November 3, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Four years ago a group of women involved in agriculture decided to organize what has now become a successful conference series and network of support.

The Kentucky Women in Agriculture organization will host its fourth statewide conference February 27 and 28 at Lexington's Embassy Suites Hotel. The event is shaping up to be one of the most unique and informing conferences the group has put together.

"This year we've planned a 'meet the candidates forum' so the women will be able to get to know the Kentucky commissioner of agriculture candidates better," said Kim Henken, of the conference planning committee and Extension associate for environment/natural resource issues at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "We've even invited United States Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman to speak, but we won't know for sure if she'll be able to make it until just before the conference."

Since the first conference, women in agriculture have joined together in teams and as individuals to make a difference in their communities. For example, a group from Clay County joined with some Fayette County women to host a stone-fencing workshop to preserve the art of dry stone masonry in the Commonwealth.

Jessamine County women led a one-day diversification workshop and three ladies in central Kentucky have deemed themselves "Three Chicks Fighting Hunger." The Three Chicks have had success in finding ways for food banks to purchase Kentucky agricultural products to use in food banks around the state.

Perhaps the most far-reaching result of the KWIA is a recent trip to Cuba by a group of Kentucky women.

"In May a delegation of Kentucky women in agriculture traveled to Cuba for an economic fact-finding trip," said Alice Baesler, KWIA co-chair. "During the seven-day stay, women were able to meet with a variety of Cuban officials and visit a number of local sites."

Baesler said the contacts made by those women helped lay the groundwork for a trade pact signed at the end of September by Kentucky Ag. Commissioner Billy Ray Smith and Pedro Alvarez, head of Cuba's food import agency. Under the $7 million pact, Cuba will buy processed foods, meats, tobacco and tobacco products, wood products and other items from Kentucky producers.

Conference planners are looking forward to providing information about marketing, the 2002 Farm Bill, business plans and even topics that venture outside the farm gate to participants in February 2003.

Teams from the 2001 Taproots Leadership conference are invited to share success stories about their team projects. Women will also have an opportunity to sit in small groups for roundtable discussions addressing topics such as direct marketing of specialty beef, grapes and wine, mushrooms, bees and honey, papaws, farm festivals and more.

The KyAWLN web site will continually be updating conference information as plans become more concrete. Registration will begin in December and will be limited to the first 300 participants to sign up. For more information, check the web site at or contact Kim Henken at (859) 257-5482.


Kim Henken  859-257-5482