Kearney, Neb. —From seasoned farm, ranch, and businesswomen to agribusiness professionals, students, and new farmers, the 37and annual Nebraska women in agriculture conference really had something to offer every attendee.
Designed to educate and uplift women involved in all aspects of Nebraska’s agriculture industry, the two-day conference, held this year Feb. 24-25 in Kearney, is one of the most old ones of this type in the country.
“My favorite part of planning this conference is the reward of meeting people,” says Jessica Groskopf, director of Nebraska Women in Agriculture and Nebraska Extension agricultural economics educator.
“I love hearing the stories of our speakers, farmers and ranchers, and laughing with them.”
With this year’s conference focusing on stress relief on farms and ranches, attendees heard from keynote speaker Carey Portell, a Missouri farmer who suffered a fatal impaired driving accident. Portell moved audiences by sharing his story of enduring a four-year recovery, involving thirteen surgeries to end in partially disabled status.
Portell spoke of being “beautifully broken” as she broke down barriers and continued to thrive on the farm and in family life thanks to the resources of AgrAbility, an organization whose goal is to restore hope and renew the productivity and quality of life of agricultural workers with disabilities.
“I can’t go back to a traditional job, and farming has become a passion of mine because it has given me purpose and achievement,” Portell said.
“It nurtured something in me that I needed.”
Inspirational leaders, tactful producers and seasoned professionals came together for a total of 23 workshops and three keynote addresses, in which more than 200 attendees from across the state learned how to better manage risk, improve their farms and their ranches and become more successful operators and business partners.
Groskopf works year-round to find relevant and useful topics and speakers for women in agriculture, relying heavily on participant feedback and welcoming ideas and contributions from any woman in agriculture. She says anyone can find opportunities in agriculture, regardless of role.
According to most attendees of the 2022 flagship event, nothing can replace the face-to-face that makes this conference so great.
Conference attendee LaDene Rutt of Chappell, Neb. hasn’t missed a Nebraska Women in Agriculture conference since its inception in 1985.
Growing up as the eldest daughter in her family, Rutt says that from the time she was able to walk, she helped her father in the family’s dryland farm, planting and harvesting wheat, sunflowers, peas and milo.
“It’s a good time to meet other women farmers about their families and the struggles we all face,” Rutt said.
“I intend to keep coming for as long as possible.”
Rutt says that over the years she has made “all kinds of mistakes” and encourages all women in agriculture to keep going. Noting the advances in modern farming and the help of technology, she says her father would be proud of the straight planting rows she can do with his tractor’s guidance system.
Among Rutt and other conference attendees were two young women working in agriculture, both first-time conference attendees and equine management students at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.
Kyra Hearn from Gothenburg and Makayla Huddleston from Knoxville, Tennessee, attended this year’s conference after receiving scholarships.
“It was great to take in so much material about all the opportunities women have in agriculture, and I’ve enjoyed meeting some great women along the way,” Hearn said.
Hearn and Huddleston admit they didn’t know what to expect from the conference, but say they will come away with incredible resources as they work towards their future goals in equine training and therapy.
Since 1985, Nebraska Extension’s Women in Agriculture program has sought to provide educational opportunities for all Nebraska women interested in developing skills in agricultural management through unbiased research-based education. The program provides leadership, learning experiences, support, and networking opportunities to empower women to compete and survive in this tough and complex industry.
The 2023 Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference is scheduled for February 23-24 in Kearney.
You can follow Nebraska Women in Agriculture on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Natalie Jones | IANR Media
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