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Agriculturalists Who Influence: Linnea Kooistra

Agriculturalists Who Influence: Linnea Kooistra
Day 30 of 30: This dairy farmer and first-rate human being brings out the best in others. Is there a higher compliment? Her life's work has yielded influence, for sure.

When Linnea Kooistra became the first woman named an Illinois Master Farmer in 2011, our editorial mantra was simple: recognize it and move on. Linnea didn't win because she's a woman; she won because she's an excellent farmer. Those are the praises which must be shouted from the rooftops.

The Woodstock, Ill., dairy farm she and her husband, Joel, operate is the picture of efficiency, production, outreach and partnership, with a lot of hard work thrown in on the side. They come from a long line of farmers, immigrated to the Midwest from the Netherlands, milking cows and raising families. Their herd size has flexed with time and technology, starting at 56 cows, growing to 500 at one point, and now back to the 250-head range. They also farm several hundred acres of crops, as well.

What I have come to learn is that while Linnea is an exceptional farmer and partner, she's also an exceptional human being. She will greet you with a warm hug and genuine concern about how you've been. She is warm and engaging and endearing. She'll talk of herself only when pressed. She'll rarely turn down the chance to tell their farm's story, and she was doing it long before it became fashionable.

When Rod Stoll nominated her for the Master Farmer award, he inquired about attaching stories in which she'd been quoted. I said sure - we often get nominations with a story or two included. I kid you not, Linnea's application included not less than 50 pages of news and magazine stories. Rod should get some kind of award just for compilation. And that was nearly four years ago; imagine the volume he could send today.

Linnea and Joel swing wide the barn doors for guests, too. From 1994 to 1999, they welcomed 3,000 Chicago guests to their farm for breakfast, as a part of the annual Harvard Milk Day. After breakfast, Linnea, Joel and legendary farm broadcaster Orion Samuelson led tours of their farm and answered questions.

And the thing is, that's just one example. Linnea's leadership extends all across Illinois agriculture, the dairy industry and her community. She's presided over the local education foundation, she's an Alliance for Agriculture founding member, she's been part of Dairy Management, Inc.'s national spokesperson network, and she's a graduate of the Illinois Ag Leadership Program. I can assure you, this only scratches the surface of the work she's done in her lifetime.

Rod Stoll says it best: "Linnea has an infectious enthusiasm for learning; she's continuously seeking to process new information and data and understand the latest technologies and management strategies. It's inspiring and educational to be around her! And Linnea has a gentle compassion and genuine empathy for others. She's developed a diverse network of connections around the country – and in fact, the world. But she engages each relationship authentically and generously."

Rod also shared this: "Linnea brings out the best in those around her."

Well. There you go. What more can you ask for in another human being? And in a fellow farmer?

Back in 2011, Linnea closed her Master Farmer acceptance speech by saying she wanted to honor all the hard-working farm women who contribute to the food supply.

"Rural women make up 25% of the world’s population, and in some countries they produce up to 80% of the food," Linnea shared. "Margaret Mead said, 'Never underestimate the power of a committed woman.' I share this award with committed women who feed the world."

That is why Linnea is an agriculturalist who influences.   

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