Every fall, women across the state of Wyoming gather to learn new information, network with each other and take some time to get away from the farm. The 19th annual Wyoming Women in Ag Symposium, held in Casper, Wyo., provided the women with information on working with their spouses, calving tips, the four P’s of prosperity, aging affordably and ag program development possibilities.
More than 100 women attended the event between participants, the speakers and the trade show vendors. The keynote speaker for the event was Susie Oberdahlhoff, a city-born preacher’s kid turned farm-wife and mother. Her presentation, “Life Happens, Learn to Bounce,” focused on teaching the women to bounce through life’s twists and turns.
She tells the story of how she became a farmer’s wife, and said that she answered the following help wanted ad. “Lady for general work, cooking, cleaning, child care, gardening and yard work, helping with field work, caring for animals. Strong stomach, strong back. Alertness essential. Knowledge of horticulture, veterinary medicine, bookkeeping. Room and board, no salary.”
She continued, “I answered such an ad 40 some years ago when I married a farmer. It didn’t take long to learn that life isn’t about how high you jump or how fast you run, but how well you bounce! The responsibilities of a farm wife cause one to bounce quite often.”
She talks about her four Ps of prosperity, and how that will help the women. Those are: 1.) Be Proud of what you do. 2.) Be Positive about life. 3.) Be Patient — Rome wasn’t built in a day! 4.) Be Persistent — Keep trying and trying and trying.
In addition to the four Ps, Susie also compiled the “Seven Ups of a Good Life.” Those are: wake up to a new day; dress up with a smile; look up for heavenly guidance; listen up say nice things; speak up for what you believe; reach up for something greater; and lift up someone less fortunate.
“If you practice every day, every week, every month, every year, it’s an indication you’re going to have a good life,” she comments. “And if you put the Seven Ups in place, pretty soon the Seven Ups are the good life ... life happens, you can bounce or you can call it quits.”
She then talked about the importance of laughter, and how it can help people. “Now that my life is somewhere between menopause and large print, I look back to see how I survived. I owe it to something we all have, we don’t use it near enough, some never use it at all — it’s called laughter,” she said.
She continued, “Laughter boosts the immune system and heart rate, burns calories, encourages relaxation, helps one cope, improves energy levels, increases blood flow and is therapeutic helping to overcome anxiety, depression, grief and tragedy. So we need to laugh just for the health of it.”
Her time as a farmer’s wife has given her plenty of opportunities to laugh. “I’m sure glad laughing is good for the body and soul because through my life as a farm wife, my family and I have learned to laugh a lot.”
Susie lives on a working farm along with her husband Richard. They raise hogs, cattle and hay on their acreage located in the rural area near Bowling Green, Mo. They are parents of two children and two grandchildren.
The keynote speaker for the first evening was Amy Kirk, a southwestern South Dakota rancher, who writes a weekly column called “A Ranch-wife’s Slant.” She and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth generation cow-calf operation near Pringle, S.D.
Her presentation, “Spouses in Translation,” focused on the differences between a farm and ranch couple, and an average American couple.
“You know you have a farm and ranch couple when your conversations are geared towards abscesses and foot rot, and you have your arguments in the corral or in the pasture,” she said.
She continued, “There are some big differences between men and women, especially for ranch couples. We are not like our average American couple; our lives overlap so much, so communication is a lot more important. We are business partners — live together, work today and love together.”
This communication is vital, according to Kirk. “Understanding the way our spouses think can improve communication between most married couples but we all know it takes more than that for ranching couples/husbands and wives to have a harmonious relationship while working with cattle, she stated.
She ended her presentation with some advice. “Through personal experiences as well as my observations of other ranch couples working cows together, I’ve noticed there’s one thing that couples who are able to work together cordially have that I believe is the key to a successful ranch marriage: a REALLY good set of working corrals,” she said. Kirk also gave a presentation the following day titled, “So Happy Together,” which focused on the thought process of men, and how understanding this thought process would allow the women to communication better with their spouses, both in and out of the pasture.
Other presentations included a calving tips and tricks workshop, presented by fourth generation cow/calf rancher Mark Grant and his wife Angela. Representatives from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WYGF) and the Natrona County Conservation District (NCCD) talked about ag program development opportunities. Matt Guerttman gave a presentation on aging affordably. This panel discussion focused on the challenges people face during the aging process, with topics ranging from options for elder care to financial and legal decisions.
During the luncheon, members were treated to entertainment by the trio Sweethearts in Carhartts, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jean Prescott, and Liz Masterson.
Throughout the conference, participants had the opportunity to shop from several different vendors, who showcased handmade products. The symposium was sponsored by many sponsors, which allowed the women who attended the event to do so at a nominal cost.
Angela Grant, a board member of the Wyoming Women in Ag, thought the symposium was a great success. “It was all very good, but the entertainment over lunch was a big hit. The Sweethearts in Carhartts are definitely worth hearing again!” Grant said.
She feels the program also helps to bring the women together. “We can network, and learn from each others experiences and know that we aren’t the only ones going through difficult times,” she said.
The purpose of the Wyoming Women in Ag is to provide educational workshops and symposia that allow women to keep informed about new issues in agriculture, improve confidence in themselves, and gain the tools and information needed to make management decisions while networking with their friends, neighbors and new acquaintances.
The group has no memberships dues, and allows producers to connect with each other and take new information back to the ranch.
“We want to allow women involved in agriculture to come together and enjoy a humorous, entertaining and educational day after a year of hard work,” Grant said. ❖