I met Jenny Sauer on Twitter. With her fun personality, and unusual background of farming and acting I knew she was someone I wanted to interview for the blog even though it wasn’t directly horse related. I think with her great rural work ethic, diverse background and sense of adventure you’ll enjoy reading about Jenny….
You’re a jack of all trades – tell us a little bit about your scientific writing, being an actress and model, and a farmer…..
One of the best things I’ve learned, most recently, being a full-time farmer, is that I’ve become a mechanic. I always knew the basics, but now I know what the feederhouse chain looks like and how to change it. I can speak the “tool speak” now, and I’ve found myself, very often actually, walking by a construction site and noticing what tools they have. I was with my mumsie one day, walked by a construction area, and I exclaimed, “Oh wow, Dewalt makes that big of an air compressor?!” Mom laughed at me because I’ve never really spoken that way about tools.
I’ve started my own tool collection for my work truck. I enjoy going to eBolt in Jacksonville, IL now with Dad…and I know the owner’s name. I know a lot of the guys at Arend’s Awe in Riggston, IL (the John Deere implement my great grandfather initially started). We have to go in there fairly often for parts, so Dad sends me in there to pick up stuff.
My wide array of knowledge just continues to expand, which I love. I LOVE being able to figure things out that are practical. If something is wrong with my car/truck, I can now figure it out on my own rather than calling my dad right away, which I still would if I couldn’t figure it out quickly enough. Being able to be mehcanilly inclined is so liberating because I don’t NEED anyone else, especially needing a man.
Now I’m not some raging feminist, but it is nice to be able to do things by myself.
What is a typical day like for you?
Waking up — having my “morning routine” which consists of making an acai bowl, Tazo English breakfast tea, and lemon water (I add my own lemons). Mornings when I have to hurry, I have Marshmallow Fruit Loops in a “Jethro size” bowl. Sugary cereals are not just for kids.
I may or may not have to feed everything at our shop and cattleshed (black Angus cattle and kitties). This depends upon if my dad has errands to run. During harvest, I did the feeding every day so he could hop on the combine and just go. Every couple of days, I fill up an umpteen amount of corn buckets to take corn to two other pastures of cattle. My trapezious muscles are quite impressive at this point.
And then from there, well, whatever needs to be fixed/repaired/moved/cleaned/etc. There isn’t a day where there is “nothing to do;” there is ALWAYS something to do.
What was it like growing up in a farming family?
Super duper. My parents were able to be at every sporting event, practice, school-related activity I had, including my older brother and sister’s events/practices. Farming is stressful, but working for yourself allows for you to allot time for the important things in life. All of those small things, kids remember. I’m so fortunate to be able to look back on my childhood and be able to say with all honesty, that my parents were ALWAYS there, no matter what. I’m also thankful and lucky to have such awesome parents.
One of the other great things was that I started learning how to drive when I was 10. I knew how to drive a car, truck, vehicle with a manual transmission, and a tractor before I was 16. That helped me able to deal with drivers in Chicago and Los Angeles traffic. I also knew how to hook up a hitch and pull a trailer. My first time, I remember, actually driving, was in my dad’s red 1989 red Chevy truck pulling a trailer while the guys bucked square bales onto the trailer. I guess Dad thought, “what could go wrong with a little kid driving 3-5mph, at least she’ll be useful?” We actually still have that truck; modified into a flat bed.
What were some of your chores growing up and why do you think you were given those particular chores?
I don’t believe I had any specific chores, simply what mom and dad wanted to me to do, they just told me to do it.
What type of farming do you do now, and what are some of your goals for your farm?
We farm corn and soybeans. I’d like to expand and try a couple other crops. I’ve always wanted to try growing sunflowers because for one thing, they’re pretty, and for another, they were one of my late grandpa Sauer’s favorite flower.
He farmed up until the day he passed. I loved him like my own father, and it would be kind of in remembrance, reverence, of him. Sunflowers are a happy flower, I’ve never been witness, nor heard about, anyone being junky when receiving sunflowers. I have heard about roses and carnations (obviously because those are filler flowers) not being received well, but not sunflowers.
I’m kind of running off the topic here, but harvesting the seeds is interesting. I’ve looked up how it all works, does it mean I’ll give it a go on a few acres? Maybe, but that is something I’d like to experiment with someday.
I’m a HUGE proponent of change. I think it’s necessary as humans to introduce some sort of change in your life every once in awhile, otherwise, you become too comfortable and never challenge yourself. That could be something so small as to try a new protein powder in your shake, or as large as moving to a different state where you know no one. I did both of those things. I like a morning routine, but that’s about as monotonous as I get.
What are some of the struggles that you experience as a farmer?
The fact that we are competing with other countries for corn and soybeans production and prices are basically like they were in the 80’s. The price of corn and soybeans is kinda sucky right now.
South America, you’re welcome we shipped modern farming equipment and taught modern day farming techniques to you.
People don’t realize that farmers don’t get a raise because they work harder or because they complimented their boss nonstop, it’s based upon the markets and people who have no idea how farming works. Am I being slightly facetious there? Yeah, but I don’t care.
Also, farming is like playing the lottery. You depend on the weather. Sidenote: all my friends always ask me what the weather is going to be like because I always check…that’s what being from a farmer family does to you.
Ok, back on topic…you never know what the weather will do, and meteorologists don’t even know 70% of the time (that is my own percentage I believe it is, that is not scientifically proven). So the fact that you really have no idea what kind of crop you will have that year makes for a little stress in your life. Of course there are things to help alleviate that worry, but it’s always there, no matter what type of “weather dances” you might perform, candles lit in church, or bottles of wine consumed.
You are a published science writer. Tell us about that.
Ever since I was in third grade, I wanted to be a podiatrist. I started playing basketball competitively then, and I also managed to tear my achilles tendon when I was the ripe age of 9. I went to see a podiatrist, and I was hooked.
I thought I always wanted to be a doctor. I had the grades and drive, but my senior year of college, I thought, “Ehhhhhh, I’ll be over 30 years old before I can enjoy my life. Yeaaaaaaaah, no thanks.”
I graduated with honors in biology and decided to go into clinical research. I was hired on at the Jones Eye Institute in Little Rock, AR.
The lab group I worked with consisted of maybe 12-15 people. We had 9 studies going on at the same time, so I dabbled in half of those doing various lab tests for whatever was needed.
I was a glorified lab tech, but helped write, used my ideas/suggestions, etc and BAM, got published. We were finding the correlation between the immune system and the eye. We found complement factor H, I actually, visually, found it due to me running the Western Blot procedure.
We gave lab rats cancer in the eye (uveal melanoma), scratched corneas and used honey on the scratches-yes, it does indeed induce a faster healing time, and all that jazz.
I did some very cool stuff, however, the lab environment I was in just wasn’t cutting it for me. I’m a social person, when I want to be, but the lab people I was around weren’t really all that fun- shocker I know. I met some very awesome other lab people, with whom I am still friends with, however, they were not in my lab.
I was a fitness instructor at the same time, so I did that for awhile (did that in Dallas, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles). I kinda did what I wanted, BUT not simply on a whim. I’ve always had confidence in my abilities, and if I’m not entirely sure if I’m going to be performing well or slightly unsure if I can hack it, I don’t follow through with that option. I take risks, but calculated ones. I think I’m kind of like most people, I’m not really a huge fan of failing. I know it happens, but if I can avoid it as much as possible, I’d like to do that.
Modeling and acting are opposite ends of the spectrum from farming. How did you get into the entertainment and fashion world?
So my college days, not a whole lot of people know this, but I went to a different college every year for 4.5 years. I took off a semester while I lived in Chicago, so that accounts for the “.5th” year. What can I say? I love change, and I love traveling, so that was my way of “traveling” so-to-speak.
I met new people all the time, immersed myself into the culture of wherever I was, and I loved it. Would I recommend it? Wellll, it’s not for everyone because I had to to a lot of “extra” classes due to not all classes transferring, but I had something over 200 credits.
I took a lot of classes, did well at each school actually, normally always on the Dean’s List, but needed different scenery.
Ok, so back to your question…I got into modeling whenever I was attending the University of Illinois in Chicago. I started out trying some promotional modeling, which was just looking decent and getting paid to talk to people about a product. It was easy money, most of the time, but then it branched out from there.
I was “seen” at some things, then asked to work for them, do a photoshoot here and there, that kind of stuff. I did my research and learned about all this stuff, but then it got to the point where I was becoming kinda junky because I wasn’t eating much and working out a lot to compete.
I’m 5’8″, so in order to be competitive with the Amazons, you have to be thinner. The thinner you are, the taller you look/photograph. Well I’m 75% German, I’m not meant to be skinny, so it was too much work to be “skinny,” it’s WAY easier for me to be muscular. Plus I have a lot more energy and am much more personable when eating and working out on a consistent basis. 😉
So I had the taste of modeling, that helped me to understand the acting world. I NEVER acted in my life, nor thought about it while younger/in school.
I was a stage manager for a play in college because I tried out for the lead role (yeah, that was ambitious with no experience) and of course the theatre instructor chose a girl she has worked with multiple times before. I understand, now, why it worked out that way, however, I was told by quite a few people, who viewed my audition, that I did a very good job.
It was for a role with a southern accent, I nailed that because I’m surrounded by a redneck accent, so it’s not that much of a stretch to do a southern accent. It was a blessing in disguise because I am not a stage actor, I enjoy the feature/tv/commercial arena.
While I was in Oklahoma City, I decided to move to LA. I did my research before, figured out, mostly, how it all worked, and said, “Yep, we’re doing this.”
Like I mentioned before, I wouldn’t have simply done it on a whim if I didn’t believe in my capabilities to figure it out, and I did my research before I moved. I had a backup plan, my bio degree, fitness certifications, and farming. When I moved, I was comfortable because I had something to fall back upon in case I was totally mucked up wrong.
I moved, worked, received my “must-join” SAG notification, so I paid up and joined the union.
By the way, I have mentioned in my book, Snickering Out Loud, that I obtained this by working, not performing sexual favors. With all the news lately, I know that sexual exploitation of girls and dumb actors is rampant out there.
I don’t know if it was luck, but I’m going to say it was from “living” before heading out there that saved me. I also have a little bit going on up in the ol’ noodle, so I was never really asked point blank to be subject to “yucky stuff.” I had a friend tell me it’s because of my “aura” and “vibe,” but I think it’s because I walk and speak with confidence. The predators out in Hollywood prey on the weak unfortunately…I never came across as weak, which I am very proud to say. I won’t say that I wasn’t persued, however, I was being chased after I suppose because of my unique background, not because I seemed “easy.” It’s a tough world out there, I would not recommend it to anyone young.
What are some of your most well known acting and modeling gigs?
I hate to do this, but it’s probably easier to go to my website (www.jennysauer.com) and look on the acting resume.
I think the most well-known, but not actual large roles, were “Hangover 2” (this was the role where I became a “must-join” into the union) where I was a flight attendant and “Water for Elephants” where I was a foxtrot dancer. My cool uncle, Uncle Joe, taught me how to do the fox trot at his wedding, so because of him I landed that role. They were “extra” roles, but I got featured, so that was cool.
I got to talk to some of the biggie actors, that was quite the experience. I got some fun details about the actors because I struck up conversations with the crew and directors. I didn’t care, they are just people, so that’s how I treated them. In which case they opened up quite a bit. For some reason people seem to think I’m easy to talk to, so that’s flattering.
What have been some of favorite jobs as an actress and model, and why?
Any of the union jobs because craft services (the food) was better, we got to eat before the nonunion, pay was better, and had rules to protect us, so we were treated better.
What is like being a farmer in the entertainment industry?
Fun. No one has my story, so I never sounded like all the other actors.
How has being a farmer shaped your career as an actress and model?
It was easier to make friends and alliances. Due to growing up in a town of 7 seven houses, you have to be able to perform “small talk” fairly well, and act like you like the person, so acting came fairly easy to me. I attended school in a town of 1,800, so everyone knows all of your business and your relatives. Being able to deal with everything that goes with a small town, really makes it VERY easy, in my opinion, to handle city issues. What people complain about in a city is small taters compared to what is complained about in a small town. We have to figure out a lot more because we don’t have everything at our disposal, good critical thinking skills. I’m sorry my good city friends.
As a farmer, we have real-life problems, people in the acting world don’t really understand ANY of those, so it helped to not get wrapped up and swallowed in that world.
What are some of your goals as an actress?
My goal, when I moved to LA, was to land a national commercial. I did that, while living in Chicago (I lived in LA, moved to Chicago, then back to LA-all in 5 years) in a Swiffer commercial where it was just me. So I met my goal and am still in the SAG-AFTRA union. I won’t ever get rid of that union payment, that was quite the milestone, and something I’m very proud of obtaining the way I did. It takes some people YEARS to get their card, so the fact that I did the right things and did real work to get it is quite satisfying. Since I reached the goal I set out to do, I’m ok with allowing acting to take a backseat. It’s not gone from my life, I have something up my sleeve coming up which I can’t discuss, but farming is something I’ve always come back to, every single year.
What is something about you that most people don’t know?
My first word was “kitty.” That probably wouldn’t be a surprise to most, but I don’t believe that is something I mention too often.
If you could tell the world one thing what would it be?
Travel, expand your mind, it only makes your life better, not worse. You don’t have to have a lot of money to see some place new. It makes you look at things differently, which is a good thing.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into the farming business?
Save A LOT of money…and buy good work gloves. I have very feminine hands, piano hands one might say, and I like to keep them that way. I wear Milwaukee brand gloves, good stuff. They keep me from having “man hands,” which is something I don’t believe is too terribly attractive in a woman.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to make a career out of acting or modeling?
This could make for a very long answer. 😉 Make sure you get your skin nice and thick because you will hear “no” VERY OFTEN. A lot of people become very insecure, well, don’t. I know that’s easier said than done, but once you allow doubt to creep into your mind, it’s hard to get rid of. I know I just ended that sentence with a preposition, I should probably fix it, but that’s how I speak on occasion. It’s really a “mind over matter” sort of concept. You have to think your shite doesn’t stink without being arrogant. I know that might sound like an oxymoron, however, it can be mastered. There is a HUGE difference between being confident and arrogant.
Also, there is always someone younger and prettier than you, this includes men. If you decline a job, they will find someone else, you are dispensable. There are so many people trying to “make it,” so you have to hustle. LA is one of the most transient cities, so you’re nothing overly special, but you have to make yourself seem like you are, and stand out-for the right reasons.
One more thing, you have to be responsible. I lived the “Hollywood life” for awhile…then I got tired. I can see just how easily it would be for someone naive to get swept up into that world. Hell, I almost did. It’s also very expensive to live that lifestyle AND be an actor, pay for classes, headshots, clothing, rent, food, etc. It’s not an easy life, I can tell you that much. So like the advice for starting a farm, save a lot of money before you think about going into acting so you aren’t living in your car-yes, a lot of people do that out there, no joke.
Would I do it all over again? Hell yes. Am I glad I moved home to help Dad on the farm? Hell yes. I made decisions based upon myself, therefore I have made myself happy. I didn’t do anything for anyone else. I still fly back and forth to CA, but farming has been something I’ve ALWAYS had, and ALWAYS loved. You can’t take the country out of the girl.