November 17, 1999 | By: Aimee D. Heald

More than 300 women met in Louisville, Ky. Nov. 11 and 12 to be motivated and educated about their role in the Commonwealth's agricultural industry. They were attending the Inaugural meeting of Women Involved in Agriculture: Breaking New Ground at the Galt House East Hotel.

"When the idea first came up about having this conference, a lot of people were saying, you've gotta be kidding, a women in agriculture conference," Bonnie Tanner, conference co-chair, said.

Tanner, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, and co-chair, Alice Baesler, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, got support from their bosses, but neither one ever imagined the conference would grow as much and as quickly as it did. They limited the number of participants to 300, and in the end had to turn away more than 100 women.

"What a delight to look across this room and see a group of women who believe in the future of farming, believe that agriculture is probably the noblest enterprise of them all," Dean of the UK College of Agriculture, Oran Little, said in the conference's opening session. He addressed the current concerns and issues of Kentucky agriculture, stressing the importance of farmers and those directly and indirectly involved in farming.

Sessions about current issues in agricultural resources, innovative ideas, health and safety, marketing, and finances were offered to those attending the conference. Also, 15-minute round-table discussions, covering 25 topics were held.

Perhaps the most popular event was the Taste of Kentucky exhibit, which showcased many of Kentucky's value-added products. Food products were sampled and offered for sale and many other products and services were displayed.

"Women are one-fourth of the world's rural population," Vice-Chair of the American Farm Bureau's Women's Committee, Maxine Bell, said. "That's a large portion."

Women are involved in many aspects of agriculture, including production, marketing, research, Extension, and many others. More and more women are starting to sit down at the negotiating table for U.S. and foreign agricultural policy-making.

Many women were already talking about wanting to see the Women Involved in Agriculture conference become an annual event.

"This kind of meeting is very valuable," Cathy Rock, Life Spring Herb Farm. "It allows us to meet with other women in agriculture; to hear how they are doing things and get new ideas for our own farms."

Tanner and Baesler were impressed with the first-year turn-out and are excited about the continued interest. Keep in contact with your local county Extension office for any news about a conference for 2000. (30)


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 606-257-9764

Source: Bonnie Tanner 606-257-3887