Conference offers women ag advice, networking opportunities

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A two-day conference focused on issues women face in agriculture will give participants an opportunity to tap into Purdue Extension expertise and a chance to network with their peers.

The 2013 Midwest Women in Agriculture conference will be Feb. 21-22 at the Clarion Hotel, 2480 Jonathan Moore Pike, Columbus, Ind.

Nikky Witkowski, conference chair and Lake County Extension educator, said the top reason women should attend the conference is to meet and share experiences with other women in agriculture.

“Whether an owner or operator, part of a team with a husband or significant other, or involved somehow with agriculture, the conference is a great way to get out, meet other people and develop a good network of women in agriculture,” she said.

Kelly Heckaman, conference committee member and Kosciusko County Extension educator, said the event should be both educational and a break for the women.

“We know women in agriculture have a unique role. We want to address the day-to-day management of the farm, give them tips on business issues, try to make them feel special for a couple days and send them home renewed, refreshed and ready to take on everyday life,” she said.

Heckaman said conference organizers received requests from past participants to discuss time management. Farm wives often have many roles to fulfill, and the keynote speaker for this year’s conference - Elaine Froese, a farm family coach - was selected with that in mind. Froese will speak on “Living an Intentional Life: Balance in a Complex World.”

Session topics include the 2012 drought, staying on the farm, marketing opportunities, soil testing, diets, slow cooking, farm finances, crop yields and resolving conflict.

One session dealing with women’s roles on the farm is “When Strangling is Not an Option: Keys to More Effective Family Communication,” by Janet Ayres, Purdue Extension agricultural economics specialist.

“Women play a very important role in agriculture and farm families. Not only are they usually involved in business, they are often the caretakers of the family,” Ayres said.

“In families we make a lot of assumptions. Clear, honest communication is often a challenge. We think family members should know what we’re thinking, and it’s easy to get carried away with emotions. Family relationships are deeply rooted with a lot of history and emotions. There’s a lot of stress associated with poor communication,” she said.

Other topics include land leases, succession planning, nuptial agreements, environmental rules and weather volatility.

Speaker and freelance columnist Lori Borgman will wrap up the conference on a light note with her topic, “My Memory is Shot - All I Retain Now is Water.”

“The final session will provide humor for the ladies, and humor is good for the soul, Heckaman said. “We want them laughing and feeling good before they head home.”

Participants who postmark their registration fees before Feb. 7 can get a discount, with the fee for either Thursday or Friday at $80, or $90 for both days. After Feb. 7, the price is $115 for either day or $140 for both days. Checks should be made payable to the Purdue Education Fund. A $10 handling fee will be assessed on all refunds, and there will be no refunds after Feb. 7.

A pre-conference session on commodity marketing will be offered Feb. 20. The registration fee is $30, but is reduced to $15 for participants also attending the conference.

To register, visit http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/wia/ or contact Heckaman at 574-372-2340. Questions should be directed to Witkowski at 219-755-3240.


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