I was able to attend the Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference at the beginning of October. Conferences, as many may know, are a reason for people with similar interests to gather in one place. The Ag Women’s Network group mostly exists as an online community and the conference gives the participants the opportunity to gather in one place.
The conference’s speakers covered a variety of topics from working within agribusiness, telling your story on social media, representing agriculture in a variety of venues, and working together towards common goals. As with other conferences, as much was learned during the talks as in the hallways and elevators, at dinner and coffee breaks.
One common thread throughout was that we, as women, tend to downplay our skills and contributions. We “just help out on the farm” if we have full or part- time jobs elsewhere. (Note: a stay-at-home wife or mom is a full-time position. Full stop, no arguments.) But doing payroll, keeping books, feeding hungry workers, maintaining a household during busy season, and stepping into tractors when necessary isn’t “just helping.” It’s a valuable contribution that makes an operation function. Same as positions in the supporting industry – providing financial advice, making fertilizer and pesticide recommendations, and selling tractors – farms can’t run without them.
Here’s my practice: my contributions to the family farm are computer and occasionally tractor-based. I help by reducing the amount of time spent on paperwork and give opportunities for the regular drivers to have a break. My full-time position is as part of a team that will ultimately produce a new manual for operations that need to treat produce washwater.
I encourage anyone who is thinking about checking out the conference to go next year. There is a nugget of wisdom (or more) for everyone to find. Let’s try for a double-digit representation from the horticulture sector in 2017.