About Angela Kay Larson

Marketing executive, business coach, political junkie, turkey hunter, vegetable gardener, and farm wife.

What’s for lunch?

Whether in Brazil or North America, it seems that the challenge of feeding thousands of tradeshow visitors knows no boundaries. Lines! Lines! Lines!

Brazil is known for the quality and cut of its beef, so standing in line for an hour for freshly grilled carne is worth the wait. 


This is the scene at Mimi Express, “tudo para churrasco” (everything for barbecue). It’s a popular lunch spot here at Agrishow in Ribeirão Preto. And, apparently elsewhere since their marketing proclaims that they serve more than two million event goers every year. 

That’s a lot of beef!

AKL

Ola, Agrishow!

This year marks our third exhibiting at Agrishow, one of Brazil’s largest farm shows. Set in the hills of the state of São Paulo, near Ribeirão Preto, Agrishow hosts 800 exhibiting brands and more than 152,000 visitors.


I’m here representing the Woods brand with my Brazilian co-workers and enjoying the challenge of practicing Portuguese (Eu falo um pouco de Português) without frustrating potential customers (O Português é difícil).

AKL

Tuesdays in the Garden

Last year, my gardening buddy Julie and I met every Tuesday evening to work our vegetable plot and share a bottle of wine. The discipline paid off and we enjoyed one of our best gardening seasons to date as evidenced by our full freezers and pantry shelves.


We kicked off the 2017 season this week and despite a tiller that wouldn’t start (sadly, due to lack of winterization maintenance), we made great strides. This year, we’re experimenting with horseradish and garlic and we’re growing snap peas for the first time in years. All are in the ground and have been blessed with a steady rain. Not only that, our “vine yard” (the barn paddock that contains all our pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers) is fully mulched and ready for planting.


With our garden plot prepped and a few seeds in the ground, we toasted our inaugural Tuesday in the Garden with a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc — citrusy whites pair well with gardening. 
Cheers to 2017 Tuesdays in the Garden!

AKL

Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!

We pulled it off! A trifecta of beauty at last Saturday’s wedding on the Larson farm: The bride was beautiful, the weather was beautiful, and the grounds were beautiful!

I can only take credit for the latter and even so, I need to share the credit with the friends who helped with the last-minute grading and mowing.

Add in some trimming, edging, weeding, and watering and we created a beautiful backdrop for the bride and groom… and their host, Bob the Dog.

The chicken coop turned alter was particularly befitting for Emily and Tommy’s wedding since Tommy is the one who renovated it from its dilapidated condition several years ago. Add in a whole lot of love and the ceremony came off without a hitch (or, I guess, “with a hitch” in the case of a wedding) and the bride and groom couldn’t have been happier, nor the bride more beautiful!

It is truly an honor to host the “once in a lifetime day” of those you love. We are blessed with a beautiful farm and beautiful friends and family… beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

AKL

Wedding week kicks off!

The final week of preparation for the farm wedding kicked-off on Friday evening with a crew of family and friends packing burlap, tulle fabric, grapevine and twinkle lights galore! Of course, before any of the shed decor could go up, tractors, planters, and rotary cutters had to go out, followed by moving racks of parts, tools, and all the other supplies that make a farm shop efficient and a wedding venue unsightly.

We all agreed that hosting a wedding every two years is a great way to get your shop cleaned!

While most of the crew focused on the building, a few of us took to the grounds and kept the Woods FZ25D zero-turn mower humming and the Oregon trimmer/edger buzzing most of the weekend. And, the grading scraper made quick work of repairing the lane, which had washed from the deluge Thursday night.

I have a reputation for wanting the place to look “just so” and am blessed with friends who not only tolerate my “slightly obsessive attention to detail” but also appreciate a well-kept farmstead. Even better, they know how to use our tractors and tools to get the job done. Of course, sometimes the work is more delicate (like planting petunias), requiring only a willingness to dig in the dirt and an occasional break to pose with Bob the Dog.

Jess and Bob in Petunias

We accomplished more than we had hoped Friday and Saturday and by early Sunday afternoon, we called it quits until the final preparations on Thursday. While getting the shed and grounds ready to welcome 300 guests is an enormous amount of work, it is oh so much easier, with a posse of friends and knowing that at the end of a hard days’ work is a good meal, cold beer, and a lot of laughs.

AKL

Here comes the bride… with a rake!

For the second time, we are hosting a wedding on our farm. Sharing our place with friends who are tying the knot is an honor… and a lot of hard work…. but mostly an honor! To share the load, we let the bride and the family worry about the ceremony and reception details while we focus on getting the farm in “showplace condition.”

When we hosted the wedding of Dan and Sarah Clark in 2014, we had all summer to prepare since the nuptials were in September. That year, in early spring, I hired our friend Kelsey to help with cleaning up from winter, building new flower beds, planting perennials, and mulching trees. Kelsey supervised the planting of new trees, experimented with landscape design, and entertained Bob the Dog with endless games of fetch (yes, playing with Bob is an approved work time activity).

By the end of September, our farm was ready for guests!

Now we’re getting ready for another wedding: Dan’s brother Tommy and his bride, Emily. The same planning crew is well on their way in creating details and decor for the June event. And this time, with fewer months to prepare, we called in the bride and group and a troop of family and friends to help with grounds maintenance. After a day of raking, shoveling, burning, grinding, sowing, sweeping, mowing, and more, we all relaxed with a few cold ones, a prime rib dinner, and that gratifying “sense of a job well done.”

2016-04-17 18.25.51

We’re now a month out from the June wedding and plans, preparations and pre-parties are in full-swing. Time is running out for getting the farm in “showplace condition.” I may need to call the butcher to cut another prime rib and the bride to bring over her rake.

The Beginning of the End of Another Illinois Turkey Season

In the turkey blind - that's a decoy!

In the turkey blind – that’s a decoy!

2016-04-23 06.29.19

The ones that got away.

This is the last week of Spring Turkey Hunting Season in Illinois. As a landowner, I have the privilege of hunting all five seasons — an entire five weeks to bundle up in camouflage, sit in the pre-dawn woods, and wait for toms to appear. Actually, in all my years of hunting, I’ve never needed five weeks, I’ve barely needed more than an hour.

 

Since “restocking” wild turkeys throughout Illinois (an initiative that spanned from the 1970’s to 2003), the critters have been abundant on our farms. Because they are so abundant, a successful hunt is simply a matter of scouting in the evening and then the next morning, following a modified version of advice from hockey’s Wayne Gretzky: “skate to where the puck is going to be.” Yep, it’s that easy, “hunt where the bird is going to be.”

Using this advice, again this year, I brought down a 23.4 lb tom and had two beautiful packages of turkey breasts in the freezer in time to make an 8:00am appointment in town. And thus ends another season of spring turkey hunting.

Only Seven Weekends?

Yesterday, I passed a business whose outdoor sign read, “Only seven shopping weekends before Christmas,” and all I could think is, “But I’m not done with summer!” And yet, the leaves are on the ground, the garden is dormant, and we’re approaching the end of harvest.

The lightning speed at which winter is hurling toward us seems compounded by the late spring and a crazily busy summer — on both the home and the work fronts.

On the farm, my summer days were filled with landscaping projects and wedding plans as we prepared to host the celebration of one of “our neighbor kids” (what an honor!). Along with a million other tasks, thanks to a Woods BrushBull and Mow’n Machine, we transformed a pasture into a manicured parking lot with a 200+ car capacity.

As for work, this summer marked the launches of our relationship with Massey Ferguson and our expansion into Brazil. For a marketer, these are monumental projects, wrought with excitement for the opportunities ahead — and achievable only with the talent of a strong team!

It’s no wonder that summer seems to have slipped by and dragged autumn right along with it. Now the farm is fully focused on getting the crops in (hopefully before Thanksgiving) and my work focus has turned toward 2015 planning, first quarter tradeshows, and a myriad of deadlines that all seem to align around 3/31/15.

Somewhere between now and then, I’ll need to take advantage of one of those “seven shopping weekends” to ensure Christmas doesn’t slip by.

Farewell, Mervel

This week we will say a final “good-bye” to Mervel Wood, the last surviving founder of Wood Brothers Manufacturing Co. Mervel passed away on Wednesday, June 16, signaling the end of an era at Woods Equipment. What remains is a lasting legacy of hard work, ingenuity, and a commitment to people — an approach to business that Mervel and his brothers instilled when they founded the company in 1946.

I had a chance to visit with Mervel on several occasions. The first was in 2005 when we invited him and his wife Ruth to Oregon, Illinois, to celebrate the manufacturing of our one millionth product. To honor Mervel for his role in this accomplishment — and because he was 85 at the time and I had no idea of his driving ability — I arranged to have a limousine pick them up at their house in Rockford and drive them to Oregon.

Mervel Wood and his wife Ruth shared their first ride in a limousine when visiting Woods Equipment to celebrate the manufacturing of the company's one millionth product in 2005.

Mervel Wood and his wife Ruth shared their first ride in a limousine when visiting Woods Equipment to celebrate the manufacturing of the company’s one millionth product in 2005.

When I called to share the details with Mervel, he was quite tickled, “I’ve never ridden in a limo before!” he told me. I too was tickled to be part of that small “first” in his life.

The next time Mervel visited the plant was for a family gathering, which we hosted for them, June 7, 2013. I was off to New York to enjoy a weekend of theatre with my mother (which turned out to be our last trip together), so I missed the joy of seeing the Wood family experience first-hand the legacy started by Mervel, Keith and Leonard.

Mervel and Sons in Plant 2013

Mervel (seated) and his sons Doug and Jim during the family visit to Woods in 2013.

I did, however, get to meet many members of the brothers’ families when the three were inducted into the AEM Hall of Fame in November 2012. A dozen members of the family joined Jerry Johnson, our president, and me in Los Angeles, California, for the Association’s gala induction celebration. It was a thrill for Jerry and I to hear stories of their first jobs in the manufacturing plant  (who knew a grease gun could shoot all the way to the ceiling) and their memories of Keith and Leonard whom we had never met.

My most memorable time with Mervel was the afternoon I shared with Chad Elmore and Michael Ellis in Mervel and Ruth’s living room. Michael and Chad were both with Lessiter Publishing at the time and had happily agreed to conduct a video interview with Mervel. We spent hours listening to him talk about the start-up of the company, its growth through the 1960’s and 70’s, and the eventual acquisition by Hesston Corporation in 1969.

My favorite story from Mervel was about the transition from belt to gearbox driven spindles on the rotary cutters. Their father, also an inventor, had sent them the idea to use gearboxes instead of belts, along with a drawing for a gearbox design. Being independent-minded (or perhaps stubborn, as admitted by Mervel), the brothers decided to design their own gearbox. The project was a success and sales picked up. In fact, they started receiving orders for just gearboxes, 25 at a time, from a company “down south.” After filling a few of these orders, they decided to learn more about where they were coming from and discovered that their new customer was the manufacturer of a competitive brand of red rotary cutters — proof that the agricultural equipment industry has always been a tight-knit group.

While I am saddened by Mervel’s passing, I am ever grateful for having spent time with him and his family. It is an honor to have known him and to be a part of his enduring legacy as an employee of Woods Equipment.

AKL

Katie’s first mow

Our niece Katie and her husband Andy recently returned to the family farm. Katie is trading her city girl roots for Andy’s deep roots as the fifth generation of our family farm. Today she’s learning how to operate a tractor and rotary cutter to get the weeds under control at their place, Ten Men Farm. She’s getting her “I can mow!” farm girl badge today!

Angela Kay Larson
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