FORT LORAMIE — The sixth annual Growing Women in Agriculture Empowerment Celebration highlighted creating opportunities for advancement and success for women within their communities.
“Those opportunities need to happen, and it’s up to us, the ones who are advancing women, to make them happen. If we don’t do it, it’s not going to happen,”” Keynote Speaker Brandi Buzzard Frobose said.
Frobose is a rancher, cowgirl and advocate for women working in agriculture and has spoken on MSNBC, FOX and CBS and has visited the White House to address issues like climate change, sustainability and nutrition. Throughout her career, she has strived to provide clear, transparent communication. At Thursday’s event, her message was simple: the best way to fight the challenges women face in the agriculture industry is by building women up and supporting them, whether it be a friend, a loved one, or oneself.
“We have to have each other’s backs. We have to band together and build each other up, because we are the heart. Women are the heart,” Frobose said.
Knowing the challenges Frobose faces in her own day-to-day life, she implored her Instagram audience to share their experiences, which sparked a conversation with the audience at Thursday’s conference. Online, women shared with Frobose that some of the bigger challenges they face in the agriculture industry and in life is finding the work-life balance, being addressed the way they want (be it farmer or farm wife), and how to maintain a family and be heavily involved. Frobose likened finding a balance to juggling glass balls and plastic balls — things like a field trip permission slip and being in charge of snacks at church were plastic balls that could bounce and recover if dropped, but things like the farm or family are glass balls that can’t recover if they are dropped.
“There are things that you can’t drop that, because it’s not going to bounce back. For me, the balance is, don’t drop any glass balls. That’s the balance for me, because we’re not ever going to be able to give everything 50/50. That’s a barrier that we all have to realize, but it’s also something we can work with,” Frobose said.
Prior to the keynote address, attendees were invited to attend two out of four break-out sessions that focused on different opportunities or challenges women could encounter while working in the agriculture industry. Minimizing Clutter, lead by Forte Organizers’ Lori Firsdon, focused not only of the literal de-cluttering of spaces in the home, but examining why people hold on to things they don’t necessarily need.
Jodi Knouff, MSW, LISDW-S, director of clinical services at Family Resource Center, gave a presentation on working on mental health while maintaining family and career. While burdens of being a farmer were addressed, blessings were emphasized, along with the importance of recognizing stress and helping other people by keeping personal mental health and wellness in check.
Amber Stephens, owner of Rosebud Ranch, presented how herbs and mixes can transform recipes and dishes while still being nutritious, as well as how she took her business from her kitchen to her own store in Piqua.
Emily Davis, who owns and operates Nate’s Nectar with her family, along with their apiary, focused on the function of a hive, how honey and wax is produced, and how her business utilizes all parts of what honey bees produce to create their products, from all-natural honey to candle melts and even lip balm.
Tori Bensman has attended the empowerment celebration since its first year in 2014, and is impressed with how it has grown in that time. Bensman, who owns a farm in Anna with her husband and has four children, continues coming back to the conference year after year because of the camaraderie of other women in agriculture.
“It’s important to be a member of your community and build each other up,” Bensman said.
Attending for their first year were State Future Farmers of America Representatives Laura Wuebker, Cassie Mavis, and MacKenzie Ott. Wuebker is currently a senior at Versailles High School, while Mavis studies agriculture business at the Ohio State University and Ott is in her senior year at St. Marys Memorial High School. As young women involved with agriculture, they found that while the event was more focused toward older women, they gained a lot of knowledge about what struggles and challenges women face in agriculture.
“We’re all just beginning to be adults, and getting to see this before we actually experience it, we’re able to incorporate it all into our life later down the road. Brandi’s speech was very inspiring about women empowering women, and that’s something that I can take along with me in my journey to college and future plans, and my career after that,” Ott said.
Mavis added that the celebration has given them an opportunity to think about the women they want to become.
“Looking at the awesome things that women are doing now, we’re looking at how we can do that to get to that point,” Mavis said. “I’m glad that we came.”