Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

The importance of being rural

Former deputy secretary of agriculture discusses benefits of being rural at IW
Apr 13, 2018
Photo by: Gretchen Teske Christie Vilsack, left, stood with Krysta Harden, center, and IW President Steve Titus, right as she was presented with the 2018 Mansfield award on Thursday, April 12.

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News


Krysta Harden, the former deputy secretary of agriculture under President Obama, was awarded the 2018 Mansfield award for her dedication and leadership in her field. While receiving her award, Harden spoke about the importance of female leaders.

Harden grew up on a peanut farm in Camilla, Ga. and is a graduate of the University of Georgia journalism school. She began her career in agriculture shortly after her graduation and worked diligently to rise to the top of her field.

On Thursday, April 12, Harden spoke to the crowd about the importance of mentors and support. “I think that is what we really miss often when we celebrate women, is the people around them,” she said. Haren credited her family as being her biggest support system throughout her life. She stressed that having strong mentors in the form of family or even community was essential for growth.

“I don’t know if ya’ll really know what you have in this community,” she said. She emphasized that although Mt. Pleasant is rural, it still is relevant. She stressed that the community has built an atmosphere of acceptance and support and continues to take time for its citizens. “You matter because you’re setting an example and because you’re growing leaders,” she said.

Harden continued by saying those leadership skills are what set rural communities apart. She was in New York during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and said people were scared, confused and lost. She said that in rural communities, there is no time to be lost because people are always looking out for one another. “What you have in rural America, that I don’t think others have, is we come together all the time,” she said. “We don’t wait until somebody dies or gets hurt or some security reason to get together.”

She says that staying connected and a foundation of love for the community is what keeps rural America thriving. She commented that the daily newspaper is a sign of people wanting to stay connected and involved in their community, a rare sight in her opinion. She noted that rural communities have more to offer than their economic significance and that is their compassion. “That’s what makes rural America special to me,” she said. “People who just give because it’s the right thing to do.”

Harden said citizens who give their time, and even interest to their community, are what makes rural America relevant. The ability to come together at all times, not just in strife, and stay united. “If that’s not relevant, if that doesn’t make you important, if that doesn’t make you proud, I don’t know what can,” she said.

Lena Henriksen, a freshman biology major at IW was happy to see a speaker of Harden’s reputation at the university. “It brings people out of the community, and it brings awareness to Iowa Wesleyan, too,” she said.

During a question-and-answer session, Harden stated the best advice she ever received was, “Do what you love and love what you do. It sounds so simple, but it’s not,” she said.

She said the people who are happiest in life have jobs they enjoy. By finding joy in one’s work, happiness will follow. “If you love what you’re doing, you’re going to be happy and you’re going to be successful,” she said.

Kendra Hefner, a senior English and psychology major is from Benton City, Mo., a town of just over 100 citizens. She said Harden’s speech was relevant to her because she grew up in a small town, but has lived in larger cities throughout her life. “There’s significance to living in small towns because of the community,” she said. “You can experience both perspectives a little more.”

Currently, Harden is the External Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer at Corteva Agriscience.

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