Saturday, 22 November 2014

Women in Agriculture tackle changing roles, promoting agriculture

Wyoming Women in Agriculture was an idea born 21 years ago in a Cowboy State cornfield.
Peg Price and Sharon Cardwell started the group after discovering a similar organization in a regional agricultural magazine.
The two wanted to provide an opportunity for women to share their experience in agriculture, much like the opportunity provided by meetings of the state's predominantly male groups.
At the time, women played a much different role in the daily operation of farms and ranches across the country. Many women in the agriculture industry viewed their role in agriculture as support for daily operations.
Today nearly one-third of farms and ranches in the United States are principally operated by women, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Women’s role in agriculture over the last 15 years has changed dramatically,” Price said. “My generation and my mother’s generation were there more to support. We still do that, but today women play a large role in the whole picture on the ranch.”
Wyoming Women in Agriculture met Thursday and Friday at the Parkway Plaza Hotel & Convention Centre for its 21st annual symposium. Members focused on telling the story of agriculture and networking among colleagues in the industry.
“We’re trying to get our group away from their everyday routine, and we’re really here to network and meet women with a common interest,” said Angela Grant, Wyoming Women in Agriculture president.
One topic of discussion has plagued the agriculture industry for quite some time, Price said.
Wyoming farmers and ranchers are looking for new ways to tell their story in an environment they say isn’t always amenable to their cause.
“It’s a big issue, because people in agriculture aren’t good at tooting their own horn,” Price said. “We have a job to do, and we want to do it the best we can. We concentrate on that and don’t spend a lot of time trying to tell that story.”
Often, farmers and ranchers aren’t tapping into those audiences that have no experience with farm and ranch culture.
“I’m preaching to the choir a lot because most of my friends are in agriculture,” said Rachel Hedges, WWIA committee member and rancher. “It’s hard for a rancher to touch that audience that doesn’t have experience in agriculture.”
The strong attendance at the 2014 symposium echoes the strength of the group, Price said.
She said that although the group tackled tough subject matter at the meeting, attendees still managed to relax. 
“When we started this, the goal was to provide a chance to network, gain some knowledge and to provide some entertainment,” Price said. “It’s important to have a little fun and get people to relax a little bit.”

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