Marji Guyler-Alaniz: Iowa Photographer and Advocate for Women in Agriculture
The heartwarming commercial used narration from Paul Harvey’s “So God Made a Farmer” speech, originally delivered at the 1978 National FFA Convention and Expo. Compelling photographs of American agriculture popped on the screen, but what struck photographer Marji Guyler-Alaniz the most was the lack of women—only three—in the ad.
Dawn of a Mission
Shortly after the Super Bowl, Guyler-Alaniz embarked on a mission to make sure the image of agriculture included more women. That mission has morphed into FarmHer, an online social community for women who are making agriculture their life’s work. “Advancing the image of women in ag was my new mission in life,” says Guyler-Alaniz. “I needed to combine it with my passion for photography, so I began photographing the amazing women of agriculture. I knew through my photographs that I would be able to share their unique stories and the beautiful yet important work they do. These photographs, I hoped, would one day update the image of agriculture to include more women.”
To date, Guyler-Alaniz has photographed more than 1215 women across the country. And FarmHer has grown into not just a gallery of images, but also a place where women are able to share stories and experiences, learn from each other in a positive environment, and rise to the forefront of agriculture.
"I think showing women who are successfully farming or ranching through images plants a seed in the younger generation."
Guyler-Alaniz wants the FarmHer community to help young women envision a future for themselves in farming. According to an infographic from Syngenta, 44 percent of FFA members are girls and 60 percent of growers who could take charge when the principal operators retire are women.
“I think showing women who are successfully farming or ranching through images plants a seed in the younger generation,” she says. “Younger girls who are interested in getting into agriculture or carrying on a family tradition of agriculture can see for themselves that they can do it.”
Premiere of a Television Show
Guyler-Alaniz was born and raised in rural Iowa. She started working in agriculture after graduating from Grand View University with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, photography and journalism. For 11 years, she worked in corporate agriculture for a crop insurance company.
“I spent a most of my career working in a role where there wasn't a lot of women represented,” says Guyler-Alaniz. “I wanted to carry the FarmHer mission forward through all aspects of agriculture—on and off the farm.”
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“A few pictures, while beautiful, didn’t delve into it enough for many people,” she says. “This show on RFD-TV takes it to the next level. We can take these still photographs and bring them to life through the stories we are telling on television. My goal for the show is to depict the beauty that women bring to all facets of agriculture.”
While other production and media companies approached Guyler-Alaniz to broaden the FarmHer movement, none of them felt right to her until RFD-TV. The network is known as “Rural America’s Most Important Network” and reaches 50 million households.
“RFD-TV was really excited about FarmHer, and I felt the network was a great avenue to get FarmHer out in front of a way bigger audience. They care about agriculture and are committed to portraying these women in a real and positive way,” she says
Guyler-Alaniz is still more comfortable being behind the camera instead of in front of it, but she’s adjusting. “The writers, producers and crew at RFD-TV are great at what they do, which significantly helps a newbie like me,” she says. “This is a growing process for me, and I’m lucky to have partners like RFD-TV and Syngenta beside me.”