Aronia Berries: What Do They Do for You?

Are You Eating the Powerful Superfruit?

September 15, 2019: Make Plans to Attend the Aronia Berry Festival. Read below for more details.

What is an Aronia Berry?

The simple answer is an aronia berry is a tart, dark purple superfruit loaded with antioxidants. It’s often called a black chokeberry in garden centers and confused with pitted chokecherries. It looks like a blend between a blueberry and a cherry.

Native to North America, these berries thrive in the Midwest.

Sawmill Hollow Family Farm near Missouri Valley, Iowa was the first aronia berry farm in North America.

The berries taste tart and rarely are eaten on their own. You can find the berries fresh, dried, frozen,  pureed or in supplements.

Look for aronia juice and concentrate in your local supermarket, usually in the health food section.

The berries are often added to blended drinks or water and used as ingredients in many foods including, salsa, stir-fry, vinaigrettes, baked goods, jams and more. Try topping off your salad, cereal and/or yogurt with some berries. [See recipe below.]

In some regions, you can also buy aronia berry wine and beer.

However you use them, know you are adding a health benefit to your diet. (Be sure to follow the recommended dose per day instructions.)

Health Benefits

Ongoing medical research studies in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria’s Medical University of Varna) and more recently in the USA claim the aronia berry is the most powerful superfood on earth.

 Berries Are Believed To

    • Improve blood circulation
    • Balance blood pressure
    • Protect liver and gastric functions
    • Assist in decreasing inflammation in the body
    • Fight against urinary tract infections
  • Be rich in fiber

Berries Have

  • 3Xs the antioxidants of acai berries
  • 3xs the anthocyanins of tart berries
  • 4xs the resveratrol of red wine, and
  • 24xs the proanthocyanins of elderberries

Meet Berry Farmer-Chase Nelson

Chase Nelson is part of Nelson Farms located in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota. Chase’s family added aronia bushes to their farm in 2015 when his dad recognized the health benefits of drinking aronia berry juice after a mini stroke and a COPD diagnosis.

Today Nelson Farms has 18,000 aronia berry bushes (20 dedicated acres) in addition to their 6000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. They also care for and harvest an additional 28 acres of aronia berries for two neighboring farms.

Chase admits the most challenging aspect of growing aronia berries is the unknown. “Everything we’ve done has been trial and error. There isn’t much information available for best methods for bush spacing, weed control, etc. Right now, we weed everything by hand and we planted grass down each row to aid in weed control.”

Marketing is also challenging as Americans are just now becoming familiar with the aronia berries and their many health benefits.

Nelson Farms is a grower for the National Aronia Growers, LLC also known as NAG. All of their harvested berries go there to get destemmed and sterilized. Once NAG finds an outlet to sell the berries, Nelson Farms gets paid by NAG.
Click here to see a video of the 2017 harvest at Nelson’s Farm.

New Market Opportunities

Chase, a 2015 Concordia College (MN) graduate,  is working on potential wholesale markets like breweries and cideries. “Those that have already purchased the berries have created some delicious beverages.”

“Aronia is great for everyone, but I think because it’s so high in antioxidants it makes it great for a post workout supplement,” reflected Chase.

Those who’d get maximum benefit include

  • Runners
  • Physically active people
  • Elderly
  • Those with inflammation issues
  • Those with allergies

Nelson Farms also partners with Ax Water which uses their berries for their aronia infused water.

AX Water 

Nelson Farms sells berries to Ax Water Company-an aronia infused water company founded in Fargo, ND in 2017.

Ax Water is an all-natural, American made, health and wellness beverage. Made from all-natural ingredients, and containing only 30 calories, ax water packs all the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of the aronia berry into 16 ounces.

Educating Consumers 

Educating consumers about aronia berries is an ongoing effort. Chase sees it as helping the community take charge of their health.

Sawmill Hollow Family Farm near Missouri Valley, Iowa hosts an annual North American Aronia Berry Festival and Nelson Aronia Farm near Fargo, North Dakota will be hosting a similar event in the summer of 2019.

“We enjoy having interested people on the farm to learn more about the berry. What a better way to educate them and show them the berries, first-hand.”

Feel free to contact Nelson Aronia Farm for more details about the Inaugural Aronia Berry Festival events and/or more information on aronia berry bushes. September 15, 2019 is the date! Make plans to attend. 

Courtney’s Aronia Berry Muffin Recipe 

Chase & wife, Courtney, an elementary education teacher.

INGREDIENTS

  •  2 cups flour
  •  2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omit if butter is salted)
  • ,1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  •  1/2 cup milk
  • 1 handful of Aronia berries
  • 2-3 tsp granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the muffins

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside. In a bowl, place flour and baking powder. Mix together and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter & sugar until light and fluffy – about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla. With a spoon, stir in half of the flour, then half of the milk. Repeat, stirring with each addition until just bended. Do not over mix! Gently fold in the  berries.  Using a cookie scoop, place 2 scoops of batter into each muffin liner and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes. Check for doneness using a toothpick. Store in an air tight container or wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the freezer.

More Information

  1. National Aronia Growers. Telephone # is 712-540-0127
  2. Midwest Aronia Association https://midwestaronia.org/ in Council Bluffs, Iowa
  3. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in your state and county https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_arme6.pdf

SHARE this post with health-minded friends and family. ENTER to win the case of Ax Water. MAKE Courtney’s delicious Aronia Berry Muffin recipe. LET me know how you liked them.

©Copyright. October 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Contact her by completing the form above.

17 Ways to Enjoy the Iowa State Fair

Nothing Compares to Iowa State Fair Thrills

August 8-18, 2019 Des Moines, Iowa

https://www.iowastatefair.org/entertainment/fair-schedule/

I enjoy fairs of all sorts and sizes: craft, pottery, art and state and county fairs. Wherever there is a group of like-minded people happily gathered showcasing their talents, I’m delighted to join.

I’ve attended the internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair twice. In 2016, I was mostly a spectator. I applauded a friend as her family was honored with a Century Farm Award presented in the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion.

I then joined her at a friend’s nationally known “Thank a Farmer” magic show in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. I spent most of the afternoon watching talented Iowa youth at the Bill Riley Talent Search, including the daughter of a fellow Iowa State graduate I hadn’t seen in 30 years. We re-connected between performances and applause.

Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. It attracts more than a million people from all over the world each year. Iowa’s Fair is also known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like, 450-acre setting (the Fair’s home since 1886). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, I was included in the 120,833 people at the Fair. This time I walked nearly every inch of the fairgrounds, enjoying the sights, sounds and aromas of this great annual event. Both visits were distinct, but each enjoyable. I realized one can experience the Fair quite differently on each visit with a bit of pre-planning. I met some who attend multiple days each year and claim they see and experience it differently with each visit. That’s possible.

17 ways to Enjoy the Iowa State Fair

BEFORE YOU GO

  1. Define your purpose. Do you want a general overview experience? Are you going to ride the rides on the Midway? Do you want to see the livestock judging competitions? Are the entertainers your priority? Paid or unpaid performers? Will you sample fair foods most of the day? Are you looking forward to viewing the photography and art exhibits? Do you want to see the butter cow exhibit? Do you prefer commercial exhibits? What is it you want to get out of your experience? If you only have one day, visit the excellent Iowa State Fair website and pre-plan your visit. Print the map and schedule. Download the Iowa State Fair Food Finder app. It also includes the daily schedule of events.
  2. Purchase advance tickets. This will save you both time and money. Check the Iowa State Fair website for special admission pricing (Deals & Discounts) such as Fairgoers aged 60+. Until a couple of days before the Fair starts, one can even print tickets at home with no additional fee. Otherwise advance tickets are available in various grocery stores in Iowa.
  3. Pack accordingly. Bags are subject to inspection. Bring sunscreen, a camera and cash. While some vendors accept credit and debit cards, there is a preference for cash. A change of clothing may be necessary for small children. There are spray fountains to both cool and entertain kids. After the playground, hand wipes may be necessary. Restrooms and water fountains are readily available and well-marked. You may re-fill water bottles at fountains.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. This Fair has livestock. If you’re going to walk in the barns, closed toe shoes are best. Parking can be a distance from the entrance. Be prepared to walk, though there are courtesy golf cart shuttle rides available. The parking lots are not paved. Stroller rides can be bumpy.
  5. Preach patience. If you’re attending on the weekend, be prepared for large crowds. Though this is an extremely well-run operation, there is a lot of traffic and it can take a bit to get parked. [Remember where you parked.] The grounds, shows and events can get quite crowded. Keep in mind everyone wants to have an enjoyable Fair experience. Be patient. If there’s a show or event you must see, arrive early to get a seat.

AT THE FAIR

  1. Arrive early. Parking is $10 per vehicle. The grounds open at 7am. If you’d like to see the Fairgrounds without the crowds, arrive early. Sunrise at the Fair is spectacular. Most buildings do not open until 9:00 am.
  2. Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. This is an ideal location for young children to learn about farm animals. The building is near the North gate and has baby chickens, pigs, etc. along with educational stations where prizes are awarded for answering questions. This is a great place to see animals, if children do not have the energy to make it to the actual barns on the Fairgrounds.
  3. Variety. Butter sculpting. Yoga on the hill. Dutch oven cooking seminar. Grape stomping. Backgammon tournament. Egg rolling contest. Sheep shearing contest. The list of things to see and participate in is endless. It can be overwhelming. Pre-planning helps,  as does setting realistic expectations of what be accomplished on one visit.
  4. Accessible. ADA/Accessible parking is available, primarily in the North lot. Scooters and wheelchair rentals are also available. Keep in mind most of the parking areas are unpaved. Trams with marked stops are available once inside the grounds as are golf carts for mini-shuttle service from the parking lots to the gates. Check the Iowa State Fair website for additional services.
  5. Care Stations and ATMs. Need an aspirin or band-aid? Look for a Care Station vending machine at the Fair. Need extra cash? There are at least 30 ATM machines on location.
  6. Eat & Drink at the Fair. Outside food and beverages are not allowed. Download the Iowa State Food Finder app for a list of foods by vendor and location, including healthy foods. Beverages cups, once purchased, are re-fillable at most vendor locations for a minimal fee.
  7. From Above. Sky gliders give an overview of the fairgrounds from above. The ride is slow and easy, allowing you plenty of time to see and to take photos. There are two: east and west. Round trip is ideal.
  8. Keep it Clean. Hand sanitizer is plentiful throughout all of the animal barn areas and in all restrooms. Use it. Stop the spread of any potential disease.
  9. Talk to Them. The youth who’ve raised and are showing the animals in the barns are eager to talk about the experience. Approach them. Take an interest in their project and ask questions. Some of the most memorable conversations I had at the 2017 Fair were with a state FFA officer and an Iowa Pork Producers summer intern. These students are impressive representatives of their organizations.
  10. Check the weather. Do you need sunscreen or an umbrella? Evening Grandstand shows run late. Sometimes a light jacket or sweatshirt is necessary. Remember, to take breaks and drink plenty of water.
  11. Share. There are endless photographic moments at the Iowa State Fair. Check for hashtags and share on social media. Popular 2017 hashtags were #ISF2017 and #IowaStateFairThrills.
  12. Plan to Participate. Throughout the Iowa State Fair, you may find ways you can participate in future Fairs. Whatever your interest or hobby, find a way to work on a project and display or show at the Fair. Maybe you can’t raise a cow or pig in your neighborhood, but perhaps you can bake a Bundt cake, submit a photograph or raise a prize-winning rose or pumpkin. Be a part of one of the greatest Fairs around. Participate.

5 Favorites at 2017 Iowa State Fair: August 12th

  1. Fiddle and guitar music in Pioneer Hall
  2. West round-trip Sky glider ride
  3. Walking through the  barns early in the morning and watching youth care for their animals
  4. Horticulture gardens filled with bright, aromatic blooms
  5. Courtesy of fair goers, workers and volunteers

The 2019 Iowa State Fair is August 8-18, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Mark your calendar. Find your 5 Favorite things to do at the 2019 Iowa State Fair.

Linda Leier Thomason is a retired CEO who now writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. She’s represented the North Dakota Pork Producers as the 1979 Pork Queen and has attended countless county and state fairs promoting the pork industry. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. She is a dual graduate of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

If you have something you’d like Linda to write, contact her below.

©Copyright. August 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

Faith, Family & Farming: McCook, Nebraska

Pillars of Southwest Nebraska Community

townI spent 22 hours covering every square inch, and then some, of McCook-a city of nearly 8000 and the county seat of Red Willow County, Nebraska. My goal on any undercover visit is to discover the heartbeat of the community-what makes it thrive, what does it value and how is it different from anywhere else.

I left McCook with a clear understanding that Faith, Family and Farming are the pillars in this Go-To city in Southwest Nebraska.

Origin

Established in 1882 as a railroad center halfway between Denver and Omaha, McCook remains a regional trade hub for Northwest Kansas and Southwest Nebraska. Residents in this rural area flock to McCook for shopping, dining, education, entertainment, medical services and more.

Red Willow County was named for the Red Willow Creek, which is a tributary of the Republican River. The name is reported to be mistranslated from the Dakota Indian name Chanshasha Wakpala, which literally means Red Dogwood Creek. The Dakota referred to the creek as such because of an abundance of red dogwood shrub that grew along the creek banks. Its stem and branches are deep red in color and favored in basket making.

History & Trendy

The city has seamlessly blended history and modernization. In fact, the two often co-exist, as seen at The Loop Brewing Company, a former railroad beericehouse that in 2011 became a brewery and restaurant with an active railway within a few feet of its front door. The Loop was at near capacity when I arrived to enjoy a beer flight and brick oven pizza shortly after 8 pm on an unseasonably 38 degree rainy night.

Norris Avenue (The Bricks) is perhaps the best example of this perfect blend of history and hip. The historical walking tour includes, in addition to other sites, the Fox Theatre and Museum of High Plains & Carnegie Library  as well as the Norris House-a museum for its namesake, the late Senator George W norrisNorris. Go a bit south to find the trendy women’s clothing store Mint 217 and the fabulous Knowlen and Yates cooking and kitchenware store. While touring, you’ll also find the H.P. Sutton Home-the only house in Nebraska designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which today is a private residence. Venture off “The Bricks” on East B Street and discover The Painted Ladies. This home décor and painted furniture store owned by three friends is right on trend and proves that no matter how far you live from a metropolitan area, you can keep up with the trends and be just as “cool” as anyone else. West B Street finds you at Farrells Pharmacy and Hallmark Store where the best prescription here is customer service.

Gold Star Service

In fact, every business I entered deserves a gold star for customer service. flipSure, in a community this size where folks likely know one another, I’m certain I stood out. Instead of making me feel like an outsider, every encounter was quite the opposite. “Welcome. Is there something I can help you find?” Good old-fashioned customer service still exists, at least in McCook. Equally impressive was, “Thank you for stopping in and for visiting McCook.”

Well done business owners! Your employees are impressively well-trained.

Family

pianoNo matter where I dined during my visit, I was always a party of two surrounded by large family groups. Lunching at Sehnert’s Bakery & Bieroc Cafe was an extraordinary experience. Yes, the Jiffy Burger, especially the freshly baked bun, was exceptional as were the pastries, and I mean plural, but the sense of community in the establishment is something of day’s long gone. The ownership here has taken great care in creating a gathering place that oozes community.

After ordering, coffee-sipping customers caught up with one another in front of the pastry display cases while waiting for their lunch. As one moves to the dining area, a framed poster on “How to Build Community” greets all diners. tallThe message of the poster was perfectly put into action in the Café. Greetings were exchanged between and across tables and remarkably diners of all ages sat at the Café’s piano filling the room with background sounds deserving of a much larger audience, though greatly appreciated by their current one, which applauded after each performance.

Throughout my 22 hours as a first-time visitor, everything I saw and experienced in McCook was new, but my time in this Café left the strongest impression on me. It’s something I wish for every community. One person and one business can make a difference in building community.

Faith

Churches (20) of nearly every faith are represented in McCook. I visited St. glassPatrick’s Catholic Church. The doors were open-a rare find today in a town of any size. As with most communities, the churches in McCook appear to foster social capital and provide needed services as well as a moral compass for the city.

 

Farming

mooMy visit included a drive by schools, city hall, a senior center and nursing home, the community college, hospital, airport, golf course, and parks. I visited the library and the Burlington Northern and Amtrak station as well as two surrounding state recreation areas: Red Willow Reservoir and Medicine Creek. No matter where I went, I observed and understood the role agriculture plays in this area’s economy.

grainApproaching McCook on Highways 6 & 34 East, one’s senses are awakened by the aromas of feed lots and rich wet soil ; sights of windmills, irrigation systems and massively-sized, sophisticated-looking grain bins, and the sounds of bellowing cows and rumbling trains. Farming is vital and omnipresent in this region.

4hThe Red Willow County Fairgrounds, which house the Kiplinger Arena, spoke to the heart of McCook. Here young citizens learn both the values and lessons of farming and citizenship from adults who hold dear the same lessons shared by their predecessors.

Go-To McCook

golfMcCook is the Go-To City of Southwest Nebraska built on a foundation of faith, family and farming. Go to McCook. Awaken your senses, engage in conversation with the locals, shop their trendy stores, walk the Heritage Square, play in their well-kept parks and dine in one of many great eateries.

Experience a textbook example of community.

You will leave McCook a more enlightened person than when you came.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. May 2016. Linda Leier Thomason.

All Rights Reserved.

This undercover study was done in cooperation with McCook/Red Willow County Tourism.

 

Nominate your community for an undercover study by contacting me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farm Girl to Fortune 200 Leader

cyndy picCyndy retired from Aflac in 2015 after 24 years. She began her career as an associate and left as the Nebraska Market Director, having also served in district and regional leadership roles.

During this time she amassed numerous awards and recognition for her outstanding work, including three President Club qualifications and a nomination for the Amos Award. Her most treasured professional memory is meeting former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, but the wonderful memories and ongoing accomplishments of the coordinators and associates she recruited to Aflac are truly her greatest reward.

Cyndy’s journey from rural North Dakota (ND) to leadership within a Fortune 200 corporation provides an example for all that with hard work, sacrifice and determination, you can overcome obstacles and reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. You can start over and begin a new journey in life, at any age.

Here’s Cyndy’s story.

Rural Values

I was born and raised on an eastern North Dakota farm, which I contribute to my success. That foundation provided me with many attributes as well as challenges to overcome. My “I can do anything” attitude was encouraged by my parents who didn’t see gender as a defining reason to keep one from pursuing their dreams. I don’t know if I have done the best with work-life balance, but I can say I’ve always done the best  I could possibly do in placing my family first. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been sacrifices. There have been meetings and events where I wished I could’ve been at two places at once. I believe it is unrealistic to expect you can always be everywhere and do everything. You have to learn to prioritize what is the most important and also learn how to say no.

College Dropout

I was a rebel growing up and while the Vietnam War was just winding down when I was in junior high school, I believe that had a significant influence on my determination as well as my desire to think outside the box. College was intriguing for me as I knew it was my ticket off the farm, and at the age of 18 the farm was definitely NOT where I wanted to be. UND-formerly known as the Fighting Sioux-was where I enrolled and had my first true taste of independence without chaperones. What better place than Grand Forks, ND to experience life.
Well, what I learned was that while high school was relatively easy for me, college classes were a different story and, of course, to excel you really should show up from time to time!. After one semester I made the choice (along with some encouragement from Mom and Dad) to leave school and get a job.

Non-Traditional Jobs

I had no interest in pursuing what was considered, at that time, a typical “girls” job. Cummins Diesel in Fargo had an opening for an inventory control clerk and it sounded like something more to my liking. With my farm background I thought nothing of applying for the position and on December 31, 1975 I was offered my first real full-time job. Over the next 15 years I held several positions in the heavy-duty trucking industry. I was transferred to Cummins Diesel in Grand Forks and then promoted to Parts Manager there at the age of 19. Yes, it’s even hard for me to believe when I think back on those years. From Grand Forks I relocated to Valley City, my home town, got married, worked in the parts department at a Thomas Bus dealer as well as got my feet wet in the home fireplace and wood burning stove business. I still have part numbers in my brain and, when necessary, can recall how to measure for a triple wall insulated chimney for installing a fireplace. Some things just stick with you.

Divorce & Death

My parts department experience didn’t end in Valley City. My husband and I moved to Bismarck, where I was employed at a Freightliner Truck dealership. He drove truck and, yes, I tried that as well! Our marriage didn’t last and I had the painful experience of going through a divorce. While divorce is more common today, it wasn’t back in the 80’s. I share that experience, as well as his traumatic death by suicide, not for pity but for encouragement. I do believe that through challenge we become stronger and more determined to succeed.

A New Beginning

In 1990 I married a wonderful man with whom I’ve just celebrated 25 years of marriage. I won’t say wedded bliss, as every relationship has it’s challenges. We built a custom home the summer before our marriage and not even a year after our marriage I announced I was going to look for a different job. I knew I didn’t want to learn anything more about diesel engines, transmissions or brake shoes. I wanted a professional job where I could dress like a woman and even have my nails done, since my work uniform for the previous 15+  years was blue jeans. My Mother was thrilled as she always thought I should have a “girl” job.

A Career

Researching jobs in the newspapers, I found an ad for American Family Life Assurance Company from Columbus, Georgia (now known as Aflac). I had no idea what an insurance career involved but thought I should check it out. I interviewed with the regional manager and then was called for a second interview, which back then was done in the home. I was excited and inspired… and also scared to death… as was my husband. We had just built this beautiful home and now I wanted to quit my real “secure” job and do what? Sell insurance for commission only!! The thought that kept recurring in my head was “I can do this.. I have to try, or I will never know. I want to live my life without regret”.

Life Verse
I have to share my life verse….scripture
I kept this on my desk (the dashboard of my car) and recited it every time I would make that scary cold call in person or on the phone. Insurance was hard work-harder than anything I could’ve imagined. My customers didn’t come to me. I had to go to them. It wasn’t easy and the first year was the absolute toughest. Had it not been for the people who believed in me and mentored me, I wouldn’t have ever made it. Nor could I have done it without digging in and having the desire to learn it all. Of course you never will learn it all, but I feel you must have that deep desire and that passion to want to be successful. Not only was I learning, I was helping customers make important decisions that would help them in the future.

Who Will Succeed?

My success is not MY success. I had the great privilege of leading teams with the passion to WIN and to show others in the nation exactly what could be accomplished in small town USA.
I took this opportunity and ran with. I didn’t know until I got more involved what a great company Aflac was – and still is. Since 1991, I have interviewed and hired numerous sales associates for Aflac. I wouldn’t be able to tell you at the first interview who would or would not be successful, but I will tell you that I have honestly never seen anyone fail because of not having the resources or product to allow them to succeed. Seriously… who would have bet on me to succeed back then? Country girl, raised on a farm, high school diploma with some college credits.

Gratitude and Belief

I thank the Lord every day for giving me the faith and belief in myself to succeed. I recently turned 59 years old and have now retired from Aflac. How cool is that? Never underestimate your ability, your worth, your calling. Take that “Leap of Faith” and believe that YOU can do ALL things!

So, where you are raised, the barriers you’ve had to overcome, the failures you’ve had and the people who’ve tried to hold you back, do not determine your success. You do. Pure and simple. You are the creator of your own destiny. At any day, any moment…you can decide to change the course of your life. Is it today?

Share this post with anyone trying to discover her purpose and place in life or anyone wishing to explore a new path or career.

Everyone deserves a do-over or fresh start, at any age.

Have a question or comment for Cyndy, leave it below.

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

BIG Life on North Dakota Farm

DSC_0053.1
Klarisa Glasser, Photographer

By guest contributor-Bonnie Schantz.
Farming is big in North Dakota, and so is family. And when something big is about to happen on a ND farm, it causes a lot of excitement. BIG for me is when all our kids and grand kids gather, especially since one of the twins lives 3000 miles away and hasn’t been back for two years.

For this reunion trip back to ND, Michael’s carrying more than his backpack from Boston: his wife and our 9-month-old grandson are in tow. We’re truly blessed as parents and grandparents as nothing makes my husband, Chester, and I happier than when our “chickens come home to roost.”
Our children enjoy spending time together. Our eldest son, Jordan, who lives an hour away from our farm moved his camper here so his family could spend more time here and less on the road. Amanda’s family commuted 70 miles between Bismarck and the farm.
Little did we know that our reunion would be disrupted by big events. Despite these, we stuck together, laughed through each and created lifetime memories. It started out with a six row honeycomb discovered on the corner of the house. As a farmer’s wife, it saddened me to see the local bee keeper destroy this because of the severe bee shortage, essential to pollination. But to protect the grandchildren around the house, he advised us that capturing bees in a wooden hive would take days and could be dangerous for the kids. So, it was destroyed.
Insects are apparently attracted to my family. Shortly after Michael arrived, he was repeatedly texting his physician. Finally he admitted he had a blood test before leaving and just learned he tested positive for Lyme Disease, though he never found a bite on his body. So, he made a ‘beeline’ to the local pharmacy for his 21 day treatment. Oh boy!
Michael wasn’t the only one facing health challenges during the homecoming. Chester, 67, became ill three weeks before everyone arrived. He suffered with a high fever and body aches for days. Even after a couple of trips to the ER, the local doctor remained stumped. Antibiotics, lots of fluids and two and a half weeks of bed rest helped nurse him back to better health. Though weak, he was able to enjoy the family gathering, sneaking in a nap or two. Having his kids and grand kids home was enough for Chester to jump off the farm equipment and tend to his health-a rare behavior near harvest time.

Klarisa Glasser, Photographer
Klarisa Glasser, Photographer

Not certain as to when all 12 will be able to gather again, I couldn’t let this time go by without capturing photos of our togetherness on the family farm. Our house never would have worked as a backdrop because it looked like a closet exploded while getting everyone ready for the photographer to arrive. All willingly agreed to do the photo session outdoors and since farming is our heritage, we included a few rusty old junk yard tractors.

On Sunday we invited extended family and hosted a potluck for 33, which included frying fleishkeukle (German beef pocket) on the patio. Lloyd, my brother-in-law, offered to bring a deep fryer and be the chef since Michael requested it. That is what German Russian families do-celebrate family with food, including German potato salad. As I watched everyone interacting, my heart was full and ready to burst. This was my big family sharing a big meal, and I never felt more pride as the mother and oldest sister of this group.
After five nights it was time to take the travelers to the airport. Hugs and kisses were exchanged and a little of my heart went with them. I didn’t get time to be sad, as I had laundry and cleaning to do as I prepared to watch Jordan’s two kids while he and his wife attended the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. They play so well together and I treasure listening, watching and sometimes joining in. I let them jump in the mud puddles after it rained, ride bike, dance to a Michael Jackson tape and make a fort out of lawn chairs. In between I would send up a prayer for a safe return of their parents. The excitement of the previous week continued with the discovery of three bats in our glass enclosed fireplace. The day after, the dishwasher broke.
That’s life on a ND farm. It’s been a hectic six weeks with lots of activity-bees, Lyme Disease, sick husband, bats in the fireplace, broken dishwasher and even a broken ceiling fan. But as Chester said, “At least we’re still alive!” That’s why I love him. He has ND farmer perspective. All the family was together. He feels better, as does Michael who returned safely to Massachusetts. The grand kids didn’t even have a scrape on them when their motorcycle-riding parents returned from South Dakota. I cherished this extra time with my grand kids and secretly shed a tear when I overheard him read a story to his younger sister. Does this mean my bedtime story reading days are over?
I know some believe North Dakota is a wide open prairie with nothing to do. That’s okay. For me, North Dakota is a big farming state with big families with big hearts. I was happy to have mine all gathered around me, even as I prepare to gather a big harvest to feed this big country.
Reis Girls July 2014 127Bonnie Huber Schantz is a chic farmer’s wife of 44 years, living with Chester on their 6000 acre grain farm near Hebron, ND. She is the mother of three, including a set of twins, and grandmother of four. She is Chester’s support, doing payroll, monthly expense accounting, taking hot meals to six men in the field at harvest, helping maintain the 6 acre farmstead and motoring to their “retirement” home in Bismarck to mow the lawn. She enjoys the freedom of being able to be fill-in day-care for the grand kids and watching the 4th segment of the Today Show, while enjoying a good cup of coffee.

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