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Professional Women Leave Cities for Look at Life on the Farm

August 5, 1991

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) _ Professional women are leaving their banks, law offices and medical clinics this summer to walk through corn fields and cattle barns.

Later, the farm women who are their hosts are going to town to spend a day on the job with these bankers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals.

The Illinois Farm Bureau exchange is designed to remedy one of the ironies of the Midwest: farms and cities are separated by only a few miles, but often they are worlds apart.

″This is a person-to-person opportunity to share details of their jobs, their lifestyles and their concerns,″ said Ellen Culver, director of family activities at the Bloomington-based Farm Bureau.

″We want the (city) women to learn about modern agriculture, and we want the farm women to see what the professional women in town are involved in,″ Culver said.

It is the first year for the adopt-a-professional program. About 30 farm women across the state have invited professional women from nearby cities to come to the country and see how food is produced.

Jan Wassmann of Waterman showed newspaper publisher Kathy Siebrasse and radio station manager Dianne Leifheit, both from nearby DeKalb, her family’s 1,100-acre cattle and grain farm.

″My main goal was to let them see how involved many women are in the farming operation - marketing grain, planting and harvesting,″ said Wassmann. ″We also wanted them to know that farming is a big business involving large sums of money and a lot of risk along with the rewards.″

She invited two neighbors to describe how they sell grain and how they help their husbands drive the tractors and haul commodities to market.

″The most interesting thing to me was how you get rid of these products, whether they are beef, pork or grain,″ Leifheit said. ″The marketing is so sophisticated and the timing of sales is critical.″

Some of the farm women also wanted to clear up some misconceptions about agriculture.

″We are really concerned about pesticides and are cutting back, using as little as we can,″ said Dee Stierwalt of Sadorus in Champaign County.

Stierwalt, whose family farms 2,300 acres and raises cattle, gave Parkland College president Zelema Harris a look at her garden and served fresh vegetables and beef produced on the farm.

Harris drove a tractor to a nearby field and Bob Stierwalt pulled off an ear of corn and showed her how pollination takes place.

Attorney Sharon Costa of Mt. Vernon was looking forward to her visit to a farm near Centralia.

″I don’t know much - I recognize corn but I’m a little shaky on beans,″ Costa said. ″I think it’s a good idea to find out what the other guy is doing - you create sympathy and understanding.″

She said she hoped to take her farm host, Mary Jane Corners, with her to court during the city visit to show her how the legal process works.

Dr. Shehnaz Ansari, who specializes in family practice and psychology in Pittsfield, said she hoped to learn more about farming since many of her patients have farm backgrounds. She also recently bought some farmland.

End Adv PMs Monday, Aug. 5

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