Farm mothers have to be versatile – they must be nurturing, smart, hardworking and tough. Central Illinois Angus breeder Cheryl Day is all these and then some – at least according to her 12-year-old daughter Sierra.

Sierra nominated her mother for Monsanto’s “2010 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year” contest. The annual contest honors selected farm moms for their contributions to their families, farms and ranches, and to their communities.

Cheryl is among five regional finalists selected by a panel and vying for the national title to be determined by online votes at Voting ends May 3, and the winner will be announced May 4.

“I am just one member of a farming team,” says Cheryl, a ninth-generation farmer who spends half her time doing chores in mud-caked jeans and the other half in a business suit lobbying at the state capital for ag interests. “I want my children to learn about agriculture the same way I did – by getting dirty and taking risks.”

Cheryl works with her husband Mike, Sierra, and six-year-old son Chayton, raising corn, soybeans and purebred Angus near Cerro Gordo. She’s especially partial to the cattle.

Growing up on a cow-calf operation, she participated in 4-H and FFA and used her heifer projects to help pay for college. She says she wants to teach her children and others a similar work ethic and love for life on the farm.

“Farming is a rollercoaster, but agriculture has always been my passion. I truly want to empower others to pursue their agricultural dreams and protect the right to farm for the next generation,” Cheryl says.

That last part is especially important to her – she works as a freelance ag communicator and promotes landowner water rights as the executive director for the Illinois Association of Drainage Districts. She also volunteers with various ag organizations, serves as a 4-H leader, is a CropLife ambassador, and speaks regularly at schools and community events.

And she never misses an opportunity to serve as an advocate for agriculture, her daughter says.

“She accepts any invitation to tell the truth about ag,” Sierra wrote in her nomination essay. “I understand her commitment that speaking out for ag is necessary to ensure that my generation will be able to farm.”

Cheryl says that’s her motivating factor. “It’s important that we as producers be the face of ag. We’re having so many negative attacks in the media; we must speak out and show the true face of ag,” she says. “If we do that, consumers can better understand our livelihood and we’ll hopefully prevent unnecessary regulations on the next generation. That’s why I try to share ag’s story.”
-- American Angus Association release