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NFU’s “Women Making Waves” Conference a Big Success

Roughly 60 women farmers and ranchers assembled in Clearwater, Florida, for National Farmers Union (NFU)’s Women Making Waves conference January 11-14. Attendees ranged in age from a farmer intern in her 20s to an agriculture-focused attorney and former Pennsylvania state representative in her 80s, and included several board members of Farmers Union state chapters, including Ellen Linderman, who shared her rewarding experience of going back to college (and staying in the dorms for two years) after middle age, and of becoming the first woman board member of North Dakota Farmers Union. She’s now one of two women directors, and she encouraged women to step into leadership roles.

New England Farmers Union (NEFU) members Kate Donald of Stout Oak Farm and Lora Goss of Fen-Mairidh Farm, both in New Hampshire, attended.

South Dakota rancher Tammy Basel related her horrific experience losing scores of cows in the October 2013 blizzard that killed 60,000 head of cattle, an experience made worse by the government shutdown that cut off national weather reports to rural Americans. After the storm, Basel dislocated her ribs loading dead cattle into a pit for burial and didn’t know she was injured until days afterwards. She said had nightmares for a month after the event, and would wake up seeing the “grimaces of the dead cows.”

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden spoke about the future of farming.

NFU Vice President Claudia Svarsdad talked about why diversity of leadership is important. She paraphrased Pope Francis, saying that when we don’t tap women as leaders, we miss out on “the feminine genius.”

Attendees learned the finer points of business planning, estate planning and transition planning from leading professionals in the field in three days of curriculum provided by Annie’s Project.

They learned that deeds and loan paperwork should be in the name of both husband and wife so that women can build a credit history and have access to property and equipment in the case of the death of a spouse.

Other useful information was shared among the group, including in Pennsylvania, a personal trainer, who shows women farmers how to lift properly so as not to get hurt, how to work opposing muscle groups, and how to have a healthy body and maintain balance while working on a farm.

NEFU’s presence was made possible by a grant from Farm Aid. The conference was sponsored by CoBank, Annie’s Project, Farm Credit, FUI Foundation, American Farmland Trust and National Farmers Union Foundation.

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