5th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture Grow, sow, reap, repeat: Making connections toward resiliency

November 30 – December 2, 2016 • Portland, OR

2016WISACallforPresentations (click to download a copy)

The 5th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture will bring together farmers, educators, technical assistance providers and activists engaged in healthy food and farming to share educational and organization strategies, build technical and business skills, and address policy issues aimed at expanding the success of women farmers and ranchers.

The conference will take place November 30-December 2, 2016, at the Double Tree by Hilton at 1000 NE Multnomah St., Portland, OR 97232.

In order to build a rich program for our participants, the program committee is soliciting workshop proposal ideas. Thank you for considering submitting your idea. Below is some information that will help you develop your idea.

Farmers, educators, activists and agricultural professionals involved in sustainable agriculture. Women engaged in developing healthy, viable food systems are our target audience.

Sessions will be 60 or 90 minutes in length. Expect approximately 25-40 attendees per session. The program will offer a variety of formats, including one-speaker sessions, joint presentations, panels that combine farmers, service providers and activists, and round tables featuring group discussion. Participatory formats are encouraged. You may be asked to modify your submission or combine your workshop with another.

To be considered, all proposals must be submitted electronically at https://wagn.wufoo.com/forms/2016-wisa-conference-call-for-workshops/ by 11:59 p.m. March 31, 2016. Submission of a proposal is not a guarantee of acceptance. Proposal review will be complete by early June.

We are seeking presentations and workshops in the following tracks/topics:

TRACK 1: GROW (production topics)
We are interested in workshops that share results of on-farm research, relay proven strategies, and/or provide “how-to” information. Topics could include:

• Crop management
• Soil health
• Pest management
• Livestock health and welfare
• Season extension
• Value-added enterprise development
• Farm safety/Ergonomics
• Equipment maintenance and repair
• Nutrition

TRACK 2: SOW (business planning, diversification, financial topics)
This track includes workshops designed to help begin and maintain successful farms and rural businesses. We are particularly interested in interactive, hands-on workshops that will engage participants. Please indicate the experience level that would be most appropriate for this workshop (e.g., beginners, intermediate or experienced). Topics could include:

• Business planning/Marketing
• Food Safety
• Expansion
• Diversifying your farm income
• Financial management
• Maintaining and improving a healthy farm ecology

TRACK 3: REAP (food systems development, policy, advocacy)
This track will focus on developing leadership capacity and skills for women farmers and healthy food systems advocates wherever they want to lead, from the farm house to the White House. Workshops should provide opportunities for participants to acquire information, leadership and organizing skills they need to be effective participants in policy development at the local, state and federal levels. We are seeking a mix of round-table, panel presentation and “how-to” sessions. Topics may include:

• Women impacting the Farm Bill & agricultural policy
• Creating community support for small farms and local food systems
• Running effective meetings
• Mentoring the next generation of leaders
• How to advocate effectively with limited time and resources
• Creating a farm/ranch women’s network in your area
• Fearless fundraising
• Food access/food justice

TRACK 4: REPEAT (sustainability and transition; maintaining a healthy balance, farm transfer/transition, mentoring)

• Balancing farm and family
• Beginning farmer challenges (finding apprenticeships, land, financing, mentors)
• Women landowner challenges (working with tenants, using leases, conservation management, managing family conflict)
• Financial planning for retirement
• Farm transfer and transition (for both farmers and non-operator landowners)
• Expressing your vision and values as a woman farmer or landowner through writing, music and the visual arts

Don’t see a category for your idea? Please submit it anyway. A variety of topics that are relevant to women in sustainable agriculture will be considered.

Submission of a proposal is not a guarantee of its acceptance. A planning committee will review all proposals. Notification of your proposal status will be provided by June 1, 2016.

Presenters will receive a reduction in the conference registration fee. A limited amount of scholarship and travel stipend funding may be available, but is earmarked for farmer participants. Questions? Contact Maud Powell (maud.powell@oregonstate.edu) or Melissa Fery (melissa.fery@oregonstate.edu), conference coordinators.

This event is hosted by Oregon State University’s Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems, and is being coordinated by a nationwide coalition of organizations including: Women’s Agricultural Networks of Vermont and Pennsylvania; Women, Food and Agriculture Network; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service; Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); and others.

Shifting gears

For the next year, beginning October 1, 2014, I will be stepping back from day-to-day program delivery and management to focus more deeply on the areas of direct marketing and labor management as they impact small and medium-sized farms. Specifically I will be working on some new decision-making tools farmers can use to determine their optimal market mix and labor needs to attain their business goals.

One of the activities I’m looking forward to is the opportunity to talk with consumers about how their purchasing decisions have changed over time, the role of social media in their decision making, and what attributes of locally produced farm products are important to them.

This year of study starts with the opportunity to attend the 2014 Slow Food Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy. This biennial event draws individuals from all over the world who are passionate about good, clean and fair food for the world’s largest food and wine fair, Salone del Gusto, and the concurrent world meeting of food communities, Terra Madre. Those that know my passion for farmers’ markets can probably guess how excited I am about this opportunity!

Learn more about the Ark of Taste and the movement to preserve unique foods in this video.


Having the gift of a year to focus on these areas of interest is a wonderful benefit of my work and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity. But sabbaticals do leave holes that need to be filled. My leave would not happen without all of my fabulous UVM Extension co-workers, starting with Beth Holtzman and Heidi Krantz, who will be picking up many of my responsibilities during my absence. Keep an eye here for some updates on my adventures!

Ag Biz Management Tools

Some worksheets that I use in my workshops for new farmers. If they are useful I invite you to use them:

SMART Goals Planning Worksheet


All universities engage in research and teaching, but the nation’s more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities, have a third critical mission—extension. “Extension” means “reaching out,” and—along with teaching and research—land-grant institutions “extend” their resources, solving public needs with college or university resources through non-formal, non-credit programs.

These programs are largely administered through thousands of county and regional extension offices, which bring land-grant expertise to the most local of levels. And both the universities and their local offices are supported by NIFA, the federal partner in the Cooperative Extension System (CES). NIFA plays a key role in the land-grant extension mission by distributing annual Congressionally appropriated formula grants to supplement state and county funds. NIFA affects how these formula grants are used through national program leadership to help identify timely national priorities and ways to address them.

Congress created the extension system nearly a century ago to address exclusively rural, agricultural issues. At that time, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and 30 percent of the workforce was engaged in farming. Extension’s engagement with rural America helped make possible the American agricultural revolution, which dramatically increased farm productivity:

In 1945, it took up to 14 labor-hours to produce 100 bushels of corn on 2 acres of land.

By 1987, it took just under 3 labor-hours to produce that same 100 bushels of corn on just over 1 acre.

In 2002, that same 100 bushels of corn were produced on less than 1 acre.

That increase in productivity has allowed fewer farmers to produce more food.

Fewer than 2 percent of Americans farm for a living today, and only 17 percent of Americans now live in rural areas. Yet, the extension service still plays an important role in American life—rural, urban, and suburban. With its unprecedented reach—with an office in or near most of the nation’s approximately 3,000 counties—extension agents help farmers grow crops, homeowners plan and maintain their homes, and children learn skills to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Despite the decline in the population and and economic importance of rural America , the national Cooperative Extension System remains an important player in American life. It increasingly addresses urban, suburban, in addition to rural issues, and it has responded to information technology changes in America by developing a national Web presence.

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