Farm Progress

If ever you’ve wondered if you make a difference, take a glimpse into Janeen Emory-Kolb’s life and a little conversation in our kitchen.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

December 2, 2016

2 Min Read

Have you ever had those days when you’ve wondered if you make a difference? If anyone pays any attention? If what you do matters?

Because I’d wager to guess that if you ponder any of those questions, the answer is yes — a resounding yes.

Last week, we got word that our friend Janeen Emory-Kolb had died suddenly. Janeen was just 55. She grew up in our community, worked in Extension for many years, and volunteered at the Illinois State Fair junior beef show for more than 30 years. Janeen was smart and sensible and hardworking.

As I was telling my husband the news the other night, our oldest, Jenna, piped up.


“Wait, I know who you mean. She helped check in our heifers at the state fair, right?”

That’s right, I told her, surprised that she knew whom we were talking about. I showed her a picture to confirm.

“Yes! That’s her. She was always so nice. She always smiled and talked to us and helped us. That’s really sad,” Jenna said.

And just like that, perspective, from a young person who remembers. Janeen was really nice. And she did make it fun for the kids. And on a day when things are more than a little crazy — i.e., checking in cattle on a hundred-degree day at the state fair — she was a helper. So much so that even the harried young people remember. She helped 400 kids check in their cattle every year. They will miss her.

It makes me think of so many thankless volunteer jobs: the school board member, the fair board member, the 4-H leader, the livestock show volunteer. I think a lot of us do these jobs and wonder if we’re doing any good. But isn’t it the little things that matter? You smile at a kid, you chat them up, you make it better.

Do you do any good? If Janeen’s life and ability to touch a single life is any indication, the answer is yes — a resounding yes.

The little things always matter.


About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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