SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – Life is a balancing act, no more so than on the farm.
Particularly this year, stress, fear of the future and more are weighing down farm families, given all the additional challenges of weather and other issues that have plagued Wyo-Braska producers in 2019. Dealing with those stressors and more will be the topic of a first-of-its-kind conference for women in agriculture next month.
Stronger Together is geared specifically toward women landowners, farmers, ranchers and industry professionals, according to a release from the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff. Extension Educator Jessica Groskopf, who’s worked on the University of Nebraska Extension Women in Agriculture conference for several years, helped organize the first-ever gathering.
“We wanted to bring something a little more local,” Groskopf said. “As we enter harvest season, it’s important for women to connect with each other.
“As they connect, they build resilience,” she said. “With the challenging year of 2019, we thought it would be good to get together. It’s an opportunity to renew and refresh themselves as they continue into the harvest.”
Keynote for the event will be West Branch, Iowa motivational speaker Jolene Brown, a “walking/talking champion for the people of agriculture,” according to her website. “She shares her credibility, authenticity, humor, and wisdom with audiences worldwide through her writing, keynotes and workshops.”
Recognition of the role women play in agriculture operations has changed, Brown said. Until recently, a woman wouldn’t be considered the owner of a farming or ranching operation, for example, unless their spouse had died.
“Now, our names are on the documents and our names are on the loans,” Brown said. “Women’s roles have been elevated. It’s not that we haven’t done these things in the past. I learned a long time ago, if you want to get things done, talk to the women.
“The women lead,” she said. “We’re finally being recognized for all the work we’ve done in the past and we’re getting that recognition now.”
Brown will make two presentations during the three-hour conference. She’ll start out the morning session with Harvest the Humor. It’s all about celebrating life on the farm, she said.
“We’ve had one whale of a year; we haven’t had much to celebrate,” Brown said. “It’s time to look back on the joys of what we do, in spite of the year we’ve had.”
Brown said she’ll focus on helping women maintain their perspective and to “bring joy and laughter back to the ranches. I know there are some things we can do as we ride this roller coaster and have joy while we do it.”
Her second presentation will touch on the balancing act which is life in agriculture today. With so much out of people’s control, Brown will present 10 ideas to relieve stress and teach attendees to take control of what they can, she said.
“Until we can feel there’s some semblance of ‘I can be in control of something,’ it’s really hard to continue,” Brown said. “What resources do we have in our sphere of relationships that can help us?”
The 2019 growing season was “a real test of our resilience, of our fortitude, even of our faith,” she said. “We’ve gone through some real tests in agriculture. We’ve gained a whole lot of grit, of strength.”
As important to attendees of the conference will be the networks of people they develop and expand, Brown said. Those networks will be vital moving forward. It’s along the lines of the idea of the whole being stronger than the sum of its parts, she said.
Between the weather, the current political climate and even people who still question the value of production agriculture in this country, the conference will give attendees a chance to “hit the stop button on this roller coaster for a little bit,” Brown said. “To gain some perspective so we can continue on.
“We can’t go back to the way it was – all we can do is build on the strength we’ve got,” she said. “Women can form bonds, carry that home to do the work that needs to be done.”
The conference is not meant to replace the regular Women in Agriculture conference Groskopf has helped organize for several years in Kearney each February. This will be more of a half-day compliment to that larger, upcoming event, she said.
“For anyone involved in the agriculture industry, regardless of their role, this will be a great opportunity to network with other agriculture women in the area,” Groskopf said. “I think there’s a lot of excitement about this. This is an opportunity to come together, to laugh, to enjoy time with other people who enjoy agriculture and to learn from one of the best in the business about farm families and farm business.”
Space at the conference is limited, so early registration is recommended, Groskopf said. Cost is $25 per person, which includes conference materials and lunch.
For more information or to register, visit online at: wia.unl.edu/stronger