September 22, 2004 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

Kentucky women have always worked hard to make a difference in agriculture. In 1999, the Kentucky Ag Women’s Leadership Network was established to enhance those efforts. In 2003, the group incorporated and became known as Kentucky Women in Agriculture, Inc.

Nearly every year since, the group has hosted a statewide conference; this year they will host their 5th conference at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Louisville Nov. 3 through Nov. 5, this year called Celebrating Success – Producing a Future. For the first time, the conference will offer two pre-conference workshops.

“We’ll be offering a home-based microprocessor workshop for those who want to sell their products to farmer’s markets,” said Gae Broadwater, conference co-chair. “They will get training, take the certification test and be able to submit recipes for approval. This opportunity has been great, especially for small farmers.”

Another pre-conference workshop is the Public Policy Institute, funded by the Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research program (SARE).

“The institute provides a way for women in agriculture to get out there and tell their story,” Broadwater said. “Women were coming to us saying they didn’t know how to relate their message, so this will give them the skills and tools they need.”

Participants in the Public Policy Institute will have a small budget to conduct two public policy workshops in the five months following the institute.

The regular conference itinerary will begin Nov. 4 and will include several keynote speakers including Cindi Sullivan, host of “In the Garden” on Louisville’s WAV-3 TV News.

Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet Secretary LaJuana Wilcher will address the group during the Nov. 4 luncheon. In addition to her vast experience in natural resource and environmental issues, Wilcher owns a farm with horses in Bowling Green.

Wrapping up the conference at the Nov. 5 luncheon will be Kathy Cary, chef and owner of Lily’s, a four-star restaurant in Louisville, and Le Peche, two gourmet-to-go shops. Cary is known for many things, including a commitment to buy local products.

“Kathy Cary is one of Kentucky’s own success stories,” Broadwater said. “She will talk about her adventures and challenges in running a business for clientele that expect high quality and good service.”

A popular part of past conferences has been “A Taste of Kentucky,” where local producers and business showcase their Kentucky products and give participants an opportunity to taste and buy items. This year, LaDonna Gatlin will provide entertainment during the event. Gatlin is the sister of the famed Gatlin Brothers. She also will be a keynote speaker during one of the afternoon concurrent sessions.

As usual, many informative and interesting concurrent sessions will be offered including topics such as marketing, business practices, government programs and issues beyond the farm gate. Participants will have a chance to take part in roundtable discussions about a variety of agriculture-related tops and to bid in a silent auction of Kentucky products.

KWIA President Terry Gilbert said more and more women who are not involved in agriculture are becoming interested in the organization and its conferences. She said they want to learn more about Kentucky agriculture and explore some of the opportunities available.

“We welcome anyone who wants to be a member and we’re constantly seeking new members,” Gilbert said. “We have around 160 members now, which we feel is good for the first year of a fledgling organization.”

Participants must pre-register for the conference by Oct. 20. Registration forms, as well as a full itinerary for the conference can be found at theKWIA Web site. For other questions regarding the conference contact Kim Henken at (859) 257-7775.


Writer: Aimee D. Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Source: Kim Henken 859-257-7775