Hemmes’ Top 5 Tips for Success in Farming and Life

During her 32-year farming career, nothing has stopped Hemmes, known as an assertive, outspoken, ebullient ag leader who’s more likely to wear a “Well behaved women rarely make history” shirt than a seed corn cap.

In 2016, Hemmes spoke at 10 conferences, including the Farm Progress Show; traveled to five foreign countries to discuss U.S. agriculture and sustainable crop production; conducted radio and television interviews with 12 media outlets; and hosted more than 30 visitors on her farm. Twenty of these visitors were from China, and four participants had the opportunity to drive Hemmes’ combine during harvest.

Hemmes offers her top five tips for success in farming and life:

  1. Mentors matter. Hemmes (’82 animal science) credits her grandfather, Bert Hemmes, for encouraging her to farm, and her high school ag teacher, David Flint, for inspiring her to learn all she could about agriculture. This support helped her thrive at Iowa State University, where only 5 percent of her fellow animal science students were female. Today, that number has risen to 75 percent.
  2. When there’s a roadblock, take a detour. When the 1980s Farm Crisis made it tough to return to the farm, Hemmes accepted a job at a bank in Omaha. “Be willing to try new things,” she says. “I’ve learned you have to do what’s best for your farm and your family.”
  3. Leverage your contacts. As her career evolved, Hemmes became an Iowa State University agronomy department research assistant and later worked at the Iowa Swine Testing Station in Ames before serving as a legislative aide in Washington, D.C. for Iowa Congressman Jim Ross Lightfoot. “Never lose your contacts,” Hemmes says. “Every job I had is because of someone I knew.”
  4. Start small, but pursue big dreams. When Hemmes returned to the Hampton area to farm full-time in 1985, she converted an old shed into a farrowing barn and raised 30 sows. As she modernized the operation, she bought her first piece of ground in 1996. Today, Hemmes owns approximately 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and pasture land. “Even after 32 years, people still think my husband is the farmer,” jokes Hemmes, whose husband, Tom Kazmerzak, has an offfarm job in Hampton.
  5. Give back. Hemmes serves with the United Soybean Board, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Beginning Farmer Center Advisory Council, Franklin County Soil and Water Commissioner, Franklin County Farm Service Agency County Committee, Reeve Township clerk, 4-H Beef project leader and more. “My dad was a member of the local extension council and my mom was a long-time 4-H leader, so early on I saw the value of extension and learned the importance of giving back,” says Hemmes, who received Iowa State University’s Women Impacting the Land award in 2016 for her conservation efforts. “I love working with people in agriculture, especially kids, and feel fortunate to be an Iowa farmer.”