milk 600 cows. Known as Modern Day Farm Chick in social media circles, Wegner motivated women to try something new.
“Share your story,” Wegner said. “Every story matters. I might not change the world, and you might not change the world, but we can change the world for one person. What if you could help one person think differently? Then that trickles down to someone else and that positivity and change keeps on going. That’s where the big change happens.”
Wegner has been sharing her story online for about 10 years. Redefining what it means to be a woman in modern agriculture, Modern Day Farm Chick is Wegner’s platform for sharing her story and connecting with consumers.
“Modern Day Farm Chick is a place for me to be me and share my place in agriculture,” Wegner said. “We’re not that little red barn up on the hill with two chickens, two cows and two dogs. Farmers are smart, educated and innovative and constantly learning and trying to do better and be better. My goal is to show people that.”
Wegner posts on Instagram and Facebook almost daily and tries to blog occassionally.
“In the beginning, I tried to be on all the different social media platforms,” she said. “I was comparing myself to what everybody else was doing, but I figured out what works for me and what didn’t.”
Posting on social media gets easier the longer someone does it, Wegner said.
“If you’re not feeling it, don’t push it,” she said. “I like when things come naturally. Once you start, it keeps snowballing and creating more momentum. When I started sharing my story, I never thought I would book speaking engagements or host events someday.”
Wegner acknowledged the many role shifts for women both inside and outside of agriculture.
“We do what we have to do for the family and farm, and it’s easy to stay stagnant and say, ‘This is it for me now,’” Wegner said. “But, it’s a heck of a lot more exciting if you evolve and change and say yes to things that serve you and no to the things that don’t.”
After the birth of her twins, Wegner’s role on the farm shifted more to the house as she spent the majority of her time caring for her children. She began selling skincare products, which Wegner said was a success in more ways than one.
“I was able to help my friends and those in the ag community with their skin, their lashes, their confidence,” she said. “I was also able to have conversations with people about something other than farm life and kids and made a pretty little penny doing it.”
Wegner was also excited because she now had a new group of women to talk to about agriculture.
“We bonded over skin care and being moms, and a relationship was built,” she said. “That trust was there. And now, who do they come to when they have questions about ag? They come to me. Hearts aren’t changed through stats and facts. Hearts are changed through relationships and through trust.”
When asked what advice she would give to a new farm wife or new farm mom, Wegner recommended that a person should figure out what they like and what works for them.
“Try to create your own goals and not take on things that don’t serve you just because someone is asking you to,” she said. “Get outside the box. You don’t have to be just one thing. It’s so fun to do things that excite and inspire you. I want every woman in ag to know they can create their own space and best life and do things that aren’t the norm.”
Wegner, who has been farming for over 30 years, learned how to drive a tractor for the first time last summer. Growing up on a dairy farm, Wegner said her dad was a cow guy, and she was a cow girl.
“We had a harvesting crew, and there was never any reason for me to drive anything other than a skidsteer,” Wegner said. “I put off driving a tractor because I was so scared – scared that I would be terrible at it, that my husband would make fun of me for not knowing how to do it, that my father-in-law would judge me, or that I’d crash into a power pole.”
Wegner said she bit the bullet and was happy she did.
“I told my husband, ‘Take me out to the field because I’m going to drive this tractor,’ and I did it,” she said. “It’s not that big of a deal; it’s not that hard. I had just built up this scenario in my head of all the things that could go wrong.”
Wegner also encouraged her audience to stop comparing themselves to other women.
“I want to let you in on a little secret,” she said. “Nobody has it figured out, not even me. You have to let that go because we’re all on different journeys and different paths. You are capable of big and amazing things. You just have to get started. That’s the hardest part.”
Following Wegner’s talk, guests enjoyed a catered dinner from Devour in Plymouth. Afterward, they had the chance to interact with the entire group when Reuschel took over the microphone.
Reuschel is a farmer’s wife, mother of two, entrepreneur, motivational speaker and podcast host who lives on a grain farm in central Illinois. She began her segment by inviting everyone up to the front of the room. There, the ladies formed a circle and each one introduced herself to the group.
The women were then pushed further out of their comfort zone when Reuschel asked attendees to change tables a few times so they could meet new people. She provided conversation starters to give attendees the chance to find common ground with one another and learn more about the women at their table.
Reuschel’s “Who am I?” talk challenged women to go after what they want in life and not put limitations on their goals. During her presentation, Reuschel handed out workbooks to each attendee. Inside, the ladies wrote down goals along with thoughts about what is stopping them from going after those goals. After putting their dreams on paper, they came up with steps they could take toward achieving each goal.
“This night was an opportunity to come together, put our goals down and make them actionable,” Hakala said. “I want women to know they’re not alone. Other women are struggling with the same things.”
Agricultural Women’s Night was the first of its kind for Hakala, who hopes to do more events like this in the future.
“At some point, I would like to do a two-day conference,” she said.