Women across the country are gathering in Chicago, Ill., for the Executive Women in Agriculture (EWA) conference. Jeanne Bernick, editor of Top Producer magazine and host of the event, says it’s their largest conference ever.
"We have over 200 women this year, and this is after three years of starting the event, where we had just over 100, so it’s growing," Bernick says. "This year we have women from 30 different states, so it’s obviously a really important part of agriculture."
Bernick says 30% of U.S. farm owners and operators are women. And networking is a popular piece of the conference each year.
"So many of these women are in rural areas and are running multi-million dollar businesses, and they really need that peer they can have that relationship with and ask questions, commiserate and learn from," she says.
"I hope to take back quite a bit of networking. That’s one of the best things, as far as I’m concerned, about this conference," says Kasi Rowland of Tom Farms in Leesburg, Ind. "Learning from others around the country about what they grow, and maybe how they do things differently at their farm that we can take home with us and help us at our operation."
Another hot item is women who want to learn more about marketing.
"You know, I’ve asked some of my broker friends that and they say women make better marketers than men because they take the emotion out of it," Bernick says. "I would think it would be the opposite, but they say women can just pull the trigger easier, they’re ready to make that decision."
But as former National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) CEO Dana Petersen told the women at the start of the conference, it’s okay to slow down and not try to do too much all at once.
"I am a farm girl, so I’ve been taught to do the job to completion, and do it at whatever costs there comes," says Petersen. "I learned the hard way that it is a priority to take care of myself, because you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself."