You know how sometimes you meet someone and you just know they have a gift?
That's the way it is with Erin Ehnle.
I first became aware of her work nearly three years ago. Beautiful farm images began showing up on social media, each designed with a quote or nugget of farm fact. Worded well. Designed well. Shot well. Just done well. Before long, people began flocking to her Facebook page, Keeping It Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl, to the tune of 27,600 fans today. It was not uncommon for one of her images to be shared 800 or 1000 or 1500 times.
It resonated. It influenced.
The naysayers showed up quickly, too. Like a lot of Internet commenters, they had a tendency to be short, defensive – sometimes offensive – and often forgetting the insults they're hurling target a real person. Time and again, I read as Erin quietly related to them, asked them questions, cleared up misconceptions and in short, disarmed them entirely by showing she was a normal person who happened to know something about the agriculture they were criticizing.
When I began looking into the question – who is this person behind this social media page? – I was shocked to learn she was but a college student. A sophomore, at that. She was all of 20 years old and living on her parents' farm. I called her up and we did a story in Prairie Farmer. She was lovely and engaging and talented. Erin went on to the University of Illinois, graduated last spring, and has launched her own business.
What I have observed over these past years is that Erin has pioneered a class of young agriculture advocates who have figured out how to use their talents to tell agriculture's story, and to do it with the kind of grace and class and creativity that draws in our non-ag friends – and even the naysayers. She doesn't yell because she doesn't have to. She gets it. She's in good company, too, with people like the Peterson Farm Brothers, in Kansas. They're offering up a positive message. They're influencing people, for good. For agriculture.
Erin may well be the youngest influencer in this series, standing with people like Becky Doyle, Jim Evans and Colleen Callahan. But I'd argue she has their very best qualities: an infinite ability to bring people together, to build consensus. I've read quips on those internet memes that say "the good ones never fit in" – that they stand alone, as if your inability to get along makes you great. I don't think that's true. Because what has been true of each of the agricultural influencers I've featured this month is that each knows how to work with people. How to communicate and how to bridge gaps, how to bring disparate opinions together and get something positive done.
It's what makes Erin Ehnle an agriculturalist who influences…today and down the road.
Note: My friend, Katie Pinke, featured Erin in her Women in Agriculture series this month, too! Further note: do you need Christmas ideas? Erin sells prints and canvases of her images. They're beautiful.
Agriculturalists Who Influence: The Series
- Day 1: Introduction
- Day 2: Jim Evans
- Day 3: Becky Doyle
- Day 4: David and Nancy Erickson
- Day 5: Katie Pinke
- Day 6: Joe Hampton
- Day 7: Noreen Frye
- Day 8: Carolyn Olson
- Day 9: John and Kendra Smiley
- Day 10: Colleen Callahan
- Day 11: Neil and Debbie Fearn
- Day 12: Martin Barbre
- Day 13: Pam Smith
- Day 14: Jim Esworthy
- Day 15: Erin Ehnle