By SEAN ELLIS
TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- A first-ever "Idaho Women in Agriculture Conference" is expected to draw a wide variety of women from many different aspects of agriculture.
Conference co-organizer Cinda Williams said interest in the conference is high and organizers expect a very diverse turnout.
"There are a lot more women in agriculture, both in production and in the agencies and universities that serve agriculture," Williams, a University of Idaho extension educator in Latah County, said. "We are looking for a pretty diverse turnout, both young and old, primary women producers and spouses of producers, large-scale farmers and small-scale farmers."
The conference will take place in Twin Falls March 2 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on the College of Southern Idaho campus. A $28 registration fee includes lunch.
The conference will cover several topics that a steering committee determined are of high interest to women, including marketing trends and tools, agritourism, loans and other creative financing, successful social media strategies, selling local and how to start a cooperative.
"There should be something of interest to most women involved in agriculture across the state," conference co-organizer Kelly Olson said.
Educating women about financing tools and creating an environment where networking can occur are expected to be highlights.
"Those are big issues that transcend all (aspects) of agriculture," said Olson, administrator of the Idaho Barley Commission, which secured a grant that will help finance the conference.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Census of Ag, there were 13,020 women farm operators in Idaho in 2007, up from 11,682 in 2002. The 2007 census showed that 30 percent of farm operators around the country were women, a 19 percent increase from the 2002 census.
Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould said women have been instrumental in agriculture's legacy in Idaho and she looks forward to speaking at the event. Gould said she's encouraged by what she sees for the future of ag groups like FFA, where women and men hold an equal number of leadership posts.
"But there is more work to be done," she said. "Nationally, female operators make less than their male counterparts. Also, fewer women serve on the boards of agribusinesses and industry groups. Women have such a valuable perspective in agriculture and I'm confident that the industry will move forward to an increasing role for all voices."
Besides Gould, Olson and Williams, the conference includes other speakers who play key roles in Idaho's farming industry, such as Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, a retired farmer and veteran legislative leader who will serve as keynote speaker, and Charlotte Eberlein, director of UI's Extension service.
For more information, call Williams or Kaycee Royer at (208) 883-2267. Registration and more information are available online at http://idwomeninag.wordpress.com