A Common Goal to Connect Around Family and Agriculture

By Kriss Nelson

When it comes to developing a deeper understanding and compassion around topics of high importance such as children, family, the food we eat and relationships we build, one Iowa group is making great strides.

Through the CommonGround group, farm women from across Iowa are volunteering to have meaningful interactions with consumers.

“CommonGround works to make conversations about farming and food more relatable to consumers,” says Kennady Moffitt, producer services coordinator with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA). ISA along with the Iowa Corn Growers Association help to lead the volunteer effort. The Iowa Food & Family Project collaborates with CommonGround on a variety of events and awareness initiatives.

CommonGround Iowa volunteers are just like you – consumers looking for safe and nutritious options to feed their families. CommonGround volunteers are having conversations about the food they grow and how it’s produced. The group welcomes Iowa’s consumers to join the conversation.

“Our industry professionals are mothers, daughters and grandparents, who also care about the food they feed their families. Finding common values helps foster understanding and build trust across the ag and non-ag communities,” Moffitt says.

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Making Connections Through Opportunities

Food is a staple ingredient in creating connections and conversation. As an opportunity to welcome curious consumers to the table, CommonGround Iowa is hosting a Charcuterie Workshop, taught by GrazeBox on Saturday, April 2 at 2 pm.

“The workshop is all about getting together around food and wine to build connections with women in the area,” says Moffitt. “The event is centered around an afternoon of conversations, commonalities and new friendships.”

The workshop will be held at Indian Creek Country Club in Nevada. Tickets are $25 and include the workshop and a drink ticket (a $65 value). Spots are limited, so sign up today: https://checkout.square.site/buy/V6RMRQKKIOAYXWBWCRVWTM6G

Below, learn more about some of the dedicated women volunteers with CommonGround.

Finding Common Ground

 The opportunity to reconnect people back to their generational ag roots made joining CommonGround an easy decision for Amber Kohlhaas.


Amber Kohlhaas farms with her dad and uncle. She also helps operate her family’s cattle farm with her husband Jason, daughter Lonna, and son Holden near Algona in Kossuth County.

“On average, the general population is at least three generations removed from the farm. It could be fair to say most people personally do not know a farmer they can ask a question,” says Kohlhaas. “With CommonGround, we put a face to female farmers – who are also putting food on their own tables –  for consumers to connect with for information.”

Farmers are facing record input costs as they enter into the 2022 growing season. The impact doesn’t stop there as consumers are also feeling the pinch at the grocery store.

“Retail groceries are up 7%, which is the fastest inflation in 40 years. These kinds of cost hikes to feed your family often generate many more questions for consumers. This is one very important reason for farmers to be accessible to consumers,” adds Kohlhaas.

Kohlhaas farms with her dad and uncle. She also helps operate her family’s cattle farm with her husband Jason, daughter Lonna and son Holden near Algona in Kossuth County.


Kohlhaas enjoys showing how her family deeply cares for wellbeing of the cattle they raise.

Kohlhaas’ participation in the CommonGround Connections Facebook group has included sharing virtual farm tours of their cattle operation – showing viewers how they care for the health of their animals through vaccinations and medications; the system for harvesting, storing and feeding hay; and a year in the life of the grain farmer.

CommonGround Connections involves volunteers sharing their personal experiences, as well as science and research to help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation surrounding food and farming.

Her videos sparked questions, such as “Why does your farm have so many pens for cattle?” and “What do you feed your cattle?”

One of her favorite subjects to talk with consumers about is the importance of vaccinating their animals.

“We believe it is in the animal’s best interest for their wellbeing and health,” says Kohlhaas. “It is no different than if our kids are sick. We may go to the doctor and receive vaccinations or a treatment plan for our symptoms.”

Advocating for Farmers

Stephanie Haywood, owner of Mama’s Farmhouse Designs from Albia, was invited to join CommonGround in 2020.


Jordon and Stephanie Haywood with their family: Alyson, Ty, Mylea and Zach and his girlfriend Victoria. Stephanie Haywood is a member of the volunteer group CommonGround where she enjoys using the platform to share the story about the Iowa beef industry with consumers.

Searching for another way to share agriculture’s story, Haywood immediately said yes and also recruited her sister Megan Alliger.

“CommonGround is a vessel that can be used to reconnect the urban consumer to the ag producer,” says Haywood.

Haywood and her husband Jordon have four children ages 3, 10, 11 and 24 and raise cattle on their family farm.

When COVID-19 hit and the market for live beef animals was affected, it prompted Haywood to take action.

“I wanted to help spread the word. I wanted to help Iowans. If we don’t advocate for what we do, who will?” Haywood says.

She created a line of products helping to promote Iowa beef and continues to use platforms, such as CommonGround and organizations like he Monroe County Cattlemen, Monroe County Fair board and Monroe County Extension Council to help spread agriculture’s word.


Pictured from left to right: Stephanie, Zach, Alyson, Jordon and Mylea Haywood pose with Alyson after winning reserve champion market heifer at the Monroe County Fair. Stephanie Haywood is a member of the volunteer group CommonGround where she enjoys using the platform to share the story about the Iowa beef industry with consumers. Submitted photo by Stephanie Haywood

“A lot of what I do in CommonGround is have  individual conversations with consumers,” Haywood says. “I meet a lot of people with my Iowa beef business and am able to have personal conversations around topics such as our cow-calf operation and the price of beef at the grocery store.”

“That’s my favorite,” says Haywood. “I love to explain only a small percentage of the price consumers pay at the grocery store actually goes back to the farmer.”

Haywood also likes to provide a solution.

“I like to let the consumer know there are a number of ways for them to support farmers, and one way is buying direct,” she says. “You are helping your local meat locker, a local farmer and cutting out the packer, which is a dream come true for farmers right now.”

The Iowa local beef directory provides a list of farms looking to sell their beef.

Haywood says to not be intimated by shopping local for your meat.

“You don’t have to buy entire cow. You can buy a half, a quarter or by the cut. You call the locker, and they walk you through the process and help you customize your meat cuts. It is way easier than it sounds,” she says.

Haywood serves as a member of CommonGround’s social media committee.

“We help put together reels, posts and information,” she says. “We try to show that we are just regular women, wives and moms who just happen to farm.”             

Farmers are Consumers, Too

Melissa Moretz joined CommonGround in 2020.

Since then, she has been an active participant and moderator for CommonGround Connections, has helped host Zoom freezer meals workshops with Hy-Vee and is excited to host a charcuterie workshop in April.

Moretz resides near Kensett with her husband Nathan and children Kole and Bria. Some of Moretz’s favorite stories to share are the ones involving her life as a mom.


Melissa Moretz lives near Kensett with her husband Nathan and children Kole and Bria. Some of Moretz’s favorite stories to share are the ones involving her life as a mom.

“I enjoy talking about ways I choose to raise my kids, like teaching them how to grow our own food and introducing them to careers that could keep them close to home in their adult life if they choose,” says Moretz.

Moretz shares with others her experiences of raising a vegetable garden with her children. Last year, they grew and sold sunflowers to help save money for college. This year, they plan to expand on their flower-growing skills.

“The No. 1 message I hope to portray to consumers is the people who produce food are also consumers,” Moretz says. “I eat what I grow and am confident in my production methods to provide a nutritious product in an environmentally friendly way. I am a young mother of two, and I do everything I can to help ensure I’m leaving the world a better place for my children.”     

For more information on CommonGround, visit its Facebook page.