A Dream and a Camera
One Iowan sets out to spotlight women in ag
Marji Guyler-Alaniz watched in admiration as a 2013 Super Bowl ad featuring strong and weathered farmers and ranchers promoted Dodge Ram pickup trucks. The images struck a chord with Marji, who had just ended a decade-long career in corporate agriculture. Yet, she realized the representation was missing a critical part of the farming lifestyle -- women.
At that time, women made up 30 percent of producers in the U.S., but were rarely portrayed within the industry. Marji made up her mind to change that. She had quit her job to find something new and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do what she loved.
Embracing her lifelong passion for photography, she set out to tell the stories of Iowa women in agriculture, eventually turning her passion into a business called FarmHer.
"I had always thought I wanted to be a photographer, but never knew how to make that work," Marji said. "I just wanted to capture and show women as part of agriculture because they're not the people who are going to jump up and down and say, 'Look what I do,' they're just going to do it."
Not long after sharing the project's first photos and behind-the-scenes stories, Marji began getting requests for merchandise, resulting in a visit to the small business development center and the creation of a business plan. Meanwhile, she continued to fill her calendar with photo shoots and speaking events, traveling all over the country. She also created her own events like Grow, a gathering to connect young women with women in agriculture.
However, as she continuously traveled to share other people's stories and promote the business, Marji spent even more time away from her own family while making little money. Something needed to change.
As she was loading up her trailer after another event, Marji received a phone call from RFD TV, a national channel that features programming devoted to rural concerns and interests. They wanted to make FarmHer into a weekly program.
She agreed to partner with them and in the fall of 2016, FarmHer aired its first episode with Marji as the host. Within the next year, it expanded into another storytelling medium. A weekly podcast called Shining Bright, also with Marji as the host, soon followed and grew to be just as successful.
Together, the FarmHer TV show and podcast tell the stories of hardworking FarmHers across the country.
The stories spotlight women like Pam Lunn, who left her corporate job to open The Dancing Goat dairy in Florida; Joanna Fogg, who followed her dream of working on the water by starting an oyster farm in Maine; Marilyn Adams, a mother who lost her son in a grain bin accident; and Anya Irons, an orphan from Russia who came to be a farmer in Illinois.
"These people are so cool," Marji said of all the FarmHers. "They're everyday people and are so deserving of recognition. There's just something amazing about each and every one of them and I remember every single person I meet."
Today, Marji continues to share these inspiring stories as the TV show enters its fourth season and the podcast its third. She continues speaking at events and promoting FarmHer as well as its new partner company, RanchHer, which will soon have its own show on RFD's cattle channel.
Though she spend a lot of time outside of her home state, Marji always returns to her home community of Grimes, Iowa, where she aims to create more community building events like Grow to connect people with the world of agriculture and farming.
"Iowa is my home; it always has been and always will be. I absolutely love this state and our community," Marji said. "I chose to live close to where I grew up because it's important for me to spend time in my community and give back to that part of me that helped me get to where I am today."