AMES, Iowa – Four women making positive changes in Iowa agriculture were honored Nov. 30 at the sixth annual Iowa Women in Ag Leadership Conference organized by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
The Women Impacting Agriculture recognition honors Iowans who are creating a more sustainable Iowa by improving economic resiliency and stability; conserving natural resources; and being influential agricultural leaders, family members and community volunteers.
The 2022 honorees are Laura Cunningham of Floyd County, Susan Kuennen of Fayette County, Bridget Mahoney of Iowa County, and Tara Neal of Des Moines County. Past honoree Monica Lursen and extension communications specialist Lisa Scarbrough recognized the honorees at the conference and presented them with awards.
Susan Kuennen recently retired from her career as a staff nurse at Mayo Clinic and manages her 160-acre farm in Fayette County.
When she lost her husband due to illness in 2011, she sought out and built a team to assist her in farm decisions. With an artistic flair, she established conservation practices on her highly erodible farm to include fields, wetlands and upland wildlife. In 2016 Kuennen received the Iowa Conservation Woman of the Year award.
“My reward is to know that I am able to make a difference on my farm and be an example to others,” she shared.
This past spring, she participated in the Annie’s Project farm management course for the third time.
With the constant changes in agriculture and tight margins, she appreciates the helpful resources and connections with like-minded landowners. Kuennen served as the Fayette County representative to the Norman Borlaug Iowa State Research Farm board of directors.
She is part of the Iowa State Master Gardener clubs in Chickasaw and Fayette counties and is a Master Conservationist. She donates her organic produce to the Hope Lodge in Rochester, Minnesota. Several varieties of willows are planted on her farm for use in making baskets. Her Plow’n Snow willow and antler basket earned her a solo exhibition in the Macnider Museum in 2021.
Kuennen often jokes that she bleeds green. She received the 4-H Alumni Award and 25-Year 4-H Leader awards. “4-H gave me the pledge to live my life accordingly,” she said. After working in substance abuse and addiction treatment for 20 years, Kuennen attended college and graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the age of 46 in 2000. She is involved in her faith community at St. Peter’s Catholic church and served as the Dubuque Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women executive board secretary, 2014 to 2018.