As a partner in the family farm, Mary Klaes does the financial record-keeping for their crop production and cattle feeding operation. She served as a 4-H leader for 13 years, has volunteered with the Osage FFA chapter the past 12 years and is a longtime community leader.
Married to husband Curt for 30 years, they raised five children, now successful young adults. Actively involved in their northern Iowa farm, Mary works side by side with Curt.
“I couldn’t do any of this community work if I didn’t have the support of my family,” Mary says. “I rely on them to cover my other responsibilities when I can’t, when I’m out and about with my activities. It’s all about teamwork; that’s for sure. As Curt says, it takes more than one person to hold the team together.”
For years Mary has been among the most visible proponents for development of young leaders and higher education in Mitchell County through her work as a 4-H leader and with Osage FFA. She has recruited and nurtured many students in her volunteer role and has shaped community leaders through these programs.
Volunteering takes commitment
Mary has taught students the importance of public speaking, leadership and community service. She encourages youth to be involved, shows them they are contributing members and gives them self-worth. Mary is committed and caring, says Darla Olson, director of Iowa State University Extension in Mitchell County.
“She’s out in front, not only in the way she has led, but in her ability to recruit other community members to serve in the role as mentors and teachers,” Olson says. “Mary is viewed as an extraordinary role model and an inspiration to others in the skill of ‘giving back.’ An outstanding farm professional, mentor, teacher and volunteer, she is a leader for our community.”
Mary and Curt’s oldest son, Joe, recently moved back to the area to farm. Joe, an ag engineering graduate, and wife Laura have twin 3-year-old daughters.
Mary and Curt have three daughters. Elizabeth is an editor for Our Iowa magazine in Ames; Katie is a grain marketer for Cargill in Ohio; and Laura is a sales trainee for AgReliant Genetics in Ames.
Their youngest child, Matthew, is a student at Iowa State University, earning a degree in chemistry. Their older children all graduated from ISU. Mary and Curt are graduates of Loras College in Dubuque.
Giving back to community
Other organizations and activities Mary is involved in include teaching religious education classes to students at church; she’s taught these classes for 20-plus years. Mary also assists with child care for young parents who attend monthly MOPS (Mothers of Preschool) meetings, to enable young moms to enjoy some fellowship and grow in their parenting skills.
Lisa Peterson, one of the people nominating Mary for the 2018 Iowa Master Farm Homemaker Award, has worked with Mary in MOPS, the Osage FFA Chapter and Senior Interview Day. She helped Mary coach the FFA Ag Sales Team to a state championship.
“An outsider to the ag program could have easily mistaken Mary for the ag instructor,” Peterson says. “Mary has coached and coordinated multiple individuals and teams at the sub-district and state levels.”
While working with high school students, Mary recognized many had never filled out a job application or practiced interviewing for a job. Mary took it upon herself to fix the problem, and Senior Interview Day was developed.
MENTOR: Mary Klaes, who enjoys working with youth, helps students run the FFA food stand at Mitchell County Fair. With Mary are Ashley Hanson (center), parent of an FFA student, and Michelle Wright, a recent graduate of Osage FFA.Coordinating with school administrators, she organized a morning for every senior to go through a “practice” interview for a job within their field of interest. She brought in community leaders and local businesspeople as interviewers. It was an eye-opener for many of the students.
“We’ve done this for two years now,” Mary says. “It’s been a successful learning experience.” Students learn how to present themselves in an interview, how to write a resume, cover letter, things to avoid. They learn how to dress: what business casual and business professional mean. Each student participates in a mock interview.
“Mary is a consummate professional and gets the job done,” Peterson says. “I’m still surprised at all the places in the community I run into Mary, especially now that her last child has graduated high school. Yet, Mary still attends graduation, sports events, choral events, etc. Shortly after those events, she will typically post photos to her Facebook page for parents and others to see and download. Mary is a freelance photographer for our local newspaper and contributes photos to Our Iowa magazine.”
Mary is not the type of person who is looking for accolades or awards; “she just has a humble heart of service,” Peterson says. “This year, the Osage FFA Chapter created and awarded the FFA Mary Klaes Award. The award honors people who have helped the chapter reach its greatest potential. Rightfully, she was the first recipient of the award. The world needs more Marys. It is my pleasure to highly recommend Mary for the Iowa Master Farm Homemaker Award.”