The annual Rural Women in Ag conference was held October 4-5, at the K Bar S Lodge near Keystone, S.D. The K Bar S was a new venue for the conference, and attendees were entertained by deer and wild turkeys on the lawns of the lodge buildings for most of the event.
During some of the free time before dinner Thursday evening, attendees were able to have their blood sugar, blood pressure and Body Mass Index (BMI) checked. Kerry Greear, certified Family Nurse Practitioner, and an assistant performed the tests.
Greear was, in fact, the after dinner speaker as well. She is employed at the Queen City Regional Medical Clinic in Spearfish, S.D. She has been in the health care field since 1967 and a nurse practitioner since 1993. She acknowledged that women’s health needs change throughout the years, but a health plan can be followed at all stages of life.
“I believe that thyroid glands can burn out,” Greear began. In northwestern S.D. she has seen an increased risk of thyroid cancer, which bears out a research study done in 1997. During the 1950s, above ground nuclear testing was being done in that area, resulting in some radioactive fallout and subsequent exposure. Children were especially vulnerable, and now those children are middle age and up.
Greear also recommends bone density scans and a vitamin D level test by age 65 or earlier. If there is no calcium or vitamin D, the bone will reflect this. A big risk factor for osteoporosis is cigarette smoking.
She said that there is getting to be a tremendous amount of rectal cancers. These are caused by the HPV virus, which also causes oral and cervical cancers.
Other recommended exams and/or screening tests include a fasting blood sugar, cholesterol level, hearing tests, dental exams, skin exams and blood pressure readings. A tetanus injection should be given every 10 years.
“You never know what’s going to bring a patient in,” Greear summed up. “Pay attention to your body, and it will tell you when something is wrong.”
The remainder of the evening was spent enjoying Fun Night. Activities included jewelry making, massage, making “humbug bags,” and an ag knowledge quiz.
The keynote speaker next morning was Brenda Elsagher of Burnsville, Minn., with “Joy Through the Journey, Laughter With a Message.” She was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 39. Humor is what got her through it, and now she has authored four books.
She said that challenges go through phases. They are mope, hope and cope. Coping is unique to the individual. “What are your dreams?” she asked. A 200 mile bike ride? Riding a camel around the pyramids? Seeing the ocean? Never let go of your dreams.
Elsagher went on to describe several ways to use humor to help overcome adversity. She also reminded attendees to “Treat yourselves to a colonoscopy at age 50.”
Next on the agenda was a workshop with Brenda Elsagher called “The Serious Business of Humor.” The audience separated into smaller groups and related funny jokes and personal stories to each other, including a story in which one person started it and used suggestions from a second person until the story was complete. Often these stories didn’t make a lot of sense, but they were funny.
After lunch, Farm Service Agency County Executive Director (CED) Dawn Nagel of Gettysburg, S.D., directed a workshop called “Faces of Ag.” She told listeners that several U.S. Presidents contributed to agriculture in some way. She asked the audience to think of other people who are currently involved in ag practices. Nagel then had the women separate into smaller groups and brainstorm ways to break down barriers between ag and non-ag people.
Next was the panel discussion “Finding Your Place in Agriculture.” Four panelists described how they found a niche that would allow them to diversify and thus remain in production agriculture. One panelist’s operation sells home grown, grass fed meats to local restaurants. Another sells milk from its own small herd of dairy cows. The third sells eggs laid by free range chickens and also grows organic grapes to make vinegar. The fourth operation grows grapes for making wine and also owns a fruit tree orchard.
The final speaker was Dr. Elaine Doll-Dunn of Spearfish, S.D., with her presentation “The Edge is Too Safe.” Dr. Doll-Dunn is a marathon runner and mountain climber who, at the age of 75, appears not to have slowed down. She grew up on a ranch in Harding County and was Mrs. South Dakota in 1999-2000.
She related, “All of life is a story, and each of us writes our own.” She urges women to find their place in the scheme of things, and to be powerful role models. Every day, we are to do three things: physical activity (walking, biking, etc.), spiritual activity (talk to God or ourselves), and mental activity (do crosswords, play Scrabble, etc.). Fitness of mind and body is our right and obligation.
The conference concluded with tentative plans for next year, and chocolate candy snacks for everyone. A light snow was falling straight down as attendees said their goodbyes, but as I made my way down the hill back to Rapid City, it dissipated. ❖