Kregel women featured in book on female farmers

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From left are Megan Kregel, Darlene Kregel and Maureen (Kregel) Seevers on their sixth-generation family farm. The Kregel women manage a 400-head dairy operation, while the men tend to the grain on the farm. (Photo courtesy of Kathryn Gamble)

By Molly Moser

Local dairy farmers Darlene Kregel, Megan Kregel and Maureen (Kregel) Seevers are among the female farmers featured in the new book Women and the Land, released this fall by authors Barb Hall and Kathryn Gamble. The book takes a look at more than 25 women who are impacting Iowa’s farmland. Some have inherited rural property and are managing the agriculture practices from afar; some are working the land directly, providing food to the heartland; and still others are working in tandem with their husbands, fathers, sisters and daughters. 

The Kregel women are steeped in farm wisdom. Darlene grew up on a dairy farm in Davenport and married into the Kregel family, making her the fifth generation to work the Kregel farm. Her daughters, Megan and Maureen, are the sixth. Growing up, the influence from both their mother and grandmother was sometimes overlooked by the teenage siblings. “I think it goes unappreciated when you’re younger, but as you get older you really want to rely on those people and gain from their insights and their life experiences. They are tough as nails; they are the hardest working people I know; but at the same time they’re the most loving people on the planet,” said Megan. “It’s all about family. That’s why we do this.”

While the Kregel women supervise the 24-hour-a-day robotic milking of 400 dairy cows, the men of the family, father Gary and son Travis, tend to the grain on their farm near Guttenberg. Darlene is in charge of the young calves, Maureen takes care of the cows (and her two young children, who may also one day join the family business) and Megan recently returned to the farm after spending time working as the NICC dairy center coordinator. 

“I always liked the cows and went to school for dairy science,” Megan explained. “I’m very happy I took the time after college to work on that side of the industry. It gave me a lot more background and experience, and appreciation for what we do every day on the farm.” While working off the farm, she visited many dairies and spoke with other dairy farmers, building a network of people to call on in times of need. She was able to attend workshops and take advantage of various other opportunities to learn more about the dairy industry – and she’s still learning. 

The Kregel farm has been using conservation practices like no-till for more than 20 years, and they’re currently transitioning to waterbeds for the dairy cows. “You have to grow to stay in the industry. It’s a challenge,” she told The Press. “We are three families trying to make a living. The Kregels have also hired two women to help, one full-time and one part-time.” “We weren’t necessarily looking for women,” Darlene told the book’s authors. “It just worked out that way. A lot of women have more flexible schedules than men and can be here when we need them.”

The women and their farm were photographed and interviewed for just a few hours approximately two years ago, while Women and the Land was in the works. “They wanted to come at chore time so they could see what we do and get some pictures, and they wanted us in our attire, so we just made sure we were clean,” Megan chuckled. “The book is amazing. It’s so well done,” she said, noting with enthusiasm that Women and the Land even features female wind farmers.  

“We’re a family farm the whole point of a family farm is continuing it for another generation. Me and my siblings are the sixth generation, and that’s a big deal. We just want to see it continue and to be part of it,” she said. “Farming is hard work, it’s a lot of work, it’s long days, but to be able to say that something is yours and has been in your family for darn near 150 years – that’s special.”

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