‘We lift each other up’: Council sponsors 25th Women’s Agricultural Leadership Conference

Over 200 women gathered April 12 at the Landscape Arboretum in Chaska for the 25th Women’s Agriculture Leadership Conference.

This year’s theme was “Sterling History: Empowering Leaders for 25 Years.” Before there was a conference to attend, Robin Kinney and Doris Mold both decided something needed to be done to bring more women into agriculture, and the Women’s Agriculture Leadership conference started in 1999.

Many organizations sponsored the one-day event, including the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC). Council Director Gail Donkers attended the event, along with staff from Ag Management Solutions, which oversees the Council’s daily operations.

“This was my first ever women’s ag conference,” Donkers said. “I’ve worked in the ag industry for years and haven’t had the opportunity to attend before. I loved everything about it.”

Every year the conference focuses on quality programming, networking, leadership development and woman empowerment in the agriculture industry.

During the conference, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel announced a proclamation that April 12, 2023, would be recognized as Women’s Agriculture Leadership Conference Day in Minnesota. She announced this during her lunch talk on behalf of MDA Commissioner Thom Petersen, who was unable to attend.

“The Women’s Ag Leadership Conference is an important annual event to celebrate, lift up and empower women across the agriculture spectrum,” Vaubel said. “That’s why we wanted to recognize this conference with a proclamation, especially as they mark 25 years. We thank the planners and wish them success for another 25 years.”  

The conference consisted of a general session, breakout sessions, mini sessions, speed networking and a mentoring session.

This was the conference’s 21st year of honoring outstanding agricultural mentors.

Conference planning committee member Emily Krekelberg, a University of Minnesota Extension educator, announced the mentor winners for the 2023 conference. These mentors joined the 84 mentors honored at previous years.

Some of the topics covered in the breakout sessions and mini sessions included:

  • Continuous Improvement in Agriculture
  • Emotional Intelligence: Using Uncertainty for Success
  • Navigating Small Business in Rural America Post Covid
  • Busting Burnout
  • Bloom Where You Are Planted
  • Annie’s Project: Networking Women in Production Ag
  • Growth of Minnesota FFA Association
  • Let’s Talk Carbon

The sessions gave the attendees a chance to pick what they wanted to learn about and what related to them the best. During the breakout sessions, panelists shared stories where they overcame challenges to get to where they are now as leaders and businesswomen in agriculture.

The Women’s Agriculture Leadership Conference brought women in all aspects of agriculture together in one place to connect and learn from each other.

“There is something special about women in agriculture: We lift each other up, rather than tearing each other down,” Donkers said. “I loved the diversity of industry women at the conference. There was nonprofit, extension and women farmers in the room, as well as 4-H and FFA’ers, to women in their 80s.”

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