Women to learn leadership in agriculture conference

DEENA MIGLIAZZO, Evergreen reporter

Women from around the west will have an opportunity to expand their knowledge and leadership skills at the sixth annual Women in Agriculture Conference next week.

Conference Chair Margaret Viebrock said it’s important for women who are aspiring farmers or are involved in the industry to learn management skills and become more actively involved in agriculture.

The conference encourages women to become leaders and entrepreneurs in the agriculture industry. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, just 37 percent of farms in Washington — about 23,400 farms — are owned and operated by women.

The conference will also include networking opportunities with industry leaders, such as Alexis Taylor, Oregon Department of Agriculture director, and Anne Schwartz, owner of Blue Heron Farm.

Taylor grew up on a farm in Iowa, which has been in her family for more than 150 years. She was employed by the USDA, where she oversaw the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services program.

Viebrock said Taylor’s message will focus on challenging participants to grow as agriculture leaders and mentors.

Schwartz, former president of Tilth Producers of Washington, is a longtime advocate for female farmers, Viebrock said. Schwartz’s message will encourage women to become role models for women of small and large farms.

Women are faced with different challenges than men in farming and ranching, according to the event’s website. It is more difficult for women to pursue loans and insurance in agriculture, compared to male business owners. This program will educate women on risk and financial management issues and other problems owners face.

Participants who are members of FFA and 4-H in high school, as well as college agriculture students, can apply for scholarships.

The conference will be held on Nov. 18 in the Ensminger Pavilion.

Reporting by Deena Migliazzo