Christmas was always my mom's thing. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, she began to adorn our home with gaudy tree trimmings, holiday train sets, lighted villages and outdoor lights. As her children, we were resolved to baking pies, cookies, and dinner rolls. I loathed decorating and baking, no matter how good the batter tasted. Still, my mother required that I participate. Over the years, she taught me all I needed to know to make the holiday season special for my family and friends.
After she lost her battle with ovarian cancer seven years ago, we kept many of her traditions alive. I inherited her tree and trimming style. My daughters require that it hold all of her ornaments, as well as, our own. We also have her toy soldier band that plays "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and place it under the tree. Lighted houses and villages adorn the top of my kitchen cabinets. However, the only outdoor light is the occasional star on the barn.
My daughters and I bake pies, cookies and dinner rolls, all from mom's recipe box. And while we bake, we reminisce. We talk of the tradition of the 12 Days of Christmas my mother started when my children were young. They chuckle at the 12 small gifts of coloring books, toothbrushes and trinkets, Grandma allowed them to unwrap each day before Christmas Eve. Then on that day, they received their final gift--Christmas pajamas. Despite the fact that my girls are now 17 and 19 years of age, I still carry that tradition to this day-including coloring books.
My mother's lasting influence on my life started me thinking about how many women in agriculture are leaving their mark on the next generation. For some it is in the home. For others it may be in the workplace or the classroom.
At the recent "Pearls of Production" seminar in Columbia, I found two examples of women who are true gems to Missouri's agriculture industry.
Remembering the interns
There were three of us sitting in the audience who had already received the hug and answered the question, "Hey girl, how are you?" from Darla Eggers. At one time in our youth, we all worked for Darla as an intern.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
For me it was as an intern with the Missouri Pork Producers Association. It was there she taught me how to produce a slide show (yes, I am dating myself), plan a trade show and present information to industry leaders. She demonstrated her attention to detail, but more importantly her passion for agriculture. She filled the room with fun, laughter and a smile.
She imparted on me the need to enjoy our profession and be passionate about it. Darla is one of those women in agriculture that leaves her mark on you, one that time or distance cannot erase.
Beyond the seminars
In a room packed with industry leaders, farmers and university personnel, I watched as Marcia Shannon walked up to a young lady and sat down to eat lunch. It turns out that Ariella Morrow took part in a summer swine youth program ran by Marcia years earlier. It struck me that Marcia has done countless swine programs for Missouri youth, yet she still remembers the participants.
The next day Marcia was in the MU Swine Teaching Facility helping women of all ages understand swine production practices. From administering shots to artificial insemination, she took the time to ensure that every woman knew how to replicate the process at their farm. Despite being a university professor, there was no question too senseless. She was gracious and genuine in her quest to help educate women on pork production.
Marcia is a rare jewel in Missouri --she is equally passionate about swine, youth and women in agriculture. After all, what mother of two would spend her Saturday morning, well beyond the time scheduled, to visit and share her knowledge and enthusiasm for swine production?
Celebrate your gems
As women, we need to make sure that we continue to engage the next generation whether in the home, classroom, farm or workplace. We need never be too busy to share our passion for agriculture. For my male readers, recognize those women in your lives for their passion and commitment.
There are true gems in the agriculture industry, like a Darla who sparks a passion for writing and a Marcia who ignites an interest hog production. But I am drawn back to a where it all started--a mom who kindled the flame that fuels my family memories and warms our hearts this holiday season.