The University of Minnesota classroom was filled with empowerment and excitement as U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar invited Minnesota agri-women to join her for a Women in Agriculture Summit Wednesday, May 27. The event was held to celebrate the increase of women in agriculture while discussing challenges that some may face.
Klobuchar was joined by keynote speaker, USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, as well as four diverse panelists: Shelly DePestel, Pakou Hang, Alise Sjostrom and Kristin Duncanson. Klobuchar began by congratulating the room of women for how far they have come in agriculture and politics.
“Minnesota is the fifth largest agricultural state,” Klobuchar said. “There are over a million women in the U.S. that farm the land and around 6,300 in Minnesota.”
Klobuchar also noted that there are 20 women in the U.S. Senate and that women’s involvement in agriculture and politics is no longer unusual.
“We’re a small industry,” Harden said. “Our 1 percent feeds the other 99 percent. Agriculture is from field to fork.”
Harden was asked questions about the shortage of agricultural-based education in schools and preparing for the next generation of agriculturists.
“We are the biggest industry because everyone eats,” Harden said. “We need to start talking to kids earlier about agriculture and explain what opportunities are available to them. From science-based nutritionists to production, there are opportunities.”
Kristin Duncanson, former director of the American Soybean Growers Association and past President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, talked about the challenge of not knowing about each aspect of agriculture.
“It’s important to have relationships with people who may be more knowledgeable on certain topics,” Duncanson said. “Know what you’re passionate about, do the research and connect with others. Be willing to call on others when you don’t know the answer.”
Harden concluded the Women in Agriculture Summit by giving the audience a final take-home thought.
“Love what you do and do what you love. Anyone in agriculture understands that.”