July 2016
Farm & Field

Women in Ag 2016

Brad Cox explains the importance of tractor and farm safety.  

Sharpening skills and growing confidence with hands-on learning.

“Women in agriculture need to recognize that their work is valuable – and with value comes greater confidence in themselves and in their businesses,” said Marji Alaniz, head of FarmHer, in an article from agweb.

Self-confidence was one of the focuses of the Women in Ag Workshop. The workshop was held May 13 at the Black Belt Research and Extension Center in Marion Junction.

Thirty-six women attended the Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems woman-led workshop where they gained hands-on experience, knowledge and self-confidence. Each section taught the women valuable knowledge about different areas of agriculture. The sections included backing trailers, tractors and farm implements; evaluating pasture pest presence; fencing; cattle handling; needle/vaccine selection and injection sites.

Events similar to this are growing in popularity in the agriculture industry. Since most people are four generations removed from the farm, they were not fortunate enough to learn these skills from their parents. This creates a learning curve that in an industry as large and as fast-paced as agriculture can be difficult to overcome.

“It’s always good when anyone in the ag industry seeks opportunities to become a better hand on the farm, whether they’re owner/operators, managers or ranch hands, and that’s what these women accomplished in this workshop,” explained Courteney Holland, equine Extension specialist. “They learned to do tasks that are not always the easiest.”

The best part of the program, to most participants, was the hands-on experience. Instead of being told how to do something, they were able to actually do that task.

  Wendy Yeager works with one of the participant as she drives a tractor around the farm yard.

“My favorite part was the hands-on aspect,” said Samantha Carpenter, social media specialist for Alabama Farmers Cooperative and reporter for “Simply Southern TV.” “Actually running cattle through a chute and driving a fence post in the ground. Even though those things seem minor and simple to those who do it every day, it was the confidence boost a lot of women needed.”

Such events not only benefit the people in attendance but also the industry as a whole. The participants and the leaders hope to see them even grow in the future.

“I can’t give this event enough positive praise,” Carpenter said. “Every participant I talked to learned at least one new thing, most of them more. To see this event offered across the state in multiple regions would be beneficial for the entire industry. Giving an opportunity to those who want to expand their knowledge and skills to be a better advocate, farmer and producer is something that is vital in this growing world.”

This event was for anyone who was interested in agriculture. There were no prerequisites or criteria, besides the desire to gain more knowledge.

“It helps women discover new skills they most likely never knew they had. These are skills they may have never been introduced to, too afraid to try or thought they weren’t good at,” Holland explained.

Holland taught the session on how to back a trailer. Her favorite part was watching the nervous participants face their fears of backing a livestock trailer in tight spaces. She saw women grow more confident in areas they were weak in and believes that helped them, their farms and the agriculture industry.

“I believe men and women have different personality strengths and those can be complimentary if we all choose to get better at the tasks we’re typically weak in,” Holland added. “This event strengthened women who may be new farm owners – single or widowed. The main thing is we want them to be more comfortable with tasks on the farm.”

These skills were bettered, mostly by the session leaders at the workshop. The leaders planned informative sessions that would increase confidence and knowledge. The workshops were led by a Natural Resources Conservation Service employee, a farm owner, Extension specialists and a veterinarian.

“The leaders of this event did a great job of reassuring us and making us to feel like we could do all the tasks with confidence,” Carpenter said. “Being involved in production agriculture can seem intimidating because of the big equipment or large animals, but by teaching us the safe and proper way to handle situations and allowing us to practice helped us to overcome the challenges and understand we are capable.”

Because of this event, these women left feeling better about themselves, their farms and the agriculture industry in general. Benjamin Franklin’s quote said it best, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Most participants agreed that this event was a success, and hope to see it grow. So look for more events similar to this in the future. Whether you’re nervous about backing a trailer, working cattle, evaluating pest problems or sufficient in all of these things, you should never stop learning. So why not learn surrounded by women who share the same passion you do? It will not only help you but agriculture in general and future generations to come.

This event involved women in agriculture to help them be more equipped for this crazy ride that is farming.


Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.