Marji Guyler-Alaniz shines a light on women in agriculture
Marji Guyler-Alaniz spent more than a decade working in a corporate setting and, although she was successfully climbing the ladder, felt there was more she wanted to do.
Speaking to an audience of more than 50 people at the 16th annual Farm News Ag Show, Guyler-Alaniz shared her story of how she went from risk management for a large crop insurance company to founder and president of FarmHer.
Guyler-Alaniz was born in Webster City where her grandparents farmed. Now the farm remains in the family with the next generation farming.
She and her family moved to the Des Moines area when she was a young girl and lived on farm before she eventually went to school at Grand View University, majoring in graphic design, journalism and photography.
Through her time at the crop insurance firm Rain and Hail, she earned her MBA from Drake University.
“I spent 11 years climbing that ladder trying to get to what I wanted to do, and when I got there I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore,” she said.
Guyler-Alaniz said Feb. 1, 2013, was her last day working in the corporate world.
Just a few days later, during the 2013 Super Bowl, it was the Dodge Ram pickup truck commercial “God Made a Farmer” narrated by Paul Harvey and featuring still pictures of farmers that eventually changed her life forever.
Guyler-Alaniz said she was reading a newspaper article about the commercial when she became aware of the lack of women represented in the ad.
“I read the article and thought, man this doesn’t seem right,” she said. “And coming off of a career in corporate agriculture it was the same way. Very rarely did I travel with other women, or was in meetings with other women. I was a serious minority. So when I read this, it affected me. I found it frustrating because we are here.”
April 17, 2013, Guyler-Alaniz started taking pictures of women in agriculture.
“I didn’t know how to start this project,” she said. “I knew I was going to take pictures, and it was a beginning of a cool journey.”
Guyler-Alaniz said she had a goal that first summer to take a picture of seven women. She soon started up a basic website, started sharing those photos on social media and FarmHer was born.
“It was in the middle of July when all of that went public and what happened after that shocked me,” she said. “I knew this mattered to me and I visited those seven farms, and I knew there was something really cool out there. Something amazing and something beautiful that I was seeing.”
Guyler-Alaniz said she was shocked at the number of women in agriculture that started coming to her, thanking her and telling her how they could relate with those photographs.
Soon she was advised to trademark the name “FarmHer” which, she said, made it into a real business. She started selling shirts, expanded from the online world and ventured out into speaking about her business.
This led to interest from RFD TV.
“They had been looking for ways to showcase women, to talk about women, to talk to women on their network,” she said. “They wanted to talk about doing a television show that took exactly what I was doing and bringing that to life on television.”
FarmHer continues to grow.
“What is FarmHer? Our mission is to shine the light on the role that women play in agriculture,” she said. “It always has been and always will be.”
Guyler-Alaniz said over the last four years she has come up with a lot of different ways to accomplish that mission through social media, podcasts, radio, merchandise, publications, conferences and television.
“We are about connecting, empowering and inspiring women,” she said.
FarmHer has allowed Guyler-Alaniz to see a lot of different aspects of agriculture — taking her out of the corn and soybean fields of central Iowa to ranches and farms in Montana and Texas to vineyards in California to oyster farms in Maine and cranberry bogs in Massachusetts.
“You name it,” she said. “We have seen a lot of different things and as you have seen by the women I have told you the stories of today, some of them work on farms, volunteer on farms, some work in corporate agriculture, some of them have thousands of acres, some of them have less than one acre. At the end of the day, each and every one of these women is an important part of agriculture and it has been such a neat thing for me to get to experience and see. An absolutely amazing thing.”
FarmHer is now in its second season on RFD TV.