Throughout her farming career, O'Brien has been extremely involved in her community as well as in the agricultural sector. She is currently a USDA Advisor serving in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Previously, she co-founded the Women Food and Agriculture Network and served as its director for more than 11 years. Her past experiences include also include running for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, organizing the Women's Task Force of the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition, directing the Rural Women's Leadership Development Project of PrairieFire Rural Action Inc. and serving as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. She was a member of the 2001-2003 class of Food and Society Policy Fellows.