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Views and opinions: Iowa consultant, humorist to headline Half Century

The Half Century of Progress is touted as the largest working antique farm show in the United States. It is held in Rantoul, Ill., the weekend before the Decatur Farm Progress Show and offers visitors the chance to see what farming was like 50 years ago.

Besides the opportunity to witness antique equipment working in fields and on display, visitors to the Half Century of Progress can listen to presentations by Jolene Brown, an award-winning spokeswoman and champion of agriculture.

Jolene will offer a joy-filled tribute to those who married a farmer. You’ll find yourself laughing (and commiserating) with a smile on your face with her presentation, “Holy Crap! I Married a Farmer!” both August 22 and 23 at 10 a.m.

She will also be presenting the family business side of farming with “Stop the Fighting on the Way to the Funeral Home,” with information on how to honor your family and do the business right. This presentation is taken in part from her book, Sometimes You Need More Than a 2X4, which contains how-to-to tips so those in agriculture can increase productivity, profitability, and peace of mind.

After the presentations, Jolene said, “I will be at a table with my books and would like people to come and share their stories. I would like to celebrate and laugh with them.”

Jolene comes to the Half Century of Progress with vast experience. She not only is a professional speaker, but also was raised on a farm – or, rather, “the farm raised me.”

Growing up on a diversified operation with a father who loved Belgian draft horses, she worked with the animals and showed them at fairs across the country. She married a farmer, as well, and they are “going on 47 years.

“That’s not quite a half-century of progress,” she quipped, “but we’re working on it … We are on a grain farm that started out with livestock, as well. I began speaking began in the 1980s as the economy crashed; I had to find a way to separate self worth from net worth.”

It was a seminar on positive mental attitude that got her started. After hearing the speaker, she sent him a letter to share her gratitude for the “hope” he shared, but added, “What we in agriculture really need is some help.” So, she offered specific tips and the realities of life on the farm.

“Not long after that he called me … listening carefully and asking questions. Then … he said, ‘I have two more seminars in your neighboring states. I’ll shorten my program. I want you onstage.’”

Jolene has been presenting ever since and appears on television, radio, and in print. She also helps out on her family’s corn and soybean farm in eastern Iowa.

Today, with the hardships farmers are facing with the weather, the challenges of tariffs, and more, she said, “It’s time to pause and applaud all we really do and who we are.

“We need to celebrate and remind ourselves that we chose this because we love it. It has been a rollercoaster ride and lately, the valleys were filled with water. I’d like to put Mother Nature on hormone pills,” she joked. “I can’t wait to bring the visitors of Half Century a special ‘time out’ just for them.”

“Stop the Fighting on The Way to the Funeral Home” will take you back home as you focus on family business. “One thing (the audience will) learn is that a conversation is not a contract … and sometimes farmers lie. They may not mean to, but promises are spoken and broken, facts are assumed, and before you know it, we’ve got family fighting on the way to the funeral home.”

In this afternoon presentation she’ll share lessons learned from consulting with hundreds of families who have asked her to help them fix, grow, or transition their businesses: “There is much work to be done to assure that the business and the family remain intact from one generation to the next.”

Jolene noted farmers are a special group of people with a bond to the land and the people on it. She hopes those who come to her presentations leave with lots of laughter, feeling renewed and refreshed knowing how much they are appreciated.

She also wants to remind farmers to be sure to take the time to stop in and check on neighbors and those who may be suffering with the adversities brought on during these challenging times.

For more information about Jolene, visit and details of the Half Century of Progress are available at


Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication. Learn more of Cindy’s finds and travel in her blog, “Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl,” at