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Annual Women in Ag conference set for March 9

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

CUTLINES: Cynthia Crawford, Family Financial Education Specialist for University of Missouri-Extension in Saline County has spent the winter piecing together quilts for her Women in Agriculture presentation, "Barns, Quilts and $$$." The presentation is just one of 12 breakout sessions offered during the regional conference set for March 9 at the Martin Community Center in Marshall. Farm activists Sharon Oetting and Chris Chinn will also be addressing the audience during the day-long conference.
Like many things, Saline County's Women in Agriculture Regional Conference, set for March 9 at the Martin Community Center in Marshall, seems to get better with age.

"We think this one is going to be the best one yet," said Cynthia Crawford, Family Financial Education Specialist for University of Missouri-Extension in Saline County.

The 9th annual event is following a record breaking year of 2011, when 300 women and men attended the conference.

Cynthia Crawford will be using the five quilts she made this winter to teach participants at the March 9 Women in Ag conference, lessons on finance, tourism and saving for the future. In the cow quilt, the one cow turned the wrong way, teaches a financial lesson. "In finances its really not a good idea to follow the herd," Crawford explained. Each quilt helps illustrate a different lesson Crawford will cover in the session. Some even have blocks on the back of the side, which help tell the story. Last year's Women in Ag Conference drew in 300 participants from 29 counties and several other states.
"The nine years have gone quickly. I remember back in our early years we would have three dozen people, and we would wonder whether to go ahead and have it again the next year," Crawford said. Last year our conference grew to 300 people and there is no question this is a conference that is ongoing."

This year's theme, "Stitching Life's Pieces Together" symbolizes the woman's role in holding the farm and family together.

"The pieces of the quilt symbolize that each of us has different lives. We have different challenges, and we have different resources," Crawford explained. "It's women and men working together to make not only a business enterprise -- and farming is certainly a business -- but also a place that is wonderful for a family."

Each year the committee, which consists of eight area people begin planning the next conference as soon as the current one ends.

"I think we work very hard to put a lot of great stuff into the conference to make it both fun and educational," said Jared Singer, one of the eight planning committee members.

The day kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with coffee and registration, followed by the morning speaker,

Sharon Oetting from Concordia. Oetting, the Farm Journal Spokesperson of the Year and Missouri Master Farmer's Award winner will be focusing on "Telling Your Story."

At 1 p.m., Chris Chinn, who resides on her family's hog farm near Clarence will speak about "Standing Up for Agriculture."

She is active in Farm Bureau and has served on the Environmental Protection Agency's Farm, Ranch and Rural Community Advisory Committee

"Both of them not only speak about agriculture, but they live it on a daily basis," Crawford said.

As in the past, breakout sessions, taught by a variety of extension specialists and other experts, will cover four different tracks: rural families; farm business; rural development and gardening.

"We base the concurrent sessions we offer on the evaluations from previous years, and what others have told us they would like to see in this conference," Crawford said.

In all there are 12 concurrent sessions and each participant will be able to attend three.

"I think one participant will find one piece the highlight, and another will find a different speaker or a different topic the highlight for this conference," Crawford said. "That's why we put together 14 presentations."

Classes in the first session, from 10 to 10:50 a.m., will be:

Eat Wise, Drop a Size - Healthy Weight Management, taught by Stacey Winter; Soil Health, taught by Doug Peterson; Baltimore Bend and Old Trails, taught by Sarah Schmidt; and What Bugs You?, taught by Jaime Pinero and Jacob Wilson.

The second breakout sessions will be held from 11 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. Those sessions include Peace versus Pieces, taught by Art Schneider; Crop Insurance taught by Cara Riekhof; USDA Programs by Steve Wooden and Brian Bagnell and Feasting with Native Plants, taught by Nadia Navarrete-Tindall;

The last breakout session of the day will be from 2:10 to 3 p.m. The sessions offered are:

When Mom Takes Over the Farm, taught by Parman Green; Grain Marketing 101, taught by Mary Sobba; Barns, Quilts and $$$ taught by Crawford and Square Foot Gardening, taught by Billie Long.

"Different people are at different places in what they are ready to learn that day. So that's why we put so many different things into the event," Crawford said.

Registration is $15 before March 1 and $18 at the door. It includes all materials and lunch, which will once again be provided by Smith Food Bank of Slater.

"It will be a country lunch," Crawford said, "which means it will be plentiful, down home food." Luncheon music will be provide by the Roadkill Clarinet Quintet.

"Our goal is to treat participants like VIPs that day," Crawford said. "As we collect evaluations from people, each year 100 percent of them say they want to come back next year."

Registration forms can be obtained at the Saline County Extension Center, 353 S. Lafayette or by calling (660) 886-6908.

"We do allow people to register at the door, but we do wish they would register ahead, so we have a more accurate lunch count and they can just breeze right in that morning and come right on in," Crawford said. "It takes a little longer for people who haven't registered ahead of time."

As the conference has grown each year, so has the number of participants from other counties.

"We draw from 29 counties now. It truly is a regional conference," Crawford said, adding they also have a few people come in from surrounding states. "The registrations are just starting to come in. Again this year it looks like we are going to get a nice number of participants from a variety of counties."

More information is available at www.womeninag.net.

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