"We were delighted with the quality of the program and of the number of the people that came to Marshall," said Cynthia Crawford, University of Missouri Extension specialist. This year 300 women and men from as far away as Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, as well as many counties in Missouri, attended the event.
Kicking off the conference was nationally known speaker Susie Oberdahlhoff, known as Susie O., from Bowling Green. She entertained the crowd with anecdotes from her life as a farmwife in her keynote address, "Kids, Crops, Sows and Cows: Life Happens - Learn How to Bounce."
Often called the "Erma Bombeck of Agriculture," Susie O. started her talk by reading a want ad from a local newspaper: "Help wanted, lady for general work, cooking, cleaning, childcare, gardening and yard work. Helping with field work, caring for animals, strong stomach, strong back, alertness essential, knowledge of horticulture, veterinary medicine, book keeping, room and board, no salary."
"Well, I answered such an ad, 40 some years ago when I married a farmer," she said,
Her presentation was peppered with laughter and wisdom as she shared her four P's of prosperity: Be Proud of What you Do; Be Positive about Life; Be Patient and Be Persistent."
After her talk, participants broke into groups for a variety of breakout sessions ranging from "Women's Health Issues" to "Cost Share for Organic Farming and Trees."
During lunch, served by Smith Food Bank of Slater, the crowd was entertained by local folk musicians Dave Para and Cathy Parton.
"I loved the music," said Crawford. "They even had a song about Jim the Wonder Dog."
The afternoon sessions were kicked off by an estate planning presentation by Saline County Judge Hugh Harvey for all the attendees, followed by the last breakout session of the day.
The conference has grown each year, but doubled this year from the 150 people who attended in 2010. In the early years, only 30 people attended the event.
"We anticipate growth each year, but even the organizers were a little surprised this year," she said, adding that the "excellent" facility of the Martin Community Center, a mailing sent by the Farm Service Agency to landowners, an "excellent" brochure and a new website paid for by money from the Marshall Tourism Commission, all contributed to raise attendance.
She also hopes the growth is due to reputation of the conference itself.
"I hope it is word of mouth -- that we have an outstanding and a truly regional -- Women in Ag conference here in Marshall," she said.
It is by no accident that the conference is well-organized.
Plans for next year's conference, now permanently set for the second Friday in March each year, will begin in the next 30 days. Next year's Women in Ag will be on March 9, 2012.
"Each year it gets a little better, the first time we meet we kinda shake our heads and say 'How are we going to improve upon that?,'" she said. "We will find a way. But it gets harder, because we use all our good ideas every year, then we have to come up with some more."
The conference is a joint effort between the University of Missouri Extension, Lincoln University, and the Saline County Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
"Our committee really enjoys working together," she said. "This is a conference no one agency could pull off and grow like this one has, yet all of us working together. There is a synergy that really makes this conference happen."
For those who couldn't attend, handouts from the conference will be available online from the Women in Ag website, www.womeninag.net.
Contact Marcia Gorrell at firstname.lastname@example.org
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