News A WOMAN’S WORK: St. Clair Women’s Division Seldom Rests

A WOMAN’S WORK: St. Clair Women’s Division Seldom Rests

A WOMAN’S WORK: St. Clair Women’s Division Seldom Rests
August 25, 2008 |

If there’s something that needs to be done in St. Clair County, Margaret Evans probably has it in the bag.That’s because every project she undertakes — and there have been literally hundreds of projects in the 32 years she’s served as chairman of the St.
Clair County Farmers Federation’s Women’s Division — is assigned its own tote bag or satchel.”It’s how I keep everything together,” Evans explains. “It’s handy.”There’s a bag for her Farm-City Week paperwork, another for the Women’s Division quilting fair, another for the annual holiday open house and on and on.”Mother is the satchel queen,” declares her daughter Beth Smith. “She has a satchel for every project. A lot of people know that. So, they give her satchels.”They also know that if there’s a letter to be written, a building to be moved or a quilt to be quilted, the “best man” for the job is often the women of the St. Clair County Farmers Federation. The St. Clair women meet the second Wednesday in every month at 10 a.m. “And that’s 10 sharp,” Evans reminds you. “I believe in starting on time.”She also believes in always having a program of some kind, whether it’s a young farmer coming in to talk about growing organic tomatoes on Chandler Mountain or taking a field trip to a farm that grows day lilies. That way, she says, there’s always something that may attract a potential new “member.”Most months, anywhere from 20 to 50 people will attend the St. Clair women’s meeting, but Evans doesn’t count “members.””I have about 100 women I can call on,” she says. “They may not come but once a year, but I have that many. That’s the reason we have such a good response in our county. That’s one way we promote membership — by these new women coming. We don’t limit it to anybody.”With such a large volunteer force, the St. Clair women are able to tackle myriad civic projects, like helping relocate an old Masonic Lodge building, raising funds for a children’s advocacy center or helping organize an Easter egg hunt. That’s in addition to the usual labor-intensive projects such as Farm-City Week, Ag in the Classroom, a yearly quilting fair and annual holiday open house.It’s no wonder the St. Clair women have been awarded Outstanding Women’s Committee in Division II for the last three years. And at last December’s 86th Annual Meeting, the St. Clair County Farmers Federation took home a Superior award and seven Awards of Excellence as it was recognized for its Women’s activities and its involvement in the legislative process.So what’s St. Clair’s secret? Ask any of the women, and they’ll tell you: Margaret Evans.”She could teach us all how to better handle our time,” said Lee Ann Clark, an Extension coordinator who now serves as Farm-City program co-chairman. “How does she do all the things she does and still have energy?”Stanley Morris, the St. Clair Farmers Federation president, likewise points to Evans as the driving force behind the women. “She’s capable of getting them all behind her and getting them to do what she wants to do,” he said. “The Federation supports them in anything they want to do. The board is behind them.”But Evans, who is 77 and has been fighting cancer for a decade, says it has more to do with teamwork than “self.” She points out that all of her women are “active, friendly and available.”What’s more, she notes that she’s one of four women on the county Federation’s board along with Jan Parker, Emily Taylor and her longtime friend, 91-year-old Hope Burger, who has been Evans’ treasurer all these years.”It just happened that I’m here, and they just keep re-electing me,” said Evans. “Every election I always end up being president, and Hope Burger always ends up being treasurer, and I want her there. If I’m going to be chairman of something, I don’t want to keep up with money. I want somebody else to do that.””Margaret and Mrs. Burger are, to me, good examples of women I would like to be like,” said Taylor. “There’s not a lot of strong, outspoken women who’ll say, ‘This is what I believe, and I’m going to stand up for it.’ That’s what is wrong with a lot of things now — people won’t take a stand for what they believe. They just let it go. Margaret will let you know where she stands on things.”Too, Evans said, a good leader knows how to be a good follower. “If I have a committee, I don’t go and hover over them,” she said. “I expect them to meet. If they want me there, fine. Whatever they need me to do, I’m there. They always give me a report, but they run their committee. I would never put limits on them. I expect a committee person to do for the Women’s Division what they’re supposed to do. But I do want them to come back to the meetings and report.”It’s not an unreasonable expectation, given her own work ethic. “The only way a farmer is going to be recognized is by putting in an effort, letting people know what we do, that we’re there, even though we’re a volunteer group — you don’t get paid for it,” she said. “Beth used to think I got paid for it because I was there so much.”Her daughter nods in agreement, saying, “She eats, sleeps and drinks Alfa.”What’s more, Beth adds, the marina where her mother and father spend much of their days when they’re not fooling with their cattle, horses and goats often becomes “Political Central” during election years.Evans’ love of politics, passed down from her father, is almost legendary. “Margaret is a letter writer! I think every congressman and every senator has probably had a letter from her,” said Taylor. “We have forgotten what our political system is set up to do. They’re OUR voice, but we have to let them know what we believe. And she’s really good at that.”State Rep. Blaine Galliher can attest to that. When his office became so inundated with letters urging his support of the Federation-supported Family Farm Preservation Act, he politely asked Evans to cease and desist.”He said, ‘I’m going to vote for it! I’m going to vote for it! I’m going to vote for it! Don’t write me any more letters!'” Evans said with a laugh. “He’s very nice, though. He’ll answer me back on email now.”That’s the kind of influence Evans dreams about for the Alabama Farmers Federation. She says she’d “never tell another organization what to do,” but believes that the Federation could be unstoppable if each and every county Women’s Division pitched in to make it happen.”What would happen?” She asked, repeating the question. “Let me tell you: Number one, everyone would know about agriculture. Number two, we’d be at the top of the list as far as politics are concerned. … We would be powerful! We would really be powerful!”

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