Conference offers valuable networking, learning for ag women

Farm Forum

Networking and positive learning experiences highlighted this year’s 2014 Rural Women in Ag conference Oct. 3-4 near Rapid City.

Ann MacKaben, president of the S.D. Women in Ag Committee, was excited with this year’s program and attendance.

MacKaben said the evaluation of the sessions was awesome, and the best part of the conference was witnessing the younger women learning from the indirect mentorship of the older women. “It helps for them to understand what they may be facing in future years, or even right now. Feedback showed the importance of this networking.”

Jon Beranek offered insights in “Slaying the Invisible Dragon” at the conference. Described as a down-to-earth farm boy with big ideas providing inspiration, Beranek’s interactive session challenged the women to answer the question, “What are the unique, creative and empowering ways women can slay their invisible dragons?”

The group came up with six things they could do to empower themselves:

• Networking support as a group

• I’m important, too

• Belief in yourself

• Nourish your soul

• Foster effective communication

• Knowledge and power

Sally Amtmann, with Zoetis Animal Health, led the group in DISC Training, which is a personal assessment tool used to improve work productivity, teamwork and communication. The women learned to understand their personality and those of the people close to them. They also had a lot of fun.

“Some of those participants, at least 10 to 15, will be taking that education back to the ranch,” MacKaben said. “They will continue the process in their family environment, fostering the transitions that need to be made within the family network.”

The techniques learned were very positive with many describing the experience as phenomenal.

Dr. Gerald Stokka, NDSU’s associate professor of livestock stewardship is a strong advocate for ag and shared information on stewardship in animal health, behavior, well being, and animal-environmental interactions and husbandry. He emphasized the importance of speaking out and finding effective ways to communicate ag’s message for all those in rural America.

MacKaben said that attendees ranged from a newlywed of 24 to a woman who was 75. Two-thirds of the 60 attendees were new to the conference. She said that participation level was very high. Many from the western part of the state continue to be stressed from the events of last winter, and the opportunities to interact and relax a bit helped them cope with their situations.

A session on understanding crop insurance was well-received. MacKaben said that many times women rely on their husbands to handle the program. This helped explain the importance of the program and provided valuable information for their operation.

A silent auction raised $600 to inaugurate a scholarship program. An award will be given to an 18 to 25 year old woman majoring in or involved in an agriculture-related major. The group plans to develop some type of youth program in 2015, partnering with other youth organizations.

“It fits very well with our mission of focusing on education,” MacKaben said.

The sessions were important for some of those following some of the worst traumas of a lifetime, MacKaben said. Some have lost up to 80 percent of their operation, yet are working to come back from adversity. It gave them ways to understand stress within family business environments.

Next year’s session will be the first weekend in October.