November 24, 2020

Town Girl Turned Farm Girl: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Melanie Elbert

20151015_maxyield_463 (1024x681)While Melanie Elbert never envisioned a career in agriculture, she knew she’d found the right fit when she accepted a job offer from MaxYield Cooperative on her birthday, March 14, this year.

“I always thought the ideal job for me would be a place where I could apply my skills and wear jeans all day,” said Elbert, who became client care leader at MaxYield’s Whittemore location on April 1. “I feel right at home at MaxYield.”

Although she didn’t grow up on a farm, this northwest Iowa native has quickly adapted to her new role and is handling even the biggest challenges like a pro. “MaxYield’s team members are so helpful and are good at answering my questions,” Elbert said. “At first I was nervous about harvest, but now I’m ready to rock.”

Here are five things you might not know about Elbert, who is becoming known around MaxYield for her friendly smile and tasty, home-cooked treats.
1. Listening is one of Elbert’s many skills. After earning her administrative assistant degree from Iowa Lakes Community College in 2008, Elbert worked as a service advisor at Motor Inn in Algona for four and a half years. She handled everything from warranty work to scheduling appointments. “I learned how to work one-on-one with people, listen to their concerns, and help point them in the right direction,” Elbert said. “I also got to know a lot of MaxYield clients from my previous role, and it’s rewarding to help them in my new job.”

2. Elbert is right at home in the kitchen. Elbert grew up in Sioux Rapids in a family of six kids. Since her parents both worked outside the home, Elbert learned to do a fair share of cooking and household chores. Those culinary skills serve her well as a working mom. “I love to cook,” said Elbert, who bakes homemade pizza every Friday night and prepares many other homemade foods, including her own spaghetti sauce and chili sauce.

3. Teamwork is important to Elbert. Many of the ingredients for Elbert’s recipes are purchased in bulk or come fresh from the garden. “My husband, Matt, and his dad help a lot with our garden, while Matt’s mom helps me can tomatoes and freeze sweet corn,” said Elbert, who also prepared 30 one- quart bags of applesauce before harvest 2015 started. Help from her family (including her young son, Nolan), makes it easier to prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them. Elbert has five freezers, including an upright freezer, two chest freezers, and two refrigerator/freezers, to store a variety of homemade meals, including Swiss steak, tater-tot casserole, chili, stroganoff, beef and pork roasts, and more. Many of these freezer meals are prepared on Sunday afternoons, said Elbert, who enjoys bringing food to share at MaxYield every week or so. “It takes a good team to have a good working system like this,” she noted.

4. Healthy living is a must for Elbert. Home cooking became a lifestyle for Elbert after she experienced Para Partum Cardiomyopathy after her first pregnancy. “Your body takes on extra fluid, and your heart can’t keep up, which triggers high blood pressure,” said Elbert, whose second child is due in February. “That changed how I eat and how I cook.” Elbert’s cooking has also been influenced by her mother’s celiac disease. Now Elbert focuses on low-sodium meals and looks for ways to add more vegetables to the dishes she serves her family. She has also become a consultant for Wildtree, which offers herbs, spices, and culinary blends that work especially well for people with special dietary restrictions. “I’m always interested in finding new options for preparing healthy foods my family will enjoy,” she said.

5. Farm life has grown on Elbert. Although Elbert grew up in town, she has always been connected to agriculture. Since her mother oversaw hog production sites, Elbert power-washed swine barns when she was in high school. Since 2011, she has been married to her husband, Matt, who farms with his parents, Walt and Dar Elbert, and operates a wean-to-finish hog operation. The young couple is proud to raise their growing family on an acreage between Whittemore and Cylinder that will become a Century Farm in a few years. Living close to the land is important to Elbert, just as it is to many MaxYield clients. “Every day brings something new when you farm and work at a grain elevator,” Elbert said. “I love the variety of the work and also love the freedom of country living and its wide-open spaces.”

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