Finding your fight song
By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY
AMES – What do you do if you’re scared of failure? It’s a common question Marji Guyler-Alaniz hears from young women, and she answers with some of her favorite lyrics from “Fight Song.”
“Like a small boat on the ocean, sending big waves into motion,” quoted Guyler-Alaniz, founder and president of FarmHer, who spoke at the recent Grow by FarmHer event in Ames on Nov. 6. “Aren’t we all in that boat? We’re just one person, but we can have a big impact. As the song says, ‘I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.'”
It’s an apt description for Guyler-Alaniz, FarmHer and Grow by FarmHer, a day-long event that inspires, educates and empowers young women, ages 16-22, to take leadership roles in agriculture.
“This event is amazing,” said Katie Decker, of Rockwell City, an Iowa State University freshman who is majoring in ag communications and event management. She was one of nearly 400 young women attending Grow by FarmHer. “You hear empowering speakers, and you have the opportunity to network with other women in ag.”
This is exactly what FarmHer is all about, said Guyler-Alaniz, who will discuss “Shining a Light on Women in Agriculture” from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Farm News Ag Show in Fort Dodge.
“If I’d had FarmHer when I was younger, I would have found my voice much sooner,” she said.
Growing from an “accidental” career
Born in Webster City and raised in central Iowa, Guyler-Alaniz didn’t grow up on a farm. She landed an ag-related job after college, though, and worked in administration and risk management for Rain and Hail in Urbandale for 11 years before founding FarmHer.
“I had no plans of working in agriculture, but crop insurance was a wonderful, ‘accidental’ career for me,” Guyler-Alaniz said.
By 2013, though, the time had come for something different.
“I had climbed the corporate ladder but didn’t want to be there anymore,” she said. “I pushed myself off a cliff so I could figure out what I wanted to do next. That turned out to be FarmHer.”
It all started with a football game.
Like millions of other Americans, Guyler-Alaniz spent Super Bowl Sunday 2013 gathered around the television with family and friends. She was captivated by an ad for Dodge Ram trucks featuring stunning rural images and Paul Harvey’s distinctive voice delivering his “So God made a farmer” speech.
The more she thought about the commercial, though, the more Guyler-Alaniz realized something was missing – where were the women?
“I knew women were a big part of agriculture,” she said. “Why wasn’t anyone shining the spotlight on them?”
In the spring of 2013, Guyler-Alaniz created a basic website and social media posts to share her photos of women in ag. She also made a t-shirt to promote her new endeavor, FarmHer.
“It was a defining moment when someone asked to buy one of my shirts and wanted to be part of FarmHer,” she said.
Guyler-Alaniz, a graduate of Grand View University in Des Moines, applied her training in journalism, photography and graphic design to build the FarmHer brand through speaking engagements, photography exhibits and t-shirt sales.
“I totally backed into this,” said Guyler-Alaniz, who trademarked the FarmHer name and formed a corporation by October 2013. “I became a business with no business plan.”
RFD TV showcases FarmHer
To others, the fledgling company sometimes seemed more like a time-consuming hobby than a viable business.
“I must have told my husband a thousand times, ‘I’ll figure this out,'” said Guyler-Alaniz, a mother of two young children.
FarmHer took a big leap forward in the fall of 2015 when RFD TV contacted Guyler-Alaniz.
“The network wanted to portray more women in ag,” she said. “I liked the idea that RFD would allow me to keep sharing these stories with a wider audience in a positive way.”
The popular FarmHer TV series is now in its second season. The FarmHer business has also expanded from Guyler-Alaniz’s basement to include three full-time staff at an office in Urbandale.
Keeping FarmHer relevant is the key to the company’s growth, she added.
“I’m still shocked by how much FarmHer means to others,” she said. “It’s inspiring to share the stories of America’s amazing women in agriculture.”
Adding tools for success
During the Ames Grow by FarmHer event, Guyler-Alaniz shared these stories and offered more tools for success that women can add to their toolbox, including:
– Just ask. Whether it’s a job, a raise or a promotion, Guyler-Alaniz encouraged women to ask for what they want. “Asking never hurts a thing. You’ll never know what’s possible if you don’t ask.”
– Speak up. “Your voice matters,” she said. “How many times have you been in a situation where you should have spoken up and didn’t? If you don’t say it, nobody will.”
– Have a comeback. It happens to everyone – sooner or later someone will say or do something that makes you feel less than you are, Guyler-Alaniz said. “Instead of thinking of a great comeback 20 minutes later, keep a comeback like ‘I don’t accept that’ in your pocket. When you use it, you’re not just sticking up for yourself, but for others who have been in your shoes.”
– Find your fight song. Whether it’s an actual song or another source of inspiration, finding the power to push forward is essential, she said. “FarmHer is my fight song. While it gives me strength, it has nothing to do with me. FarmHer is all about the strong women in agriculture I meet.”
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