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Women in Ag Network's annual conference coming Feb. 16 in Willmar

Pauline Van NurdenUniversity of Minnesota Ag Extension Educator, Willmar, Minn.1 / 2
Pauline Van NurdenUniversity of Minnesota Ag Extension Educator, Willmar, Minn.2 / 2

WILLMAR — With the current shaky farm economy likely to continue and a need for information to help make good business decisions, a growing number of women in agriculture are seeking advice on topics like marketing, managing risk and how to transition farm land from one generation to the next.

They're also looking for ways to connect with other women to develop a supportive ag-based network, said Pauline Van Nurden, a University of Minnesota Extension ag business management educator in Willmar.

Van Nurden is the co-coordinator of the second annual Women in Ag Network's conference, "Planning our Future" that will be held 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Willmar Convention Center.

The registration cost increases after Thursday.

The first conference was held last year in St. Cloud after Extension educators "saw a need" to bring together women who are actively farming, have supportive roles in the family farm or work in ag-related businesses to learn about pressing issues in the ag industry.

Van Nurden said one in four Minnesota farms is either managed or co-managed by women. Citing information from the US Department of Agriculture, she said there are nearly 28,000 female farm producers in the state.

She said a survey of farm women conducted by the Extension program "really spoke to the need for additional programming" to help them with ag finance decisions.

Women are not only looking for "more information and more management assistance" but also a network of women so they can "learn from each other," said Van Nurden.

Despite the downturn in the farm economy, Van Nurden said the conference will retain a "positive message about how to bridge the gap toward the future."

The keynote speaker is Lilia McFarland, coordinator for the USDA's New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, who will discuss ways to help the next generation of farmers and ranchers through programs that improve access to land, capital and risk management.

Whether women are "seasoned producers" or just starting a career in agriculture, it's vital to be aware of the different programs that are available, Van Nurden said.

The conference will feature break-out sessions in the morning and afternoon.

Speakers will discuss issues like the outlook for grain prices in the coming year, how to write a pre-harvest marketing plan and strategies for developing a business plan.

Amanda Freund, a dairy farmer and ag entrepreneur from Connecticut, will discuss and how to be an entrepreneur to get additional value from the farm.

Other topics include improving communication and decision-making skills, setting goals, adapting to change and how to view your farm by using benchmarking and budgeting.

There will also be a primer on the different Farm Service Agency programs, a panel discussion on how balance work and life and time for women to network.

Last year the event drew about 100 farm women including teenagers learning about farming, women who have off-the-farm careers but want to be more involved with the family farm, women who are ag lenders or sell seed and feed and women in their 60s who are still very active with day-to-day farming activities.

Van Nurden said it's important to have "different perspectives" in the network of farm women.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750