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Inspiration for Young FarmHers from Marji Guyler-Alaniz
In 2013, Marji Guyler-Alaniz took a leap of faith and quit her corporate job of 11 years. Inspired by a Super Bowl commercial, she decided to start taking photos of women to shine a light on their role in agriculture. Today, her photography project has evolved into the popular FarmHer brand and includes merchandise, a podcast, television show, and events around the country.
Last week the FarmHer Grow Tour hosted one-day events for young women ages 16 to 22 at Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. To conclude each inspiring and educational conference, Guyler-Alaniz shared how finding her fight song in FarmHer has changed her life.
As participants settled in for the final session of the day, a slideshow of images featuring Guyler-Alaniz’s travels over the last four years scrolled by as Rachel Platten’s hit Fight Song played in the background. The song ended and Guyler-Alaniz took the stage as lyrics of the first phrase appeared behind her.
Like a small boat / On the ocean / Sending big waves / Into motion
Briefly summarizing her career, Guyler-Alaniz explained how she learned to stand up and use her voice to advocate for what she believes. She continued to reveal that she didn’t grow up on a farm and ended up working in agriculture because after college, she simply needed a job.
Working in the corporate environment, she climbed the ladder, holding five positions in 11 years. “I asked for every one of those raises or new positions,” Guyler-Alaniz told the attentive crowd. As she climbed the ranks, many times she was the only female in a meeting or working on a project.
Expressing her opinions wasn’t always easy. Guyler-Alaniz continues to describe her learning process, quoting Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In. “Too many women sit on the side of the room, when they should be sitting at the table. Too many women lower their voices, when they should be speaking up.
“I am just one person with one idea. You are one person who can have a really big voice,” shared Guyler-Alaniz, pointing to the room full of young women.
Like how a single word / Can make a heart open / I might only have one match / But I can make an explosion
Continuing her Lean In reference, Guyler-Alaniz tells the students to find their voice and use it. “Speak up,” she said.
FarmHer started as one idea or one match: Shine a light on women in agriculture. In the beginning, it was a simple photography project without direction for the future. It has made an explosion, now highlighting female farmers and ranchers across the country in various formats. Today, the FarmHer team includes three Iowa women, and a network of fans around the world.
To emphasize her point, Guyler-Alaniz interrupted her presentation to give away a copy of Lean In to one lucky audience member at each stop. She encouraged the recipient to apply the lessons and pass the book along to a fellow FarmHer after they finish reading it.
And all those things I didn’t say / Wrecking balls inside my brain / I will scream them loud tonight / Can you hear my voice this time?
As the final phrase of the chorus displayed at the front of the room, Guyler-Alaniz recalled the urge to do something after realizing the image of agriculture needed to be updated to include women. She couldn’t shake her creative thoughts. They were like wrecking balls inside her brain, begging to be expressed. After visiting her first FarmHer, she knew the images and stories she was capturing couldn’t be kept to herself.
Just a few weeks ago, Guyler-Alaniz was out for her routine morning run. Fight Song was on repeat as she ran in the dark. As she analyzed the lyrics, she said aloud, “FarmHer is my fight song.”
Startled by her own voice cutting through the quiet morning air, Guyler-Alaniz knew she had to challenge the Grow attendees. “FarmHer is my fight song. What is your fight song? What is going to push you? How will you make your voice heard?”