2015 Women in Agriculture Conference

Cornhusker Economics April 22, 20152015 Women in Agriculture Conference

Women in Agriculture: Our Heritage, Our Present, Our Future was the theme for the 30th Nebraska Women in Agriculture (WIA) Conference, February 26-27, 2015. Nearly 330 Nebraska producers and industry professionals attended the conference which focused on educating, advocating and communicating within the agriculture industry. Snowstorms, volatile markets, a new farm bill, severe storms, health care changes and water restrictions brought much uncertainty to Nebraska farmers and ranchers in the past year. The 2015 WIA Conference focused on helping producers evaluate and determine their own comfort level of risk. 

Women in Agriculture

Many examples of women's agricultural programming have been developed in the past 30 years around the country, but the Nebraska WIA Conference is the longest running conference of its kind in the country. In 1985 Deb Rood and Jane Pauley Green organized the first conference focused on providing risk management education for agricultural women during the farm financial crisis of the 1980's. Women have always been an integral part of the farm and ranch operation, and the hope 30 years ago was to provide information and education so they could help their partners make educated risk management decisions. The organizers discovered that women in Nebraska were very open to learning and networking together in this type of venue. Other states and regions eventually adopted similar educational opportunities targeted for women such as conferences, risk management small groups, and Annie's Project classes. These educational opportunities provided more venues for discussion and networking, all in a safe environment where women producers build and develop independence. Figures in the 2012 US Ag Census show a substantial increase in female landowners, including those who own and manage their operation with their spouse or other family members, are absentee landlords, or are the sole or primary landowner/operator.

To recognize 30 years of Nebraska WIA, a celebration banquet was held including a video produced by student intern Amber Maassen and remarks by Jane Green, Jo Bek, Gloria Dermerer and Doug Jose. A wonderful time was had reminiscing and remembering the history of Nebraska's Women in Agriculture program.

In 2015, the average participant was 48.4 years old. With assistance from the scholarships provided by CASNR Dean Waller, the under 25 age group continues to grow each year. CASNR students, Community College students, as well as FFA and 4-H students, compete for these scholarships. These students not only take an active part in the conference, they also assist the conference coordinator by facilitating workshop sessions. Ten students from the Women in Agriculture Club at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture also attended and assisted with the conference.

Other demographics of interest show that 53% of 2015 participants work off the farm, 24% report they are involved in agriculture advocacy activities and 40% report they are involved in local community leadership activities. Overall, participants represented a total of 114,000 acres of crops (row, small grain, feed, other) and 42,000 head of livestock (cow/calf, feeder, swine, horse, misc.).

The Women in Agriculture Program in Nebraska is committed to providing opportunities for all Nebraskans to develop management skills in every facet of agriculture by providing leadership, learning support, and networking avenues. The main goal of the conference is to heighten participants' skills and knowledge and provide them with information they will take back to their agricultural operation. Many women report that they take the information gained from networking, concurrent workshop sessions and the keynote speakers back to their farm or ranch and review it with their partners. Together they evaluate and decide if they will implement changes in their operation.

On a scale of 1 (little change) to 5 (substantial change), participants reported an increased change in their knowledge of 4.45, a change in skills and abilities enhancement of 4.3, and an attitude change of 4.25. Attendees also reported an increased interest in various agricultural topics of 4.36 and their confidence level was reported at 4.15.

Nationally known agriculture advocate, Rebecca Long Cheney, from Elwood, Nebraska was the keynote speaker. She was sponsored by Farm Credit Services of America. In addition Celeste Settrini of Salinas, CA spoke about "Learning about Your Inner Rock Star" for the capstone. Celeste was sponsored by Reinke Irrigation. Nebraska Extension has been a proud sponsor of the conference for all 30 years. Over 30 concurrent workshops were held during the two-day conference. Sessions dealt with grain marketing, cattle health, business transition/succession and estate planning, farm bill policies, financial planning, GMOs, crop insurance, livestock marketing, family communications, and other topics.

Plans are already underway for the 2016 conference, which will be held again in Kearney, February 25-26. For more information on the recent conference and the Women in Agriculture program, visit the webpage, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Cheryl Griffith
Program Coordinator
Women in Agriculture
Department of Agricultural Economics
Nebraska Extension