Jolene Riessen

Jolene Riessen – Buena Vista County

If you would have asked Jolene Riessen when she was five years old what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have confidently told you, “I’m going to be a farmer.” As one of six children growing up on her parents’ farm, Jolene got the bug for farming almost immediately. If her parents needed help cleaning out a hog barn, Jolene was there.

As Jolene grew up, the goal of returning to the farm never left her. She eventually went off to college and graduated from Iowa State University in 1981 with a degree in animal science, just in time to enter the workforce during the farm crisis. Though jobs in agriculture were hard to come by, Jolene persevered and took a job in agricultural chem sales which took her many places, eventually landing her in Storm Lake, Iowa. Still, through all of the up and downs, she was confident she would someday return to the farm.

During a weekend home with her college roommate, Jolene was introduced to David Riessen. David, who was the only boy out four children, had a similar vision as Jolene and always knew he would someday be a farmer. As time went on, Jolene found herself making more road trips to Ida Grove where David lived, and eventually at a Fourth of July party at David’s house, the two decided to finally share their feelings. It should come as no surprise that they were married a year and a half later. A day before the Riessen’s said their “I do’s,” It was then she was finally able to fulfill the prophecy she made at a mere five years old and made the decision to officially become a farmer along with her new husband. Though the two knew they wanted a family, they decided to wait seven years before welcoming their first child, Cory into the world. Not far behind him followed another son, Lee.

Jolene worked on the farm for about 15 years until she and David decided it made sense for her to take a job off-farm. Though, as to be assumed, her work on the farm didn’t just stop as she took jobs at the meat locker, then as a crop adjuster and finally at Pioneer Seed. However, the farm was thriving, David and the boys had been successful in growing the farm, and Jolene once again felt the call to return to farming full-time. The next spring, their family received the devastating news that David had been diagnosed with cancer, and again, Jolene knew she was exactly where she needed to be. In early 2019, David lost his battle with cancer, leaving the family that had done so much together, heartbroken. Shortly after the loss of her husband, a friend asked her what she was going to do. “I’m going to be a farmer,” Jolene confidently replied, just as she had done so many years before.

Jolene and David had built their farm and raised two incredible sons that had the same passion that both their parents had, and she wasn’t about to give that up. Since David’s passing, Jolene, along with Cory and Lee have continued to make the farm their priority. Although this life doesn’t look like how she had always imagined it, she is still doing what she loves, with people she loves even more.

Jolene is not only a farmer, she’s also a mother, a leader and a mentor. She’s navigating her way through circumstances she never thought she’d have to deal with and teaching her sons the same. From negotiations in purchasing new farm ground, to being strategic in their marketing and how to be a role model as a strong woman in agriculture. Jolene Riessen truly personifies exactly what it means to be a farmer. Strong, resilient, passionate, loyal and wise. She also happens to be a woman, which, in her opinion, is an added bonus.

When looking ahead to the future, Jolene is excited. She knows not every year will have the highest yields and some may even bring heartbreak, but she knows she can get through anything, especially with her two sons beside her, because she’s a farmer and that’s just what farmers do.