Last week, I had the opportunity to report about Iris Westman celebrating her 113th birthday and her deep connections in agriculture as well as her passion for education. The print story was published in Agweek and several Forum News Service publications and the AgweekTV story was carried across the region.
NORTHWOOD, N.D. — This week, Iris Westman celebrated her 113th birthday. Westman was born in 1905 and is a 1928 graduate of the University of North Dakota. As the oldest living North Dakotan, she still owns and rents out some of the family farmland she grew up on, possibly making her the oldest living farmer in America. "I still have a farm. Yeah, I am a farmer!" says Westman. Westman grew up on the farm with her parents and brothers. Two sisters both passed away when Iris was a young girl.
In July, WeWork, a New York-based company valued at $20 million, announced it will no longer allow its 6,000 global employees to expense meat at meals or pay for any red meat, poultry or pork at WeWork events. In an email memo to employees, co-founder Miguel McKelvey said, "New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact, even more than switching to a hybrid car."
HARWOOD, N.D. — With farm fields surrounding us in rural Cass County I was seated at table five at the fifth annual Banquet in a Field at Peterson Farms Seed this past week. The only person I knew at the table was Randy Melvin, a farmer from the Buffalo, N.D., area. I was there as a volunteer with CommonGround North Dakota, the host of the event and an organization I've been a part of since 2012.
WISHEK, N.D. — The University of Wyoming's new slogan, "The world needs more cowboys," is drawing criticism for being sexist and racist. Here's my first reaction: Yes, the world needs more cowboys. If you don't agree, your idea of a cowboy is different than mine. It's acceptable to think differently, and we can agree to disagree. I'm worn out by being politically correct, but I understand I'm a white, middle-class, rooted in rural America female who has a different worldview than most. Therefore, I might be offended — or not — by things differently than you.
PISEK, N.D. — A colleague said to me this week, "I have to pick up my children at daycare tonight and I'm always the last mom." I smiled and recalled writing a blog post several years ago about being the last mom. I dug it out and reread it after I dropped off my daughters for their last afternoon of basketball camp this past week. Their awards program was scheduled for 4 p.m. I explained to them I had a work meeting in West Fargo at 3 p.m. and it would take me 20 minutes to get to their camp in Moorhead, Minn. As they got out of the vehicle I said, "I might walk in at 4:05 p.m.
"Failure is temporary. Your dad told me that on the night I asked him to marry you," recalled my husband. I laughed. My dad wasn't talking about marriage or relationship failures, but instead encouraging my husband to step out and take a chance by leaving his corporate career to move home to work in his family's business. I continued to listen as my husband spoke about the lessons in failure my farmer dad had shared with him. It was election night, and Nathan had just learned he wouldn't win a seat on our local school board.
We have two dogs. Libby is a 3-year-old female Labrador retriever, and Champ is our yellow male Labrador retriever "puppy" who is now one and came to live with us after our dog Mauer went missing last spring and was found dead. They are my sidekicks most mornings and nights when I go for walks.
WISHEK, N.D. — To live where you want or where you've landed due to family or marriage circumstances, you often must get creative in career and job choices. In the past two weeks, three rural women have reached out for career advice, specifically asking about my journey. I live 97 miles from a Starbucks. I use that phrase to put into perspective our rural location, as there seems to be a coffee shop on every corner in cities and larger towns. In rural America, we make our own coffee before heading to work, which doesn't have the traffic congestion of a city commute.
WISHEK, N.D. — Aside from my husband, one of the most important relationships I've had to cultivate is with my mother-in-law. This week is her birthday. Carol told me, "Don't worry about gifts." My gift, aside from a few things my daughters picked out for her, is this column, recognizing how she has selflessly given to our family and my career and encouraged me as a mother.