According to Rosie Lisowe, in life there are four F’s: Faith, Family, Friends and Farm Bureau.
Rosie adopted the motto from her friend, Sherry Saylor, from the Arizona Farm Bureau. It is friends like Sherry and Farm Bureau involvement that have fostered Rosie’s growth as an advocate for agriculture.
While the advocacy might be a new role for Rosie, agriculture has always been a part of her life. She grew up on a 70-cow dairy farm in Johnsburg before marrying her high school sweetheart, Joe Lisowe, nearly 25 years ago. Today they farm in partnership with Joe’s father, three brothers, nephew, niece and their son at Lisowe Acres LLC in rural Calumet County.
“There is quite a web we have weaved,” Rosie remarked. “We have family working on our farm in almost every age range: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 80s.”
The extended Lisowe family merged their dairy herds five years ago and built a parlor on the family’s original farm near Chilton. They milk 550 cows three times daily and grow all of the herd’s feed (corn, alfalfa, soybeans, winter wheat and oats) and 50 acres of green beans sold to a nearby canning company on their 1,600 acre spread.
On the farm, Rosie usually helps her husband Joe when needed whether it be feeding cows, running to get parts, making sandwiches or hauling loads.
Off the farm, the certified nursing assistant and licensed cosmetologist uses her skills a few days each week at Calumet County Home Health Care and at a local nursing home where she styles, cuts and colors women’s hair. Rosie has been involved in the Parish council and Altar & Rosary Society at her local church. She also is the funeral chairperson for dinners where she cooks food and is there to comfort and help. Despite all of that, she says her main job is to be the advocate for the farm.
“It is critical for us to tell our story. We need to be advocates for our agriculture industry,” said Rosie, who participated in the Young Farmer Discussion Meet and won the Farm Bureau’s prestigious Achievement Award in 2001 with her husband.
Her passion for ag advocacy has also had a positive impact on the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Women’s Committee, which she has chaired for the past three years.
“Rosie really stepped up and led the effort to take the Women’s Program in a new direction,” recalls Dale Beaty, advisor of the WFBF Women’s Program.
Upon being elected chair of the nine-member state committee, Rosie approached the WFBF Board of Directors and asked, “What do you expect from us? There are nine women on the State Women’s Committee that want to be productive in Farm Bureau. Let’s talk about where we should be heading.”
After taking a good hard look at the program, Farm Bureau members decided it should focus on planning and carrying out projects and activities that educate youth and consumers about agriculture and promote positive messages about topics like farming, food safety and animal welfare. In order to reach consumers and to become stronger ag advocates, the Women’s Committee would also help female Farm Bureau members develop leadership skills.
A high profile change that’s been made was revamping the Women’s Leadership Seminar by partnering with Badgerland Financial and hosting the Wisconsin Ag Women’s Summit last March in Wisconsin Dells. Nearly 400 women between the ages of 20 and 80 attended the Summit that promoted networking opportunities, ag awareness and health/wellness with exceptional speakers, workshops and entertainment. Next year’s event is already being planned for April 27-28.
Rosie points out that Farm Bureau’s Women’s Program helps with Food Check-Out Week (consumer outreach) each February and beef promotional events each July. Each spring they help coordinate the Ag in the Classroom program’s essay contest for Wisconsin fourth and fifth graders. They also encourage ag literacy through the Ag in the Classroom Book of the Year Award.
“Women are the glue that holds things together,” Rosie said. “They are critical to Farm Bureau because farm women carry a lot of power, more than we give ourselves credit for. We need to keep telling our story and be the best agricultural advocates that we can be.”
“Farm Bureau is a great avenue to step up and be involved,” Rosie said. “Farm Bureau is a voice for you. It’s support for you. It stands up for you. It is all these things wrapped together. The opportunities for you to get involved in this grassroots organization are endless.”
“Please check it out,” she urges other farm women. “You’ll be glad you did.”
Story by Sheri Sutton. Original version appeared in the June/July 2011 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.
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