Thursday, 27 November 2014

MFU's new Women in Agriculture calendar showcases women's vital role

Wanting to highlight the contributions of women in agriculture, the Montana Farmer's Union is putting out a special calendar for 2015. This color-filled calendar will feature 14 women in various types of Montana agriculture.
"This is our first year doing this, but we have plans to continue," said Delisa Protsman, the education director at MFU.
The idea for the calendar all started on social media. Protsman mentioned she was planning a special women's conference for MFU to teach women how to operate agriculture equipment. Someone responded, "Oh, I smell a calendar." The idea grew from there.
"We wanted something professional - something to celebrate the women in ag," said Protsman.
So MFU contracted with a professional photographer, Kim Owen of Geraldine, Mont., who is also a farm wife.
"It was very important to us to have a photographer that knew about agriculture and what women go through to keep their operation going," she said.
Word spread that MFU was looking for women for the calendar, but at first they didn't get much response.
"I think that was because there is this false conception among women in agriculture that they don't contribute much," Protsman said. "That their husbands are the ones who farm. We wanted to celebrate everything they do, whether it is delivering meals to the harvest field, watching the markets, keeping the books or the multitude of things they do on a moment's notice."
Eventually, though, that attitude began to shift as they continued to talk to women. Word of the project spread and more ladies wanted to be involved. They were then able to go out and photograph a number of women working in agricultural endeavors. For example, one photo shows a woman picking rocks, another working the calving season. Each photo comes with a short biography.
"We have a photo of a couple of women from St. Ignatius who began the first start-up dairy in Montana in 20 years," she said. "They make ice cream out of the cream."
Another woman raises elk, while another photo is a three-generation photo.
"We have a mom who claims she just does the books, but she fills in all around her operations," she said. "Then there is a horse trainer and a woman veteran who spent two tours in the Middle East. She married into the industry and believes she has found her place."
There is also a young college woman helping on the farm. She recently received MFU's highest award, the Torchbearer Award.
"We have plans to expand this every year," Protsman said.
Next year they also plan to include women in other agriculture roles such as Extension agents and women in ag education.
"Women play a vital role in all parts of the agriculture industry and we want to show how important and well-rounded the women in ag really are," she said.
The project resulted in a 12-month testament to women.
"But the best part for me was the opportunity to get to know each of them and their families," she concluded.
The calendars cost $20 and the proceeds benefit MFU's women's education programs like the Women's Conference scheduled Feb. 27 through March 1 at Chico Hot Springs. To order one or several, go to http://www.montanafarmersunion.com/ and click on the picture of the calendar or go to Links.

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