; Leadership for Women Farmers | Conferences | AgRisk Library


Conference Name Leadership for Women Farmers

Patricia Neiner and Beth Holtzman


Women in Agriculture Learning Network

Presenters: Patty Neiner, PA Women's Agricultural Network and Beth Holtzman, University of VT Women's Agricultural Network.

To be successful, beginning women farmers and ranchers need both skills and confidence as managers, communicators, and advocates. Women frequently report they struggle with issues such as work/life balance, being taken seriously as managers, and essential negotiating skills. These topics are critical in helping women manage human, financial, and production risks.

Without access to appropriate leadership development education, BWFRs too often fail to develop the critical communication, decision-making and management skills and confidence; they need to be effective in relationships with family members, employees, vendors, consultants, customers and regulators.

To address these needs, the Enhancing Educational Programming for Beginning Women Farmers and Ranchers project is working to develop leadership development curricula, resources and support opportunities that women can access in the manner they find comfortable and supportive that will assist them to become economically, environmentally and socially viable business owners. This initiative is funded through an Educational Enhancement Grant for New and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers by USDA-NIFA.

Our multi-state team has collected and assessed farmer and women's leadership development curricula from around the US. While there are excellent women's leadership agricultural development programs, they are often oriented to grooming women for promotions within a corporation or large farm business, as advocates for their industry, and/or as candidates for political office. Often they require a substantial commitment of both time and money, which can be huge barriers for small-scale, agricultural entrepreneurs, who balance farm, family and off-farm employment.

We assessed the collected information for its amenability to womens' learning styles; ability to be accessed by women farmers in all geographical locations; length and amount of content and whether it addresses issues confronting woman farmers and agricultural service providers in their day to day communications. We then set out with the assistance of a committee consisting of women farmers and educators to begin to develop a program that women can access alone or in groups. Our leadership building program draws on the experiences of other women farmers (successes and failures) presented in short video clips to help women look at various scenarios and discuss ways to approach the issues. Small groups led by a facilitator watch the videos in sections, first discussing ways to address the issue brought up on the video by the woman farmer, ag professional or service provider. The participants then listen to what happened to the woman on the video and again discuss as a group similar issues or ways that the situation may have been improved such as which skills were needed, circumstances or when to walk away.

This presentation will discuss the process of this training, feedback from women involved in focus groups and the potential for this program to decrease the risk of failure incurred by lack of knowledge in how to deal with interactions with bankers, salespeople, customers, and others.

We would like to present this in concert with Mary Peabody and Karen Fuckenbush's presentation as a 90 minute session.