Five years ago, I would've said if you hadn't met a person in real life, you couldn't call them a friend. You need to shake hands. Or hug. Or something.
Then Katie Pinke became my Facebook friend. I came to know her as a strong voice, always eager to share about agriculture, to share about her family and her parents' farm, and to offer an encouraging word.
Last winter, we finally got to meet in real life during my speaking trip to South Dakota and everything I suspected was true: she is intelligent and full of good ideas. She knows people and can assess abilities quickly. She is driven and passionate and engaged. She loves agriculture. She's a Jesus girl who loves her people and strives for balance. She's a consensus builder. She's fiercely devoted to all things Dakota and German Russian – her husband's heritage. I hear he's known to converse in German with customers at their family's lumberyard.
As for Katie, I wish she lived down the road because we could solve a lot of the world's trouble over hot tea. Then again, if I could have that wish come true for every person I have thought it of, we would have a most amazing road. And it really wouldn't be fair to the rest of the world.
But I digress. Katie's is an amazing story: she was an unwed teenage mother who, through sheer force of will and her own mother's determination, went to college, raised her son and came back to North Dakota. She went to work for Ad Farm, continued raising her son, met her husband on a plane, married him and had two beautiful baby girls. During Farm Bill discussions two years ago, she candidly shared what the food assistance program did for her. She's worked for the North Dakota Department of Agriculture until she gave up the hour and a half commute to spend more time at home. Today, she works as a consultant from home, writing, strategizing, speaking and more.
But no matter what job she's held, this I've known to be true about Katie Pinke: she brings people together to do good in agriculture. And food. She builds bridges between farmers and consumers through her Common Ground efforts. She builds bridges between farm bloggers, encouraging and introducing. And always relentlessly positive.
Katie's influence, while certainly centered in her beloved North Dakota, has reached across the country – including to Ree Drummond, the actual Pioneer Woman. Katie has come to know her through Blogher events, where Ree refers to her as one of the "ag girls." Most excellent.
That's a high profile example, but I imagine there's hardly a farm blogger or advocate who doesn't know Katie in some capacity because of her desire to reach out, encourage, build consensus and extend candor. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if North Dakotans someday elect Katie Pinke Ag Director. When the timing's right, of course.
It's one of the reasons she's an agriculturalist who influences.
Note: Katie is part of the 30 Days of Ag series this year! Check out her series, 30 Days of Women in Agriculture. She started it last year and it proved so popular, she carried it on this year.
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