Friday, March 23, 2018

Conferences promote empowerment for female farmers

Caroline Pam, co-owner of Rhode Island's Kitchen Garden
Farm, with her award-winning sriracha. (USDA photo)
Women have always worked hard on family farms, but not all have called themselves farmers. Instead, they may have called themselves farm wives or said they do the bookkeeping or handle the house. But that's changing these days, and women are becoming more willing to step out of the background, Lou Wilin reports for The Courier in Findlay, Ohio.

"One of the big shifts that has taken place is women are self-identifying as farmers, which is different from what they have done in the past," Iowa State University associate sociology professor Carmen Bain told Wilin. "Women are more comfortable today being defined as farmers."

Women have "new ideas and a fresh outlook," and may be a key part of the future of agriculture, writes George Krivda, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development director for Southern New England: "It’s no secret that the average farmer is aging out of the industry. There is an ever-increasing number of farms and farmers with no succession plan and no one to take over after they’re gone. These farms and these farmers represent a way of life that is in decline. They represent rural communities that are struggling to survive." The increasing number of young women entering agriculture is not just a much-needed infusion of new farmers, but because many come from non-traditional backgrounds like finance, marketing and science, they're bringing a new way of doing business, Krivda writes.

Regional, state and national conferences for farming women are promoting that empowerment; the theme for this year's Iowa Women in Agriculture conference, for example, is "The Power of You."

And at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's 2018 Women in Agriculture conference in February, keynote speaker Ann Finkner of Farm Credit Services of America encouraged female farmers with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the feminist group National Organization for Women: "Focus on NOW, which stands for 'No Opportunity Wasted,' . . . Never stop learning . . . No car runs without gas. No bank account can have a withdrawal if it’s empty. So recognize you’re responsible for your life, and understand you are your own change agent," Katy Moore writes for the Midwest Messenger in Tekamah, Neb.

Click here for a list of state, regional and national conferences for women in agriculture.

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