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Albion woman honored for generosity with time, dedication to agriculture

Albion woman honored for generosity with time, dedication to agriculture

NORFOLK, Neb. – An Albion woman whose dedication to agriculture has been described as inspiring to others was honored at Northeast Community College on Friday morning.

Hilary (Esch) Maricle was named the 2023 AgCeptional Woman of the Year during Northeast Community College’s AgCeptional Women’s Conference on the Northeast campus in Norfolk. 

The announcement was made as part of a video tribute that was played during the opening session of the 15th annual conference. The video was sponsored by Farm Credit Services of America and produced by the Northeast Agriculture Department and District 25 Productions. 

Maricle said the award belongs to the other women in the room as they make it happen on the farm every day. She had been surprised earlier when she was given the award – a moment that was captured on the video shown Friday morning at the conference.

“It was a wild day. It was the day they had a big shower for our family (with a family event), so that was exciting. And then that night was homecoming, so it was like, ‘OK, we’ll squeeze one more thing into our day. This is our life. This is normal.’ And so I think that’s the reality for most of the people in this room,” Maricle said to a room full of hundreds of women gathered to celebrate women’s accomplishments in agriculture.

A special selection committee made up of professionals from agricultural businesses and operations is assembled each year to select the winner from a competitive group of nominees.

Even though Maricle’s parents owned a grocery store in Spading where she grew up, her goal was a farming career, patterning those of both sets of grandparents.

That dream became a reality when she met Brian Marcile of rural Albion at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where both were agricultural majors. She earned a bachelor of science degree in agricultural sciences and a master of science degree in leadership education from UNL.

She and Brian married and live on the homestead farm that has been in the Maricle family since 1871. As owner-operator of Maricle Family Farms, she is immersed in the couple’s livestock and grain operations.

Her accomplishments include:

• Agriculture education instructor/FFA adviser at Spalding and Albion
• Agribusiness instructor and associate dean of agriculture, math and science at Northeast
• UNL Extension Leadership team (including engagement zone coordinator)

Last January, Maricle was appointed Nebraska’s deputy director of agriculture in recognition of her extensive experience and education in natural resources, leadership, agriculture and agribusiness.

“I have a deep-rooted passion for agriculture that I want to share with others, and I’m excited to be a part of NDA (Nebraska Department of Agriculture) in my home state where agriculture is our No. 1 industry,” Maricle said. 

In her new role as deputy director, she will build on Nebraska’s successes in agriculture and pursue future opportunities both locally and internationally to grow the state’s economy.

Sherry Vinton, Nebraska Department of Agriculture director, said, “With her extensive knowledge and background, Hiliary understands agriculture and how important ag is to growing Nebraska’s economy. I can’t think of a better person to promote and support Nebraska’s ag industry.”  

Maricle was nominated for the AgCeptional Woman award by Mary Pat Hoag, Norfolk, who was a pioneer for women on reporting on agricultural issues for the Norfolk Daily News for decades.

Hoag said Maricle is passionate about the agricultural industry as evidenced by her selfless giving of herself as an “ag-vocate” on many agricultural fronts over the years.

“Hilary uses social media as an ag producer to connect with consumers and has championed for the family farm in Washington, D.C. She was in the Nebraska Leadership Action Development Program’s Class 34, enhancing her leadership and communication skills and knowledge of the world. Hillary’s other involvements include her community and her parish (St. Michael’s in Albion), as well as serving four years as an elected Boone County commissioner,” Hoag said.

The AgCeptional Women’s Conference is northeast Nebraska’s premier event for women in agriculture, attracting over 400 women annually who come together for a full day of networking, professional development, and personal growth opportunities. 

This year’s event was to continue through the day on Friday, featuring speakers who discussed issues related to agriculture on a range of topics.

Anita Keys, Elsmere, was named the 2022 Ag-ceptional Woman of the Year during last year’s conference. Other past Ag-Ceptional Woman of the Year honorees include Joan Ruskamp, Dodge (2021), Lisa Kruger, Columbus (2020); Lisa Lunz, Wakefield (2019); Shana Beattie, Sumner (2018); Liz Doerr, Creighton (2017); Anne Meis, Elgin (2016); Karen Grant, Meadow Grove (2015); Dawn Winkelbauer, Norfolk (2014); Jan Frenzen, Fullerton (2013) Nancy Kirkholm, Homer (2012); Jan Miller, Belden (2011); and Bonnie Schulz, Battle Creek (2010). 

When Maricle thinks of a successful future for the U.S. agricultural industry, she thinks of her five children.

“I want to make sure the seventh generation (of Maricles) gets to farm,” she said.

To learn more about the annual conference, contact Karmen Hake at or call (402) 844-7181.

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Tara Smydra (left), dean of science, technology, agriculture, and math at Northeast Community College, presents Hilary (Esch) Maricle, with the 2023  AgCeptional Woman of the Year award during the college’s AgCeptional Women’s Conference in Norfolk on Friday (Nov. 17). (Northeast Community College)