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First Indiana resident to chair AFBF’s women’s committee
By Michele F. Mihaljevich
Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time, an Indiana resident will lead the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Women’s Leadership Committee.
Isabella Chism was elected chair of the committee Jan. 9 during the AFBF’s 2021 convention. She has served as 2nd vice president of the Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB) for 13 years and as the committee’s vice chair for six years. Chism and her husband, Kent, raise corn, soybeans and sweet corn in Howard County. She will be up for re-election every two years. There is no limit on the number of terms she could serve.
Chism said she wants to help women realize their opportunities are right in front of them. “My goal is to help women see that and build on their strengths,” she explained. “Trying to help others be the best they can be comes naturally to me.”
The AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee hosts the Women’s Communication Boot Camp and the Women’s Washington, D.C., fly-in. The leadership program focuses on providing women with leadership training, communication skills and networking opportunities “to strengthen their ability to encourage positive change in their communities and in the agricultural industry,” according to INFB.
The biannual boot camp brings 15 women together in the nation’s capital. “When you have peer on peer training, especially with women, they’re freer and more relaxed,” Chism noted. “They’re willing to embarrass themselves. They know they’re in a group of like-minded people. We all need leadership development. Communication skills are the key.”
The Women’s Leadership Committee supports the objectives of the AFBF board, including on such issues as child labor laws, taxes and improving access to broadband, she said.
Efforts to improve broadband access may best be done through collaboration, Chism stated. “You can’t expect utilities to bear all the costs. Alliances would be huge. We could get a resolution quicker. It’s easy to focus on the negatives of 2020, but broadband has come to light. There’s a general acceptance it’s not where it should be.”
Chism joined INFB in the late 1990s after learning about the organization for the first time. “I’d never heard of farm bureau,” she recalled. “I was a city girl married to a farmer. In getting into Farm Bureau, I started to ask questions. Eventually I realized the full potential we could have.”
She became involved in state-level management and leadership programs. As Chism traveled for INFB, she noticed “overwhelmingly, there were men everywhere. That’s not a bad thing, but I wondered where the women were.”
Chism’s family emigrated from Austria when she was 6. She has a degree in industrial management from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University).
“Isabella is a great advocate for agriculture,” INFB President Randy Kron said in a statement. “Her passion for educating the public about the industry as well as empowering women to get involved on the local, state and national levels doesn’t go unnoticed.”