Story by Robyn Scherer, M.Agr. | Staff Reporter
Photos courtesy of Bonnie Schulz

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September 22, 2012
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Ag-ceptional conference great opportunity for women

The agricultural industry is full of people of all ages, both male and female. However, in the last decade or so, women have taken over many farming responsibilities, and are found just as often in the field. What binds all these women together is a common passion for agriculture.

On November, 16, women from across Nebraska will travel to Northeast Community College in Norfolk to attend a one-day women’s conference featuring presentations, workshops and networking opportunities.

Bonnie Schulz, Northeast Agribusiness Instructor and one of the founders of the conference, answers a few questions about the event.

Q: What is the history of the conference?

A: The initial idea for the conference grew out of a conversation between myself and Corinne Morris, Associate Dean of Agriculture at the College. Thinking of farm wives and other women in agriculture, Morris suggested that the Ag department develop a new initiative. My eyes lit up with enthusiasm: “We should host our own women in Ag conference!” I shared how the Women in Agriculture conference I attended years before in Kearney had changed my life. Before that, I didn’t know there was such a support system — I needed that. I needed a place to network — I kept thinking of friends who needed it as well. I haven’t missed one since. My vision and leadership as director for the first conference of its kind in northeast Nebraska laid a strong foundation in 2009 and it has been recognized as a premier agricultural event ever since.

Q: Who is involved in the planning of the conference?

A: Conference planning is managed in the Agriculture department of the college. There is also a committee made up of an enthusiastic group of volunteers from several different communities. All of these women have some connection to Agriculture.

Q: How many and what types of vendors do you have?

A: The conference is made possible through the generous support of over 80 sponsors including agricultural businesses, financial institutions, producers and other businesses throughout the region.

Q: What are some of the highlights for the conference this year?

A: Check-in is set for 8-8:30 a.m. with exhibits, networking and a breakfast scheduled for 8-9 a.m. Julie Clark, national award-winning author, professional speaker, life fulfillment and success coach, and founder of an Inspirational Coffee Club, will give the keynote address, “Ground Rules for Life,” at approximately 9:45.

Clark has been studying, speaking, writing and teaching self-improvement for years. She is a fun-loving, inspiring coffee lover who never stops learning and never stops teaching others how to get every last drop out of each and every day. She has been described as a blend of heart, humor and hope.

Clark, of Sioux Falls, S.D., is the author of the best-selling book, “Inspirational Coffee Breaks for Women: 12 Ground Rules for Pouring Your Heart into Life.” It was named a finalist in the prestigious National Best Books of 2010 Awards from USA Book News which honors the most outstanding books in the self-improvement genre.

During the day-long event, women can choose to attend four, 50-minute, break-out sessions from a total of 24 different presentations. Break-out sessions include health and wellness, recording keeping, farm taxation, rural wealth transfer, generational transitions, livestock management, recycling, LEAD, and more.

The 2012 AG-ceptional Woman of the Year will also be introduced.

Q: How is your annual award winner determined?

A: There is an open nomination process for the AG-ceptional Woman of the Year award. An AG-ceptional woman is someone who has made exceptional contributions to Agriculture. The term AG-ceptional pertains to any aspect of agriculture where excellence is demonstrated. By design, there are no specific criteria that have to be followed in order to nominate someone for the AG-ceptional Woman of the Year Award. You simply have to believe that a woman is AG-ceptional and then explain why. A selection committee made up of representatives from the Agricultural industry evaluate the candidates, and select the winner.

Q: Why is the show held when it is, and why do you hold it in Norfolk?

A: The conference is hosted by the Northeast Community College Agriculture department and therefore meets on the main campus in Norfolk. It is held in late November with hopes that harvest will be finished and ladies can enjoy a day for themselves before the holiday season begins. The event is scheduled as an annual tradition that fits within the busy schedule of the Lifelong Learning Center.

Q: Why is it important for women to attend this conference?

A: We are committed to excellence in providing educational opportunities, resources and support for all women in agriculture. The Ag-Ceptional planning committee seeks to empower women to compete and survive in a challenging and diverse industry. The conference provides a networking venue where women gain knowledge to develop management skills, confidence in decision making, and information to achieve an overall sense of well-being.

The Ag-ceptional Women programs are committed to providing educational opportunities for all women interested in learning and developing management skills in agriculture by providing leadership, learning experiences, support, and networking avenues to empower women to compete and survive in this challenging and diverse industry.

Q: Why do you feel women are an important part of the agricultural industry?

A: Women in agriculture make a significant contribution to the decision-making everywhere from family farms to corporate offices within the agricultural industry. ❖

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The Fence Post Updated Sep 22, 2012 04:10AM Published Oct 22, 2012 09:34AM Copyright 2012 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.