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The modern farmwife
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The modern farmwife

Farm, ranch management conference emphasizes rise in female leadership

KEARNEY, Neb. — Gone are the days of the conventional farmwife.

It’s a new era in agriculture. The FarmHer world is on the rise, as more women are looking to claim a managerial stake in the family’s operation — or going solo. Right now, Nebraska’s landscape is dotted with more than 4,000 women who operate their own farms and ranches, scattered amongst thousands more who work jointly with their partners. Ruth Hambleton has a message for them all: know more, do more, be more.

“We humbly accept our role on farms and ranches no matter the scale or the impact …” Hambleton said. “Conventional wisdom says, to make life easier, you don’t have to understand, just accept. But what if we can understand something just a little better than what is expected of us?

“Is it possible that expending effort to understand something, and not just accept it, can lead to a level of control and security that we all desire in our hearts?”

The founder of Annie’s Project and an Illinois-based rancher, Hambleton set the mood for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s 2018 Women in Agriculture conference during her opening keynote speech on Feb. 22 in Kearney, Neb. She continued, her words likely hitting close to home with hundreds of women in the room.

“Statistics say you are a woman in a man’s world, but we know better,” Hambleton quipped with a chuckle.

The significance of her words landed nonetheless as she added that women are involved in nearly every farm and ranch operation in the world. The roadblock for many of those women is that they aren’t considered as decision-makers by the industry, their families, or even themselves. Therein lies an opportunity, as Hambleton explained, to revolutionize the antiquated perception of what women can accomplish in agriculture.

It begins with understanding of who you are, what you want, and how to get it, Hambleton continued, and it thrives with education, the cornerstone of both Annie’s Project and the WIA conference.

In that spirit, this year’s WIA conference was jam-packed with seminars, featuring a wide variety of essential management topics. Featured on the first day was Greg Kruger, an associate professor in UNL’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture with a Ph.D. in weed science, who discussed weed control and dicamba injury, the bitter ongoing ag controversy.

Kruger first offered a history lesson on the development of pesticides before launching into weed management techniques tailored to Nebraska soils and climate, wherein he encouraged time commitment over short-term fixes.

Referencing photographs he captured of a Nebraska field in the middle of a tumultuous battle against marestail throughout an entire growing season, Kruger emphasized the importance of resistance strategies that incorporate residual herbicide applications prior to planting.

“Too often, we want to follow what’s easy,” Kruger commented. “It may take a long-term investment, it may take looking at your weed control program beyond 2018, but in the long term, if you can stave off resistance for five or 10 years, to glyphosate or any other compound, it’s going to pay off.”

Kruger ended the seminar with his analysis on potential causes of the rise in dicamba drift damage reports, listing volatility as only one of several reasons he believes dicamba injury rates have seemingly exploded.

“We’re seeing that tensions are really high with this,” Kruger remarked, citing in particular the 2016 Arkansas shooting over a dicamba dispute. “I think in Nebraska we do a much better job (at dicamba application) than some of our colleagues in other states, but even here, we want to deescalate the problem.”

Other seminars tackled issues varying from range and forage, ag policy, medicare/Medicaid, Quicken software, crop insurance, to land inheritance, naming just a few. During the farm and ranch management course, Hambleton conducted a personality profiles, which were used to aid participants in customizing their management strategies.

In its 33rd year, the conference closed on a note of empowerment from Ann Finkner of Farm Credit Services of America, who encouraged ag women of America and beyond to seek knowledge and self-awareness as a means of reaching personal and financial success.

“Focus on NOW, which stands for ‘No Opportunity Wasted,’” Finkner said in her final call to action. “Never stop learning … No car runs without gas. No bank account can have a withdrawal if it’s empty. So recognize you’re responsible for your life, and understand you are your own change agent.”

If you are interested in reading more about the WIA conference, visit wia.unl.edu.

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A Kansas native, Katy is the daughter of a farmer and a cowgirl. She has been a professional journalist since 2008 and is the Editor of Midwest Messenger. She can be reached at katy.moore@lee.net.

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