When you say the word ‘farmer’ the image of a man comes to mind. But agriculture is not just a male world anymore.

Women are a growing demographic in agriculture and small business, and they need the tools and resources to be successful and effective in their efforts to make a living.

The role of women in agriculture will be the focus of a special conference coming this spring in middle Tennessee — put together by University of Tennessee Extension and several other partners in agriculture.

The “Homefront to Heartland: Empowering Women in Agriculture and Small Business” Conference is set for Friday, April 29, 2011, in Nashville. The site of the meeting is the Scarritt — Bennett Center and participants can register online at http://www.homefronttoheartland.com.

Alice Rhea is a woman who makes her living in agriculture as an Area Farm Management Specialist with UT Extension in east Tennessee. Rhea is one of the coordinators of the Homefront to Heartland Conference.

Rhea says, “This conference is focused on providing education that will better prepare women to take care of themselves, their farm or business, and their community. Strong individuals and families make strong communities and Agriculture needs a strong voice.”

The conference seeks to empower women to return to their farm, business, community and family with new confidence, ideas and techniques to help them better manage finances, communication, time and stress.

List of discussion topics

Discussion topics include marketing, financial management, media and computer skills, government relations and nutrition, health and wellness. The conference will also include a panel discussion of business women from across the state, as well as a number of motivational speakers.

Sherry Lay helps her husband operate their 1,500 acre Monroe County farm and their Madisonville Feed Store. She attended the previous Homefront to Heartland Conference and says the conference gave her the expanded knowledge base to juggle several important responsibilities.

“I learned some good things about record-keeping — what you need to keep and maybe don’t need to keep, and then adjust your spending,” she says.

The conference will also include discussion about the current state of agriculture in Tennessee, and how women can become more involved at the local, state and federal level to encourage positive outcomes for the industry. The speaker on this topic will be Rhedona Rose, executive vice-president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.

Rose says, "This conference is designed specifically for women to inform and motivate you to engage and discover your influence in your family, career and community."

Peggy Howell, speech pathologist and wife of east Tennessee dairy farmer Bill Howell, says “It is many times the woman who takes on the role of educating the public about agriculture, helping to debunk the many myths about animal agriculture.”

Howell also says it is not just the women on the farm who make a difference in Tennessee Agriculture. “There are many ‘farmers’ daughters’ who have found a place in agriculture, perhaps not on the farm, but in positions in which they strive to help the industry every day. It is the love for agriculture that brings us all together, whether we are on the farm or in an office somewhere helping farmers.”

She says the conference will help strengthen Tennessee agriculture by strengthening the women who work so tirelessly day in and day out to support the future of Tennessee agriculture.

Other partners to UT Extension in the Homefront to Heartland Conference include the Tennessee Farm Bureau, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Beef Industry Council.

 
UT Extension operates in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties as the off-campus division of the UT Institute of Agriculture. An educational and outreach organization funded by federal, state and local governments, UT Extension, in cooperation with Tennessee State University, brings research-based information about agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and community development to the people of Tennessee where they live and work.