Story & Photos by Sarah Meedel

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November 26, 2012
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AG-Ceptional  Conference awards hard-working women

Last week women were given the chance to brush up on personal and professional skills in Norfolk, Neb., at the 4th annual AG-ceptional Women’s Conference. The event had its largest attendance ever with more than 350 women taking part. The affair was put on by the Agriculture Department at Northeast Community College. The one-day conference started with networking opportunities over breakfast where attendees were able to enter to win several prizes from various local vendors.

The opening session lead in with a video presentation to set the tone for the day. The audience watched a video focusing on Nancy Kirkholm of South Sioux City. Kirkholm had been told the filming was for a documentary on perseverance through hardships. She lost her husband in May 2008 to cancer and has kept her family farm running with the help of her adult children Tyler Kirkholm and Tess Kirkholm. The family and farm has held strong through difficult times such as the 2011 flooding of the Missouri River and the drought of 2012. In the video, Nancy said, “In agriculture, there will always be adversity. There will always be hope. It is often through adversity that we learn new ways to come and develop new techniques that ensure our future’s success.”

As the video ended, Nancy Kirkholm was named the AG-Ceptional Woman of the Year for 2012. The shocked winner made her way to the stage where she was greeted by her family and her award. “She’s really taught me an important lesson, as a woman, I can do anything I want to do and I shouldn’t be held back by gender. I think as a parent that is a pretty great lesson,” said Tess Kirkholm of her mother. “She is one of the hardest working people I know,” said Tyler Kirkholm, “Her best quality would probably be her perseverance. She pushes through anything. I am really proud of my mother.”

When asked what advice she had for anyone in the agriculture industry, Nancy Kirkholm said “I think my advice to someone who has undergone serious challenges in agriculture, my advice would be to never lose sight of what matters the most to you and never, never give up. You just have to learn that the next day is going to be better. “

Follow the award for AG-Ceptional Woman of the year, guests were treated to keynote speaker Julie Clark. Clark is a national award-winning author, life and success coach as well as the founder of The Inspirational Coffee Club. She spent the morning talking to the group about the lessons she has learned through life, which began when she started drinking coffee with her grandmother at a young age. This lead to the title of Clark’s first book “Inspirational Coffee Breaks for Women: 12 Ground Breaking Rules for Pouring Your Heart into Life.” All attendees were treated to a complimentary copy of the book due to the generosity of sponsors. Clark called the group, “My kind of ladies!” explaining that she grew up on a family farm in South Dakota. From there she called upon the non-coffee drinkers to stand, raise their right hands and repeat after her, “I am crazy!” She went on to explain that her talk was not truly about coffee but rather about taking time to “refill that part of yourself that you pour out to others.” Clark covered several of her 12 rules during the speech and was able to really dive in with a portion of the group during a break-out session.

Prior to the start of the event, women had the chance to sign up to attend several life and agriculture focused break-out sessions. The 50-minute meetings covered an array of topics such as iPad and mobile device utilization, farm taxation planning, beef myth busters, estate planning, marketing in agriculture, community coaching and cattle health management. Two personal physical health sessions were also held, a Zumba workout and Yoga for Stress Relief. The yoga class was run by Molly Zimmerman. Zimmerman is the daughter of one of the key organizers of the event, Bonnie Schulz.

The day closed with America’s Farmers Mom of the Year 2012, Debbie Lyons-Blythe. Lyons-Blythe lives in White City, Kan., with her husband, Duane, and their five children aged 17-21. Their ranch consists of 200 registered Angus, 150 commercial cows and 350 commercial bred heifers. She spoke to the group about her experiences on the ranch, day to day life and her family.

With such a wide variety of topics being covered, many women stated they wished they could have attended more of the sessions held during the event. Everyone the Fence Post spoke with said they planned to attend the conference again next year. ❖

“In agriculture, there will always be adversity. There will always be hope. It is often through adversity that we learn new ways to come and develop new techniques that ensure our future’s success.”
~ Nancy Kirkholm, 2012 AG-Ceptional Woman of the Year

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The Fence Post Updated Dec 1, 2012 04:10AM Published Jan 28, 2013 02:40PM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.