Nebraska Women in Agriculture “Take Charge of Change”

Cornhusker Economics March 27, 2019Nebraska Women in Agriculture “Take Charge of Change”

By Jessica Groskopf

A crowd of almost 300 gathered together February 21 and 22 in Kearney, Nebraska for the 34th Annual Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference, with the theme “Take Charge of Change.”

The conference is one of the longest-running women's conferences of its kind in the country. The goal of the Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference is for women to build relationships with each other while gaining valuable knowledge about managing risk on their farms and ranches. The event featured 4 general session speakers and over 30 workshop sessions.

The keynote speaker this year was Marji Guyler-Alaniz, President and Founder of FarmHer. FarmHer’s goal is to update the image of agriculture by showing women in farming and ranching, through a photography project that has exploded into an award-winning television show, podcast and radio show. Marji shared stories of the women that she has photographed across the country and highlighted the struggles that “farmhers” are facing with regards to mental health and the current financial hardships of farming and ranching. The FarmHer team sheds light on all areas of production agriculture and empowers those to embrace the spirit and grit of being a woman in agriculture.

The capstone speaker was Joan Ruskamp of Dodge, Nebraska who currently serves as the Chair of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Joan shared her story as a Nebraska Woman in Agriculture including her family’s struggles through the farm crisis of the 1980s to her current role in her family’s operation. Joan inspired attendees to take advantage of opportunities when given. Joan discussed the role of accepting challenges and taking charge of change with faith and grace.

Conference attendees also heard from Tim Hammerich of Ag Grad, Jim Robb of the Livestock Marketing Information Center and 34 other workshop speakers. People attending the conference represented a wide variety of agricultural backgrounds and demographics. One hundred percent of the respondents identified as female. Ninety-eight percent resided in Nebraska. On average, participants had attended the conference 6.25 times and owned or leased 1,170.25 acres of farmland1. Figure 1 shows the roles, age, and race of those who attended.

graph depicting Age, Roles, and Race of 2019 Nebraska  Women in Agriculture Conference attendees. 

Figure 1: Age, Roles, and Race of 2019 Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference attendees.

Participants noted that they enjoy the opportunity to network and spend time with friends and colleagues, all the while discussing issues important to their farms and ranches. To help participants during these challenging economic times, the conference continues to focus 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 crop and livestock insurance to record keeping and using financial documents to succeed.

The main goal of the conference is to heighten participants’ skills and knowledge. Over 470 workshop session evaluations were submitted during the 2019 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.

Table 1. Impact of workshop session statement results2.
…increased my knowledge about the topic. 80%
… encouraged me to find out more about this topic. 70%
… improved my skills/ability. 48%
… increased my confidence in my ability to influence key decision makers. 40%
… increased my confidence in my ability to make a decision myself. 40%
… empowered me to develop a plan to address this topic. 41%
… validated my/our current practices. 41%
… encouraged me to change my/our current practices. 35%

The women also reported that they will take the information gained from workshop sessions and share it with approximately 1,222 other people including their spouse, siblings, parents, children, business partners, and agricultural professionals.

Participants at the 2019 Conference also have the opportunity to improve their resiliency by creating a Women in Agriculture Learning Circle at the conference. Each Learning Circle was made up of 5 to 10 conference participants, who will meet in person or virtually at least five times following the conference. Learning circles provide an educational setting for women to learn in a comfortable environment, as well as develop relationships with other participants. Using a provided discussion guide, the women will be encouraged to share their innate knowledge and life experiences in the five areas of agriculture risk management.

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. Sponsors included: Nebraska Dry Bean Commission, Nebraska Corn, CommonGround, Farm Credit Services of America, Nationwide Land as Your Legacy, Beanitos, Kelley Bean Company, Nebraska Farm Bureau and Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation. There were various other agricultural businesses sponsoring at the bronze level and government organizations that participated in our exhibit space.

For more information on this conference and the Women in Agriculture program see our website, http://wia.unl.edu or follow us on Twitter, @newomeninag and like us on Facebook, facebook.com/NebraskaWIA.

The 2020 Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference is scheduled for Feb. 20-21, 2020 at the Kearney Holiday Inn Convention Center.

1One hundred and thirteen overall conference evaluations were submitted, giving these results a 7 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence interval.

2Based on workshop session results available at the time of publication. (n= 473)

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Jessica Groskopf
Extension Educator
Department of Agricultural Economics
Panhandle Research and Extension Center
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
jjohnson@unl.edu
308-632-1247