When Waxahachie, Texas, farm wife Heather Dineen celebrated her birthday last spring, her husband and children gave her a birthday present she won't soon forget.
John Paul Dineen and each of their three children wrote an essay about why Heather should be Monsanto's "Farm Mom of the Year." They combined the essays into a single essay and presented it to Heather on her birthday.
"It was about the best birthday present I could've had," Heather recalls. She went on to win the national contest and was notified just before Mother's Day last year. Since then, she's spoken at a variety of venues, served on grower panels for Monsanto employees, and recorded a video on farm safety. The Dineens are parents to three children, and lost a fourth, their son Johnny, in a farming accident eight years ago.
Entries for the 2015 contest will be accepted beginning Feb. 26 and will close March 31. Entry forms can be found on Monsanto's America's Farmers website, and each nomination must include a 300-word essay on how their farm mom contributes to her farm, family and community, and to the ag industry as a whole.
"Is she passionate about agriculture, is she outspoken?" asks Tracy Mueller, corporate brand manager for Monsanto. The American Agri-Women read through each essay - more than 1,000 were submitted in 2014 - and narrow them down to five regional winners. From there, online voting determines the winner, whose name is announced just before Mother's Day.
Heather says her experience has been one of personal development and growth, particularly in her opportunities to speak to the public. "I try to share that every one of us has an inspiring story and somewhere, someone needs to hear it," she adds.
Related: Letter to a Young Farmwife
Now in its sixth year, the Farm Mom of the Year contest is more sorority or club than competition. Mueller says that each of the regional winners remain part of the Farm Mom organization, and help tell agriculture's story.
"I would highly encourage people to share this," Heather says. "Nominate women who are important to you. It's a great way for people who don't know about agriculture to find out about who grows their food."
This story originally appeared Jan. 15, 2015. It was updated March 24, 2015.