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West Virginia’s women farmers have unique opportunity to grow with WVU Extension program

 

Morgantown, W.Va. – There’s a growing movement in West Virginia, and at the forefront are females who are breaking out of typical gender roles. They’re leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs, and they make up a growing population of women who own farms and manage all aspects of an agricultural operation.

The trend isn’t confined to West Virginia. In fact, close to 970,000 women now run 31 percent of the nation’s farms. Even more impressive is the fact that West Virginia’s women-run farms have a substantial economic impact on the state – to the tune of more than $62 million.

The remarkable numbers can’t be ignored, and that’s why the West Virginia University Extension Service’s Women in Agriculture team wants to help these female farmers grow their ranks, increase profitability, build business relationships and refine their own operations.

The premier event for the team is the West Virginia Women in Agriculture conference that takes place from October 20 to 21 this year at Camp Dawson in Kingwood, West Virginia. According to organizers, the annual conference prides itself on being atypical.

“We don’t want to be like other conferences that revolve around farming, because in our experience, we find that women generally learn differently and we want to maximize their learning,” said Stacey Huffman, WVU Extension Service agent in Mineral County and conference chairperson. “We focus on hands-on, peer-to-peer learning and have mentors in every track who are successful, West Virginian female farmers.”

Huffman elaborated that the conference theme this year is “Stepping Up,” a loving challenge to women to enhance and refine management practices on their farms and take more leadership positions in agriculture organizations across the state.

The charge to step up is even worked into the conference schedule — registered participants will be sent an email encouraging them to bring related items, such as farm records or soil testing results, to spur discussion and give them tailored advice on the topic that they can take home and implement immediately.

In addition to smaller classes, the conference also boasts a farm tour, ever-present networking and business building opportunities and speakers, including Marji Guyler-Alaniz, president and founder of FarmHer, as the keynote speaker.   

Organizers noted that risk management is a large part of the program, and specific sessions help the women identify and put a plan in place to manage risks in their operation, everything from human resources to marketing and legal considerations to actual agricultural production.

More information and registration for the conference can be found at http://extension.wvu.edu/conferences/wia.

Scholarships for the conference are available courtesy of conference sponsors, including Nationwide Insurance and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. Those interested should contact Dee Singh-Knights, WVU Extension Service agricultural economics specialist, at 304-293-7606 or dosingh-knights@mail.wvu.edu.

For questions regarding the conference in general, contact Huffman at 304-788-3621 or stacey.huffman@mail.wvu.edu.

The WVU Extension Service provides educational opportunities to local communities through offices in all 55 West Virginia counties. WVU Extension Service’s programs are accomplished in partnership with individuals, families, businesses, civic groups and governmental organizations statewide and throughout the nation.

To learn more about ways WVU Extension uses trusted research and local experts to empower citizens to improve their health, visit www.extension.wvu.edu, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.

-WVU-
zl/08/25/17

CONTACT: Zane Lacko, WVU Extension Service, 304.293.8986; zlacko@mail.wvu.edu



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