Women in Ag Conference Back in Person, A Success

Women were together again — 150 strong — for the Women in Ag Conference March 25 at Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel, Rock Island. It was the first in-person Women in Ag Conference in three years for women who all share a passion for agriculture.

Jeanne Bernick, market strategist for K·Coe Isom, opened the conference by sharing how women can change the world one farm at a time. She reminded attendees that women in ag are nothing new and touched on women’s deep roots in American agriculture and across the world.

Prior to Rosie the Riveter, there were Farmerettes. From 1917-1919, women worked for 24 cents per day while many men were at war. Bernick touched on how our roles have changed over the years, and women have had to pivot and learn to break through the “grass ceiling.”

Participants learned how they as women in ag can start “living their why,” tackle leadership roles, stop being victims and dig deep. The work-life balance is not a female issue, but a family issue, she said.

Bernick encouraged the women to hold family meetings twice a year, to involve spouses and bring anyone older than 16 into the conversation. She told the ag women to stop apologizing and accept risk as an opportunity.

During another session, Paul Stoddard, University of Illinois senior lecturer with the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, shared 10 key steps for transitioning and preparing a farm for retirement. While transitioning a farm can be a touchy subject, it is important to share financial records among those involved. He stressed financial planning is a lifelong process and three- to six-month emergency funds need to increase due to inflation. Stoddard reminded participants about the importance of knowing how to use balance sheets, income and cashflow statements. Life insurance is a must for dependents. His bottom line — today is the day to start planning for retirement.

Lorraine Zenge, a COUNTRY Financial private wealth consultant, discussed planning for unexpected events. Her advice was to start today, chip away and just get started. She recommended starting by creating an inventory of banks, investments, retirement accounts, insurance policies, debts, mortgages, and online accounts and passwords. She touched on numerous documents that should be in order. These include a living will, a power-of-attorney (POA) of health care, durable POA for property, a will, and a business continuation plan.

During the afternoon general session, Kim Kidwell, U of I associate chancellor for strategic partnerships and initiatives, shared that 31% of farmers are women who farm 301,386,860 acres and have a $12.9 billion-dollar economic impact.

Kidwell stressed women have many strengths in agriculture. Of women farmers, 67% have education past high school. Women in agriculture are entrepreneurial, professional, innovative, collaborative and have the ability to get things done. With those strengths come barriers including a lack of financial backing and support, educational inequalities and stereotypical assumptions.

This marked the 10th year of the Women in Agriculture Conference. This conference was sponsored by the Farm Bureau Women in Agriculture Conference Committee of Farm Bureaus in Bureau, Fulton, Henry, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Rock Island, Stark, Stephenson, Warren-Henderson, and Whiteside counties.

Cassie Schleich serves as a director of the Warren-Henderson Farm Bureau.

***Report Courtesy of Cassie Schleich,***

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