Among the impressive line up of featured speakers at the First Annual Iowa Women’s Landowner Conference, none has a personal backstory that embodies the spirit and purpose of this conference better than Annette Sweeney.
Sweeney is herself a farmer and the current president of Iowa Agri-Women, a coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women and organizations dedicated to shaping policy and protecting the interests of women in agriculture. She is also a former State Representative and served as Chair of the House Agriculture Committee during her tenure.
Today she lives in the same farmhouse she was raised in and owns the same farmstead her grandfather sold to her father. But if we rewind her story some thirty years, we see that her own future in farming was anything but certain.
In 1981, with the farm crisis looming, Sweeney was a teacher in Peoria, Illinois. That was also the year her father passed away, leaving Sweeney’s mother with a farm to run and an enormous inheritance burden. By 1983, Sweeney had left her teaching job and returned to Iowa to fight for the family farm.
Despite the the oppressive economic conditions of the day and the overwhelming odds against her family, Sweeney says they felt “very lucky” for the life lessons and farm management education their father had provided throughout her and her sister’s youth. “Dad always told us ‘You won’t make any money staying inside and cleaning the house,’” she said.
So, in something of an anomaly for that age, the young Sweeney sisters found themselves taking an active role in the family farm, including everything from cultivating corn to sitting in meetings with the family’s attorney.
“That provided a pretty good baseline education,” says Sweeney. Though she admits that taking over the family farm in the midst of a collapsing agriculture economy is akin to “being thrown into the deep end.” She notes with some pride that her family didn’t lose a single piece of property during the crisis.
And while ultimately triumphant, Sweeney would still call her own experience a cautionary tale and one that she hopes will help other women to avoid the dark and difficult days she and her family lived through. will be sharing her story in much greater detail during the Iowa Women’s Landowner Conference and hopes to help other women avoid the dark and difficult days.
“A conference like this would have been a great thing for me,” she says. “Running a farm is so much more than just getting up in the morning and making sure the tractors all have oil and the planter is full of corn. There are legalities, financial aspects, tax laws, and so on – and this conference is all-inclusive. It touches on all of those particulars and provides a great starting point for women landowners who want to be prepared to run their family farms.”
Attend the Conference
To hear more of Sweeney’s story and to learn from other legal and financial experts, plan to attend the Iowa Women’s Landowner Conference on June 13, 2013. Visit the conference page for complete details and to register to reserve your seat today. We also encourage you to share this story by Liking Us on Facebook.