Ever since I joined the Wisconsin Farmers Union I have been in a multitude of situations that I would not have previously imagined myself in. These situations have been stimulating, inspiring, and at times frustrating. The frustrations are most often associated with issues in our society that have a negative impact on our farm families and agricultural communities. Farmers Union has shown me the resiliency and power that we as individuals and as a group have in order to make the changes we see the need for.
In January, I attended the National Farmers Union Women’s Conference in San Diego. Over four days I was bombarded with a variety of topics that not only opened my eyes to the diversity in Farmers Union membership but sparked my interest in running for office as well as new business avenues for my farming enterprise.
There was so much covered during the conference, I narrowed it down to my top 10 highlights:
• Networking with women from across the country and learning about agricultural issues facing them, their families, and their farms and businesses
• Exploring the steps, importance, and personal potential of running for office.
• Learning about the programs and leadership opportunities that exist with our local and regional USDA offices
• Exposed to the complex yet very real significance of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) as it will apply to produce farms and farmers markets
• Realizing the importance and need of planning for the future of our farms and businesses and developing a transition plan
• Formulating and imagining the possibilities for new income generating enterprises
• Sharing the successful development and future of the Soil Sisters Weekend and how other groups may build on what we have learned
• Touring 3 urban farms with very different and unique origins, but all with similar goals and integrity
•Diving into the details of the financial structure of our farms and ranches, as well as the tax framework we need to be aware of as business owners
• Envisioning new and creative ways that we can market and innovate on our farms and within our communities to connect people to local agriculture
Once again Farmers Union has done it...they provided an opportunity for women from across the country to meet, inspire, and learn from one another. We were able to discuss the challenges that our agricultural communities are facing while also sharing potential pathways to a solution. I cannot emphasize enough the value of this conference and encourage women in any sector of agriculture to attend in the future.
I also want to thank the Wisconsin Farmers Union for their support and generosity. We had eight women representing our state and presenting during the conference — so much to be proud of and so much work to be done...So it is with farming.
Editor's Note: Wisconsin Farmers Union generally offers scholarships for several participants to attend the NFU Women's Conference. For more details about this process, contact the WFU State Office at 715-723-5561 or watch for details in fall editions of the Wisconsin Farmers Union News and our e-news.