By Meighen Lovelace, NFU Intern
This year, National Farmers Union hosted its 5th annual Women’s Conference in San Diego, California. The conference, whose theme was “Shaping the Future,” hosted an impressive lineup of speakers and offered plenty of opportunities to network with agricultural leaders.
The two day event was packed with information and inspiration from speakers Kriss Marion, farmer and President of Wisconsin Farmers Union South Central Chapter; Dr. Shannon Ferrell, associate professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University; Dr. Cara Ferrell, founder of Ferrell Consulting; Lisa Kivirist, author and Endowed Chair at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture; Poppy Davis, Program Director at Sustainable Agriculture Education; Bridget Holcomb, Executive Director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network; Madeline Shultz, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Program Manager; Sarah Campbell, Stakeholder Engagement Specialist at the Farm Service Agency; Andra Mulkern, writer and photographer for the Female Farmer Project; Charlotte Smith, owner of Champoeg Creamery & Charlotte Smith Pastured meats; and Chelsea Matzen, NFU’s FSMA coordinator. We dug into topics ranging from business planning, farm finances, and succession planning to personal stories and women in politics. We scratched beneath the surface to talk about the sometimes-difficult realities faced by women leaders in agriculture today.
I was astonished by the amount of energy and enthusiasm in the room. As a woman farmer and policy advocate, there are times when it is easy to feel isolated and alone. I frequently wonder if I’ve made the right choice to dedicate my life to soil health and community building when I’m rushing from the farm or the state capitol to pick my kids up at school. What have I missed in my children’s lives? In my own life? It was refreshing to hear other women share similar experiences. We recognized the struggles and celebrated the victories that often go unnoticed. Moments of laughter, tears of frustration, and confident shouts of encouragement were all given a sacred space. I remembered why I do what I do. I remembered why we, as women, must continue to step forward into leadership roles: we are carrying the heritage of the past, the resilience for the present, and the courage to shape the future.
Whether my hands are in the soil or writing a policy draft, I will carry with me the strength in sisterhood I discovered at the Women’s Conference. Thank you to National Farmers Union for bringing us all together.