News and Tribune

February 18, 2014

Ag conference in Jeffersonville offers education, networking opportunities

Two-day conference starts Wednesday

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Small farms have historically been family affairs, and barring some advancements in technology, not much has changed. Not much, that is, except for the role women play in helping their family farms succeed.

The role of women in the agriculture business will be at the heart of the 2014 Midwest Women in Agriculture Conference, set for Wednesday and Thursday at the Sheraton Louisville Riverside Hotel, 700 Riverside Drive, Jeffersonville.

“I’m looking forward to the conference,” said Ashley Greene, a Farm Credit Services employee and member of a farm family. “I’ve been to it a few times before, and it is always very, very educational. It’s very motivational for me, both personally and professionally.”

The two-day conference will focus on the role of women in making the family farm profitable while giving attendees the opportunity to build relationships with other women involved in agriculture, according to a press release issued by Purdue Extension.

“It is a great time for women to learn great information on farming and how to run their farm,” said Nikky Witkowski, conference chair and Purdue Extension educator in Lake County.

The conference will include sessions on topics like farm succession planning, health care options and ways to influence consumers, and will also include inspirational speeches from female leaders in the industry.

Southern Indiana native Katie Stam Irk, who served as Miss America in 2009, will talk about how she raised awareness for agriculture, while current Indiana Future Farmers of America President Allie Abney will deliver an inspirational message to young women in agriculture to encourage them to become active in the industry early.

That’s a message that Becky McCoy, Charlestown, hopes resonates with her 14- and 18-year-old daughters, both of whom work on the family grain and cattle farm. In addition, McCoy wants to see how other women deal with bookkeeping issues on their farms.

“I wanted to go to an event that was strictly women involved in agriculture and get a feel for what other women are doing on the farm,” McCoy said. “I have a few friends that work outside the home and are involved in the farm. But I wanted to just kind of network with them, the ladies there.”

Of course, not all of the women attending the conference — and it’s open to men, too — are farmers themselves. Several, like Tami Kruer, work regularly with farmers. Kruer, the executive director of the Clark County Soil and Water Conservation District, likes to keep her finger on the pulse of the ag community as a whole.

“We work really closely with members of the agricultural community, so it’s important for us to understand the issues and challenges that they face,” Kruer said. “This is my second time attending, and it was a wonderful conference the last time, so I’m anticipating it to be that kind of experience again.”