People may tell her these are things a woman just doesn't do, but this mom is proving that nothing is impossible for today's farm woman
The first Women in Denim event was held in Storm Lake Friday and Saturday, drawing good crowds for the effort intended to educate and empower rural women.
In one case, an area farm wife in turn inspired those who attended.
This year's winner of the Women in Denim Inspiration Award is Vance Hjelm, Lake Park. She was nominated by her daughter, Melanie Bloom, Marathon.
A panel of judges made their choice from essays for five nominees. The winner was announced Friday evening at the Women in Denim banquet.
This is Melanie's nomination essay about her mother.
A neighbor at home once told me that the first time he saw my mother was when she was driving a tractor in one of her dad's fields - and he remembered being in awe of her from that point on. I couldn't agree more. The woman I know often answered the phone to hear a telemarketer ask for "Mr. Vance Hjelm"; but is undeterred as a woman in a "man's world."
My mother has been a rock in my life, through losses of family members early on, through tough times in the farm business in the '80s, through good times, through losing my dad a few years ago to a farm accident. Besides being the housewife, her resume also includes book keeper, market analyst, tractor driver, pig counter, management specialist, cattle pusher and calf puller, decision-maker, researcher, runt pig collector, gardener, home improvement specialist, WELCA member, 4-H leader, homework tutor, Junior American Legion Auxiliary volunteer leader and a great family member, among others. She also found time to work for the Northwest Iowa Farm Business Association, helping other farm operations with their tax returns and book keeping. Thinking she might be getting bored, mom now also serves on the county FSA board and the Iowa Lakes Electrical Cooperative board.
As she works, her sponge-like capacity to absorb details and ideas amazes me. Mom catches everything. We never got away with doing part of a job; we'd get it finished. Although she didn't get to finish her college degree, she is well-educated. She pushed my sister and I to finish our education, and encourages her son in the military and college. One disappointment for her in high school was not being able to join FFA. Both my sister and I were strongly encouraged to join that organization, with a vengeance - we were both leaders in our chapter and I now teach high school agriculture and advise an FFA chapter.
We have watched mom do things that we've been told "women just don't do" and probably have inherited that same mentality. She has inspired us to proudly work on the farm. Now I help with my husband's farming operation and my sister helps on the farm at home on her weekends off from the Ankeny banking business.
I most admire my mom for never giving in when she really believes in something. When she is determined, she does what she thinks is best, even when sometimes it seems everyone disagrees with her, including her own kids.
People who know her know just where she stands on things. She does her best to support the people she cares about. If she gives you her word, you can be sure it will get done. She will be the last to tell you that she knows everything or that she is better than anyone else.
I think most nominees will have many of the same virtues and strengths of character, but as far as I'm concerned, she is a strong woman whom I admire.
Vance's award included a framed certificate and a Wilton pewter tray.
The Women in Denim program included several awards, activities and speakers, and organizers hope to make it a regular happening in Buena Vista County.