My Generation
Agriculturalists Who Influence: Sharon Spangler

Agriculturalists Who Influence: Sharon Spangler

Day 22 of 30: All across the country and all across generations, there are farm wives yielding powerful influence in their farms, families and communities.

I suspect there will be some who see this and think, "Sharon Spangler. Huh. I don't think I know her."

Still others – likely those within this county or even state – will read her name and nod. And think warm thoughts.

Sharon Spangler is a farm wife, in every good sense that phrase was ever conceived to convey. She is warm, inviting, engaging, generous with time and talent, consummate in her love of family and producing good food – in all the ways. She gardens like it's her last chance, preserves it all for later and serves up delicious meals. She knows as much as anyone else about this farm and can out-work us all.

She lives to serve. Always.

Sharon grew up on a farm a town or two away. She showed pretty much everything in 4-H, went to the University of Illinois and majored in home economics. She came home, married my father-in-law, taught school and raised babies. She worked on the farm. She encouraged every last student in the tri-county area to go to the University of Illinois and to live at 4-H House (or Nabor House if, you know, they were male). She's led the 4-H club for 40 years and taught countless kids to sew.

In the 15 or so years she's had grandchildren exhibiting animals, she's hardly missed a cattle, sheep or dog show. She mostly likely has her Illinois State Fair 2015 hotel room already booked. One of my most-favorite stories involves Sharon and the mending of the sheep blankets before the state fair one year. When returned to the grandchild, the blankets came back not only mended, but washed, pressed and starched. I don't know whether those lambs won or not, but they were in fact the best dressed lambs in Springfield that year.

A very special 10th birthday, on a special girls trip to NYC. Highlights included Macy's, Rockefeller Center and lunch at American Girl. And yes, turning 11 was a little anticlimactic. But we'll never forget this trip together.

She's an investor of time, too. Every year since I don't know when, she's taken each of her nine grandchildren for a special day on their birthday. Every year. Times nine. For my kids, that's come to mean a day of quality time with Grandma Sharon, shopping and doing what they love. Nathan once visited three different John Deere dealerships, which might be his actual definition of heaven.

And speaking of, as of this month, all nine of her grandchildren have placed their trust in Christ as their savior. There's a common denominator there. That's influence, of the very highest order.

The truth is, my life and my family's life have been changed by her life. Been made better. She's taught me how to serve, even when I don't feel like it. (Seriously, we're packing another lunch?) How to care for my people. How to let things go. She's helped me clean my house and mow my yard and occasionally my ironing pile disappears and comes back on hangers, which may be the greatest blessing ever. And the most powerful advice I've ever had, which comes to me in those moments of overwhelming certainty that I'm screwing this all up: You can have it all, just not all at once. Pace yourself.

Amen. My people will be little only once; the work will always be here.

She hasn't won any awards for this, and no national farm organization has singled her out for her work because they just don't do that kind of thing. But like the hundreds of other farm wives I know, she so very obviously isn't doing it for the recognition. She's doing it because it's right. Because it's what she believes she was put here to do. It's a life of quiet but incredibly powerful influence, like those of so many other farm women. Those are lives that have shaped American agriculture.

So I hope that in reading this you'll think warmly of your own farm wife mother or mother-in-law. Think of all she does or did for your family. Think of all the ways she's influenced your family, your farm and the way you raise food. Because while she may do it quietly, she is without a doubt an agriculturalist who influences.


Agriculturalists Who Influence: The Series


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