Connecting the Threads 2009: A conference for women in farming
“Connecting the Threads: Weaving the Fabric of Agriculture,” a statewide conference for women in farming, will be offered in Wisconsin Rapids Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14, for the second consecutive year. In response to comments a year ago, organizers have made some changes.
The conference is designed for women who are the primary decision-makers on farms or who are considering farming, and for professionals who work with them. Like last year’s first-ever statewide conference for women farmers, this year’s will offer sessions focused on the business of farming such as risk management, record-keeping, succession, dealing with bankers, as well as on family issues like domestic violence, communication, and health care options. It will also include a Buy Local Buy Wisconsin workshop on holistic management.
But after hearing from participants last year, organizers have added more in-depth topics, more topics for beginners and experienced farmers, and more interaction among participants, said Kathy Schmitt of the Wisconsin Farm Center. Other new features include an exhibit of artwork by women farmers and a dessert reception.
Almost 9,200 Wisconsin women are principal farm operators, according to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, a 25-percent increase over the 2002 census. Wisconsin women control more than 860,000 acres of farmland, and market crops and livestock worth more than $287 million a year. Still, Schmitt said, they are often isolated from one another and from the information and services that can help them farm more profitably. “In today’s economic climate, this kind of management assistance and support from other women farmers is more important than ever,” she said.
A block of rooms has been reserved at the Hotel Mead and Conference Center until Oct. 22 at $70 for a single room and $97 for a double room.
Information and registration for participants, exhibitors and sponsors is available at www.datcp.state.wi.us under “online services.” Online registration will not be available until Oct. 19, but downloadable forms are now available for printing and mailing.
Support from sponsors has allowed reducing the cost of the conference to $47 for two days, including meals and materials, and a limited number of scholarships are available. Exhibit space is also available, and women entrepreneurs are encouraged to showcase their products/services in the trade show.
Besides the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, conference sponsors are the Duluth Trading Co., Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, USDA Risk Management Agency, University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability, UW-Cooperative Extension, Wisconsin Farmers Union and Wisconsin Rural Women’s Initiative.