Conference Educates, Uplifts Nebraska Women in Agriculture

Cornhusker Economics March 28, 2018Conference Educates, Uplifts Nebraska Women in Agriculture

By Jessica Groskopf and Haley Apel

Women in agriculture are business partners, owners and operators; they oversee financial and human resources and keep farms and ranches running. This was the message more than 250 women heard at the 33rd annual Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference February 22 and 23 in Kearney.

The conference is one of the longest-running women's conferences of its kind in the country. It allows women to build relationships with each other, attend workshops and gain valuable knowledge. The theme for this year’s conference was “Growing Our Future, Valuing Our Traditions."

Three women who play important roles in this community were at the conference to inspire and uplift the group. Ruth Hambleton, the founder of Annie's Project, spoke on empowering and educating women producers. Annie’s Project is an educational program dedicated to strengthening women's roles in the modern farm enterprise. Leslie McCuiston, a senior territory manager for Pharmgate Animal Health, spoke about investing in and developing people. Ann Finkner, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Farm Credit Services of America, shared tips for helping women recharge while dealing with complexity, stress and multitasking in agriculture.

Ruth Hambleton explains Annie's Project to conference participants
Ruth Hambleton, Founder of Annie’s Project Education for Farm Women, discusses financial statements during a workshop session.

Participants noted that they enjoyed the opportunity to network and spend time with friends and colleagues, all the while discussing issues important to Nebraska agriculture. To help women in agriculture during challenging economic times, the conference featured more than 30 workshops focusing on risk- management topics and tools to help attendees make profitable business decisions. Sessions covered risks in production, market, financial, human and legal areas. Training opportunities ranged from how to use Quicken to keep tax and financial records to what legal tools are available in estate planning. There was also a session on ag policy outlook, which highlighted regulatory issues, trade negotiations and the new farm bill due this year.

Two participants using a computer at the conference
Participants work together on to build a farm in Quicken, a personal financial software, during a 2018 workshop session.

One participant said, “What I enjoyed most about the 2018 Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference was the depth of the material that was presented at the workshop sessions. By featuring this key subject material, you say to women in agriculture that they are important, they are intelligent, and they are important to the decision-making process on the farm. It is empowering.”

The main goal of the conference is to heighten participants’ skills and knowledge. Over 700 workshop session evaluations were submitted during the 2018 conference. Survey respondents were asked how the workshop had affected them by selecting a series of statements to complete the sentence “This workshop__________.” The response options and percentage of survey respondents for each option are listed in Table 1.

The women also reported that they will take the information gained from workshop sessions and share it with approximately 1,785 other people including their spouse, siblings, parents, children, business partners, and agricultural professionals.1

These women represented a wide variety of agricultural backgrounds and demographics. On average, women had attended the conference 4.5 times. Figure 1 shows the roles, age, and race of those who attended.

Table 1. Impact of workshop session statement results1.
… increased my knowledge about the topic. 83%
… encouraged me to find out more about this topic. 54%
… improved my skills/ability. 40%
… increased my confidence in my ability to influence key decision-makers. 35%
… empowered me to develop a plan to address this topic. 41%
 … validated my/our current practices.  23%
… encouraged me to change my/our current practices. 29%
11 Based on workshop session results available at the time of publication. (n= 712)

Figure 1: Age, Roles, and Race of 2018 Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference Attendees.

Graph of age, role, and race of landowner

One young attendee had this to say about this year’s conference, “As a 21-year-old who is just beginning to start dealing with the farm and cattle, it’s really beneficial to come here and see and hear from the older generation and their experiences. I have lived on a farm my whole life and will be able to apply a lot of this information to my future when taking ownership of our farm and herd. Women in Ag is a great organization and I am so glad that I was able to be a part of it this year.”

Allan Vyhnalek presenting at the conference
Allan Vyhnalek, Extension Educator, discusses “You’ve inherited a farm, now what?” during a 2018 workshop session.

A new element of this year’s conference was live streaming of four of the general session speakers and three of the workshop sessions on the Nebraska Women in Agriculture Facebook Page. As of March 23, 2,175 unique viewers, 91% of which were female, have viewed these videos. Facebook users reacted to these videos 162 times, commented 17 times and shared 24 times. Additionally, a pre-recorded workshop session was also posted on Facebook, it received five likes and two shares. Following the conference, these video recordings were placed online at and were viewed an additional 67 times.

The future success of the conference depends on continued funding from grant agencies and sponsors. This year’s conference was funded in part by a grant from the USDA Risk Management Agency. We were honored to have three premiere sponsors this year: Nebraska Corn Board, 

Nebraska Pork Producers Association and Farm Credit Services of America. Our gold sponsor this year was the Nebraska Dry BeanCommission. Silver sponsors included Reinke Irrigation, Inc., Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, and USDA NRCS. There were various agricultural business and government agencies sponsoring at the bronze level.

For more information on this conference and the Women in Agriculture program see our webpage, or follow us on Twitter, @newomeninag and like us on Facebook, The 2019 Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference is scheduled for Feb. 21-22, 2019 at the Kearney Holiday Inn Convention Center.



Jessica Groskopf, Extension Educator
Panhandle Research and Extension Center 
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Haley Apel, Media Specialist
IANR Media