'Women in Agriculture' conference set

Lexington, Ky., event offers
unique networking opportunity

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

NEW CASTLE, Ky. (February 2003) – A growing concern among many women about the future of Kentucky agriculture prompted the formation of an organization called Kentucky Women in Agriculture. This month, the group has scheduled a series of conferences on a variety of subjects to be held in Lexington, Ky.
Kim Henken, Extension Associate for Environmental Issues at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said two women involved on a national level instituted the conference series. “Dr. Bonnie O. Tanner, assistant director for Family and Consumer Sciences with the UK College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, and Alice Baesler worked to organize the Kentucky Agricultural Women’s Leadership Network in spring 1999.
Tanner and Baesler also organized the first Kentucky Executive Committee, which consists of 29 women who are agricultural leaders from across the state. The result of their efforts was the first conference held in November 1999.
This year’s conference, “Cultivating Dreams and Harvesting Profits,” will be held Feb. 27-28 at Lexington’s Embassy Suites Hotel on Newton Pike. Registration is limited to the first 300 respondents, with a $60 fee due by Feb. 7.
Baesler said the concept of Women in Agriculture developed after several women from Kentucky attended an International Meeting of Women in Agriculture in Washington, D.C. It was decided that Kentucky needed to organize its women.
“Bonnie and I took on the challenge along with an outstanding executive committee,” Baesler said. “I think there are many opportunities for women to fit into the many niche market that will be needed to make up for the lost tobacco income.”
Maryellen Garrison, Henry County Home Economic Extension Agent, said she has attended three of the conferences. She said the goals of the programs are “to assist in developing the entrepreneurial spirit in women ag leaders and to help them learn new ways to expand ag markets, to assist women in making the family farm profitable and to provide information on national issues facing agriculture.”
This is a big undertaking, but the women already have their feet planted firmly in the ground. The 2001 Taproots Conference provided teams of leaders the opportunity to develop leadership skills, in addition to designing projects that would address certain issues. Both Henry and Trimble counties had teams in attendance, said Garrison.
The women are encouraged to think big and not limit themselves to the state in which they live. In May 2002, nine women traveled to Cuba on a fact-finding mission to explore the possibilities of selling Kentucky agricultural products to Cuba. This seven-day stay led to the establishment of a trade pact for the purchase of $7 million dollars in Kentucky products, said Baesler.
Current Commissioner Billy Ray Smith is scheduled to attend, as will panel moderator Terry Gilbert, chair of the women’s committee of the American Farm Bureau. Luncheon speakers will include Jean-Marie Peltier, counselor to EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman. Peltier balances agricultural and environmental issues in her position as central contact for the EPA’s cooperative efforts with the USDA in matters of joint policy.
Kentucky entrepreneur Donna Salyers will also be a guest speaker. She began her business, Fabulous-Furs, with a faux fur sewing kit in the basement of her Covington, Ky., home. By pursuing her vision, Salyers’ desire to succeed has now become a $7 million, multi-channel business.

• For more information contact Garrison at (502) 845-2811, Kim Henken at (859) 257-5482, or visit: www.kywomeninag.com.

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