By Lisa Kivirist, author, co-owner and operator of Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B

The winter season ushers in space for reflection and big picture thinking on where we see  our farm businesses, communities and lives overall heading into 2019.

That’s exactly what’s on the menu for women farmers at this year’s National Farmers Union Women’s Conference, January 13-17, 2019 at the Catamaran Report in San Diego, California. This one-of-a-kind event brings together fellow female Farmers Union members from across the country for an inspiring, intense dose of resources, information and – most importantly – collaborative connections and idea sharing with an amazing group of women.

Need more reasons to join me and women from across the country for this inspiring kick off to your 2019 season? Here are ten to get us started:

  1. Expand your farm vision

Getting off-farm and connecting with other farmers, especially women sharing our commitment to Farmers Union cooperative values, adds a dose of fresh ideas and perspectives to our farm businesses more potent than any compost. Return home renewed, refreshed, and ready to take on the upcoming growing season.

The speaker line-up covers pragmatic business topics with a team of seasoned experts such as Poppy Davis, an authoritative voice in agricultural business and policy issues affecting family-scale farmers and ranchers.  She will talk on income taxes, understanding liquidity and cash flow and setting up accounting systems.

  1. Cultivate your leadership mission

Hear first-hand stories about running for office from fellow Farmers Union women like Kriss Marion, who recently ran for State Senate in Wisconsin and dairy farmer Patty Edelburg who serves as NFU Vice President.

“Bottom line, we need more women farmer voices in elected office and at the decision-making table,” shares Kriss Marion, who also runs Circle M Farm in Wisconsin. “I’m excited to share my reflections and learnings from my first experience in a state office campaign and how I’m ready to run again.”

  1. Harvest national perspectives

This conference gathers women from around the nation, bringing a diversity of perspectives, geography, business models, crops, and life stories to the table, from beginning female farmers to seasoned growers. Whether you run an operation with hundreds of acres or are just starting out on a postcard small plot, come celebrate and learn from the NFU spirit of collaboration and sharing.

  1. Expert speaker line-up

National Farmers Union will bring together an inspiring line-up of authoritative speakers and facilitators to the stage. From Esther Lin with the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency Outreach Office, Chelsea Matzen with the Local Food Safety Collaborative to yours truly, author of Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers, the conference agenda blends big-picture thinking with practical ideas for your farm operation.

  1. Network and connect

With a conference theme of “Farming in Community,” this particular gathering will really celebrate and amplify the powerful, positive collaborative message of women in agriculture. It’s the inspiring new friendships along with rekindled connections that we remember most. Sharing our stories and strengthening women farmer connections remains the core what this annual Women’s Conference is all about.  There’s even a special workshop session specifically  on story-telling hosted by Pheasants Forever to support us in amplifying our messages.

“I so enjoyed us woman gathering in a safe and neutral space,” shares April Prusia of Dorothy’s Range and former conference attendee.  “The weekend provided lots of opportunities to get to know other states and their farm focuses. Some of our missions where very different and worth learning about. Some folks had the very similar concerns regarding their community and their farmhood.”

  1. Be inspired to act

Karen Washington’s keynote will deliver a bushel of inspiration as she speaks on “The Power of Women in Agriculture:  Why Inclusion and Diversity Matters” as shares her inspiring journey of launching the New York City Community Garden Coalition and Black Urban Growers and currently a co-owner and farmer at Rise & Root Farm in New York.

This is one conference that will keep on giving way after the January 17 closing.  Many women attending found the ripple effects from this gathering playing an important role in life back home.

“This event was the jumping off point for me in terms of Farmers Union involvement,” explains Alicia Razvi of Wooly Thyme Micro Farm. “ She was inspired to apply for the Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) and spent the next year traveling with NFU as a result.  “The Women’s Conference was the first time I put my toes in the Pacific Ocean and the first time I ever traveled by myself. It was the first time I had been away from my family which felt giant due to being the major caregiver to not only my kids but my husband who’d been a cancer survivor of just two years at that point.”

  1. Incredible value

All this, a four-day conference, for just $125? As we say in Wisconsin, you betcha! Big thanks to the conference sponsors and National Farmers Union for their support to create such an affordable conference opportunity.

  1. Small group conference setting

The NFU Women’s Conference is intentionally a smaller gathering of around one hundred women, a setting where we can really get to know each other, ask questions and share. With limited spots open, be sure to register now.

  1. Tour area farms

With a day dedicated to touring innovative growing operations in the San Diego area including Dickinson Farm where we’ll meet farmer Stephanie Norton and hear how her military career led to farming. We’ll harvest new ideas and marketing approaches, no matter what climate zone you may be heading home to.

  1. San Diego. Beach. Fun. 

65-degree average day time temperature. Two blocks to the beach. No quilt-lined Carhartt Arctic anything in site. The only ice you see will be in your drink. Do you really need more convincing?

This Women’s Conference will once again amplify the voice of women in agriculture, our commitment to family farms and healthy rural communities and plant collaborative vision seeds for the future.  Look forward to seeing you in San Diego – register here if you haven’t already!

Lisa Kivirist and her family run Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B in Wisconsin, completely powered by renewable energy. Lisa is a Senior Fellow, Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems for the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Minnesota, author of the award-winning Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers, and co-author of Homemade for SaleFarmstead ChefECOpreneuring and Rural Renaissance with her husband, John Ivanko. She leads Soil Sisters: A Celebration of Wisconsin Farms and Rural Life, now the largest women farmer-run event of its kind in the country. A national advocate for cottage food entrepreneurs, Lisa served as a plaintiff along with fellow Farmers Union members Dela Ends and Kriss Marion in the lawsuit against the state that declared the ban on the sale of home baked goods unconstitutional. She serves as Treasurer of Wisconsin Farmers Union South Central Chapter.

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