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10 Things Cristen Clark Wishes She Knew at 20

Like most farmers, Cristen Clark wears lots of hats: coach, mother, wife, home cook, and blogger. Her sense of humor and passion for family, food, and farming draw people to her work.

Clark was a keynote speaker on FarmHer’s Midwest Grow Tour last week. Throughout the tour, more than 500 young women, ages 16 to 22, gathered to hear Clark share Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. The Grow Tour visited Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, and University of Wisconsin-Madison campuses with the mission of inspiring, educating, and empowering the FarmHer audience to take an active role in leading the industry.

At each event Clark asks, “What if you could know things now that you’ll realize at age 34?” Participants were encouraged to consider the most important things in their life and make note of them in a life concept map. Clark shared her own priorities: family, faith, farm, education, learning, friends, food, work, and sports.

With those things in mind, Clark continued by presenting an extensive list of facts she wished she had known in her college years. Per her style, some were light-hearted and funny, others were more serious. Many were difficult lessons she had learned on her own, but other statements were bits of advice from fellow FarmHers.

1. Life is so incredibly fragile.

Clark grabbed the room’s attention by opening with a reminder, “Life is so incredibly fragile.” Emotionally recalling her nephew Drake’s story taught her, “Don’t ever, ever take for granted anything in your life.” Going back to the life concept maps, Clark explained how the heartbreaking experience forced her to double-check her priorities. Now she makes a point to be positive and let her loved ones know they are appreciated.

2. Don’t let FOMO screw with your sanity. Slow times are good times.

The young, ambitious crowd was encouraged to remember the importance of relaxation and rest. Fear of missing out (FOMO) can be a distraction, draining the focus you need to achieve your real goals. Overcommitting can take away from important time with friends and family, as well.

3. Carry ChapStick on your person at all times.

On a playful note, Clark recommends never leaving the house without ChapStick. She adds her personal favorite is strawberry, and would appreciate seeing other lip balm enthusiast’s “chap snaps” on her popular Snapchat account.

4. Learn to roll with changes in plans.

Quoting FarmHer’s founder, Marji Guyler-Alaniz, Clark advised young ladies to “embrace it, learn from it, and move on” when things don’t go as hoped. Take the time you need to be disappointed, but pick yourself up and keep moving forward.

5. Cherish your grandparents. Call your mom and dad.

She encouraged young ladies to take time to learn family recipes and to spend time cooking with older generations while they have the opportunity. By the time you’re in your 30’s, those people may not be around to share their stories and wisdom.

6. Be kind to the heavy lifters.

Borrowing a quote from fellow FarmHer and blogger, Megan Brown, Clark emphasized the importance of respect for people who work behind the scenes. Janitors, secretaries, and wait staff don’t get all the glory, but they should be appreciated and thanked.

7.  Brush your teeth.

Clark repeats, “Brush your darn teeth. Brush your dang teeth.” Your 30-year-old self will thank you.

8. Be as gracious a guest as you are a host.

“Do you go the extra mile?” Clark asks the crowd. Don’t just complete the tasks you are assigned, see if you can take them one step further. Your ambition will be noticed and appreciated.

9. Find 90s Country. STAT.

The room erupts with laughter as Clark swoons over a large projected photo of George Straight. She continues to apologize for today’s skinny jean-wearing country music stars, emphasizing her well-known dislike of Florida Georgia Line.

10. Stop and realize how lovely you are and how lovely you have it.

To conclude her hour, Clark shifted back to a more serious note. Everyone in the room has access to education, the blessings of a supportive community, and an industry with a bright future. “Stay in ag. We need you.”

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