Eighteen women farmers, ranchers and food system enthusiasts from King and Pierce counties participated in a one-day regional conference on Saturday, January 25, 2020 organized by WSU Extension. KCD’s Orca Conference room served as the local site for the conference that had participating locations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California as well as Alaska and Hawaii! Over 700 women viewed presentations from a variety of speakers on topics such as stress reduction, practicing gratitude and mindfulness and how to incorporate these concepts into their farming and business operations. Break out discussions at the local satellites offered in-person networking opportunities.
Local panelists shared their personal stories and techniques that they have used to adapt and succeed in their farming operations.
Becky Weed from Harlow Cattle Company in Pierce County is a second-generation rancher who grew-up in the business of agriculture.
Her grass-fed cow-calf operation manages cattle from breeding to slaughter with about 60 mother-cows. She does all day-to-day work without hired help, entailing cattle management, infrastructure planning, land management decisions, water management and business activities. Her husband Mark does most of the marketing, provides business guidance, helps with budgeting and tax preparation and on weekends assists as the chief hand for building and maintenance projects. They maintain a solid vendor list and robust relationships with service providers (veterinarian, hay dealer, hauler, slaughter facility, heavy equipment contractor, feed and farm supply store, farrier, equipment sales and service). Becky is responsible for all aspects of the Harlow Cattle Company.
Lisa Smith from L and B Mini Ranch in Enumclaw has been involved in agriculture for 43 years. In 4-H from age 10, she raised a very competitive show herd of Nubian and Toggenburg dairy goats. She attended WSU’s animal science program and judged both livestock and dairy for 30+ years while running a 4-H club to educate youth. She and her husband Burt currently raise hogs in a birth-to-market operation on 15 acres. They flex from 30 to 100 pasture-raised Hampshire/Yorkshire-cross hogs at a time and raise approximately 350-400 babies per year. Their products are USDA-processed and sold retail from the farm and at various farmers markets during the summer. In addition, they offer WSDA-custom-processed hogs, barbeque hogs and weaner pigs. They believe in partnering with local youth to help direct and develop young future farmers in agriculture. Lisa’s job responsibilities include all farm operations both the physical farm work such as birthing, cleaning, feeding, as well as all the paperwork and financial tracking, communications, community outreach, networking, marketing and selling. Lisa works part time for Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce and also serves as Board President for Enumclaw Plateau Farmers’ Market.
For the past nine years Jane Reis and her husband have co-owned First Light Farm and Learning Center in Carnation along the Snoqualmie River. Her background is in education (teaching at the community college level) as a systems thinking trainer and fundraising at a university. She came to farming after being asked to develop a national curriculum to train service workers in green practices at UW hospitals. She also taught the course at NW Hospital in Seattle where she became aware that most people had little or no education about the relationship among healthy soils, the food they ate, and their own well-being. She started the farm to teach people how to grow their own food and eat seasonally. In 2011 they leased 6 acres as a U-Pick farm in Carnation, WA. They also had a “Mini Farm” program where they subleased land to families and individuals who wanted to learn to grow their own food. The farm has grown into having added a CSA serving 50 families in Seattle within three miles of their home, and in 2020 an extensive educational and training program will teach people about the critical role regenerative farms play in sequestering carbon. They have a commitment to be a no- or low-till farm, by using a broad fork as much as they can in bed preparation, mulch for weed suppression, white and red clover for enhanced soil health, and planting winter and spring cover crops for green manure, soil enhancement and weed control. Jane’s responsibilities are to ensure flow and balance of the farm through weekly communication meetings where tasks are reviewed and problems solved. She and her husband are also responsible for doing the bi-monthly payroll, paying taxes, determining any large purchases, creating marketing and advertising (both print and social media), as well as setting up educational classes, workshops, and community dinners, and most importantly, being present to their customers to ensure they feel welcome.
Conference attendee Victoria Gleason won a copy of the book A Year of Postitive Thinking by Cyndie Spiegel. And all participants went home with a great insulated shopping bag courtesy of WSU and Northwest Farm Credit.
If you were not able to attend, we will share the conference recordings once they are available. The Women in Ag Conference dates for 2021 have not yet been announced. Stay tuned to http://womeninag.wsu.edu/ for more details!