By Marji Guyler-Alaniz, President and Founder of FarmHer
In celebration and recognition of National Ag Day, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighted women in an amazing way. First, they highlighted a selection of FarmHer images in a public display in Washington, DC. These images and the women in them stood for much more than a photo display. These women stood for all of you who work so hard to raise crops and livestock. These women stood as the image of women in agriculture everywhere. The display, as part of the official USDA activities to celebrate Ag Day, was open for public viewing for two hours in the morning. The images were then moved to Secretary Vilsak’s office where members of Congress viewed them later in the day. As the photographer and Founder of FarmHer I felt so honored, but mostly I was incredibly excited and proud of the women who have been a part of this FarmHer journey and for all of you who they represent. What a massively important stage for all of us women to stand on; front and center in our nation’s capitol, representing agriculture.
Following the display I had the opportunity to share more about FarmHer with a group of women over lunch in Washington, DC that call themselves the WAGGIES (Washington, DC aggies). This group of women is a tight knit but expanding circle. Started many years ago as a loose networking group to help women in ag stick together, network and provide community, this group has grown to hundreds of members. They gather on a regular basis to discuss work, life and their ag-focused careers. This group includes women such as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden, Laura Phelps, President of the U.S. Mushroom Institute, Anne Alonzo, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service, Lilia McFarland, New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Coordinator and Ashlee Johnson, Deputy White House Liaison for USDA just to name a few. During this lunch it became very clear to me that women are front and center in agriculture in Washington, DC. Women are a significant and growing part of both the public and private entities that help form and guide public policy. They have significant roles in how funds and resources are directed to you, FarmHers and RanchHers.
After lunch I had the opportunity to talk more in-depth about women in agriculture with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden and Dr. Linda Young, the Chief Mathematical Statistician and Director of Research and Development of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). NASS is responsible for the data gathered in the Ag Census every five years. Our discussion, which aired live on a Google Hangout, was guided by questions sent in from viewers. We discussed topics including the importance of accurately counting women farmers and ranchers through the Ag Census and what NASS is working on to improve that process and better reflect women working the land and raising livestock. We talked about the importance of image of women FarmHers and RanchHers and the role of FarmHer in building that image. We talked about empowering the next generation of women in agriculture through both data and imagery. It was a great discussion and if you weren’t able to follow it live, you can view it here. Additionally, Farm Futures covered it well in this article.
The day wrapped up with the National Ag Day dinner, hosted by the Agriculture Council of America with Orion Samuelson as the emcee and Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse as the keynote. One of the highlights for me was a young woman who was the winner of the 2015 Ag Day Essay Contest. Theresa Seibel, an FFA member from Roanoke, VA, wrote brilliantly about her experiences in agriculture from a young age and about her vision for the future. “It is critical for agriculturists, like myself, to be vocal and transparent in our efforts to provide for others and do so in a way that resonates with the general public. With most of the population removed from agriculture, telling our story is critical to enhancing and exponentially growing production in a way that is sustainable for both human and natural resources.”
All in all, the national stage for FarmHer, the women it represents and the discussions about women in ag were a the BEST way to celebrate National Ag Day 2015.
Photo Courtesy of USDA