Women in Ag Talk Gender Roles, Ag Advocacy

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Women in Agriculture Coordinator Cheryl Griffith says the Women in Ag conference began nearly 30 years ago, and while some issues are the same today's ag generation is a lot different.

"Women today, they are working off the farm, but still play a very active role on the farm," says Griffith. "Nearly half of the land in the state of Nebraska is owned by women."

But Griffith says decision making on the farm or ranch is still often left to a man. That's why the conference wants to help women connect with each other and with the latest information.

"Issues that women can take home, discuss with their partners, their husbands, their tenants and hopefully make some good educated decisions or maybe just reinforce what they're already doing," says Griffith.

Temple Grandin, an Animal Science Professor at Colorado State University, spoke with the 200 women at this year's conference via phone. She says women are often the most receptive about an issue that Grandin champions: better cattle handling.

"Ag women, sometimes they're the movers and the shakers," says Grandin. "I've been working in cattle handling for a long time, and ag women are the people that are going to convince the rancher that he needs to handle his cattle better. I don't know how many wives have said to me, 'If I could just get my husband to stop screaming at the cattle.'"

A few young producers say it can be hard to get male peers to listen to new ideas, but officials say the ag world and gender roles are changing.

"She's just got to get in there and she's got to work harder than those men do and earn that credibility," says Griffith. "They'll soon realize, you know, she knows what she's talking about."

One area the conference and Grandin believe women can excel in is ag advocacy.

Grandin cites a study done in the United Kingdom that showed about 50% of young adults didn't know bacon comes from pigs.

"People can post pictures of what they're doing on the ranch with their Facebook friends in Chicago," says Grandin. "We've got to communicate with the public. We've got a public today that's totally separated from where their food comes from."

"People need to see that we're doing things right here, that farmers and producers are good people doing things right," says Griffith.