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Published April 19, 2010, 11:56 AM

Singles in Agriculture marks 24th year

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Five years ago, when Cara Maschmeier’s mother suggested she — a recent divorcee — get involved with the Oklahoma chapter of Singles in Agriculture, Cara was skeptical.

By: Edie Ross, Hutchinson (Kan.) News

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Five years ago, when Cara Maschmeier’s mother suggested she — a recent divorcee — get involved with the Oklahoma chapter of Singles in Agriculture, Cara was skeptical.

“I really didn’t think it was something for me,” says Maschmeier, who grew up on a farm and ranch in Beaver County, Okla. “I thought, I guess, that I was ‘cooler’ than the normal farmer.”

But Maschmeier’s mother, who at 84 is still a SIA member, convinced her to try it out.

“Mom was a widower and, for the first three years, she crocheted and made ceramics and did things like that. But she wanted to meet people,” Maschmeier says. “She heard about the group in a Rural Electric magazine.”

It only took attending a couple of SIA gatherings — including a float trip down Nebraska’s Loupe river in the pouring rain — before Maschmeier was hooked, and now she declares the group “some of the dearest people I’ve ever met.”

“The support is incredible,” she says. “This group is not really about finding a spouse. We focus on friendship.”

Maschmeier says the more she learns about the group, the more she likes it.

“I thought that maybe I was too educated for a group like this,” she says. “But there are a lot of our members who have an agriculture background and have gone on to corporate careers. We have a ConAgra retiree who actually lives in downtown Chicago but has farms in Indiana.

“We have a fellow who owns two ranches — one in South Dakota and one in Texas. His sons run them both and he goes back and forth depending on the weather,” says Maschmeier, who is the group’s public relations coordinator.

The early days

Singles in Agriculture got its start when a single farmer wrote in to a farming magazine expressing the difficulties of meeting single women interested in a rural lifestyle. The letter prompted the magazine to publish several articles about the social lives of single farmers. One of the articles requested single readers to send their names, addresses and a 50-word biography to the magazine. The 2,700 submissions that were received were compiled, printed and mailed to all those who had responded.

The project caught the interest of Iowan Marcella Spindler, who volunteered to handle correspondence among those interested in forming a singles organization. By summer 1986, the project officially became Singles in Agriculture, which was chartered in October of that year.

The farmer in search of a wife might’ve started the organization, but Singles in Agriculture is not about finding a girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse, Maschmeier says. It is more like a family where members are accepted as they are.

“Some people have been through tough things, like divorce, and they are wounded,” she says. “The rest of the group really is there to encourage them. We are great about giving hugs. Pretty soon, you start to see the light come back into their eyes.”

Pamela Fjeld of Illinois says she joined Singles in Agriculture 18 years ago as a divorcee, joking that she would’ve been a widower except that she’s a law-abiding citizen.

“My older daughter said, ‘Mom, you have to get out of the house,’ and she signed me up for bowling,” says Fjeld, who grew up on an Illinois dairy farm. “After one year of bowling, I said, ‘Never again.’ Now my kids wonder where I am all the time because I’m out doing things with people I’ve met in this group.

“I’ve met the greatest friends of my life here.”

While SIA isn’t focused on matching men and women up in dating relationships, that does happen from time to time.

“We’ve had people get married and then they usually join our sister group ‘Singles No More,’” Fjeld says. “We still love to see them and they love to see us. This group just kind of gets under your skin — in a good way.”

Getting togethers

Singles in Agriculture provides a multitude of activities for its members, including unofficial get-togethers as well as official chapter events. There also are three national events every year.

Hutchinson was chosen as the location for this year’s national convention because of its rural atmosphere and its resources, says Marie Frost, president of the Kansas chapter of SIA. Previous SIA events have taken members on Alaskan cruises, tours of Kentucky horse stud farms and even to Hawaii.

This year’s National Summer Bonanza Event will be July 15 to 18 in the Casselton, N.D.

“It’s a good way to meet others and see things you wouldn’t go see by yourself,” Fjeld says.

“Attend one event and you’ll have such a good time you’ll want to come back,” Maschmeier says.

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What it is: Singles in Agriculture is a nationwide nonprofit organization purposed with providing social, educational and recreational activities for singles with an agricultural background or occupation. Members come in all ages, including many senior citizens. The organization has 15 chapters across the United States encompassing 22 states.

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Next national event: National Summer Bonanza Event.: July 15 to 18 in Casselton, N.D. Information: Nancy 651-458-9513, Joel 701-361-0927, Virginia 605-624-4689 or Dough 507-629-3601.

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