Ohio meeting gave women tools to keep farms profitable

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By Morgan Lyles
Contributing Writer

ATHENS, Ohio — Farming is no easy task. That makes women farmers — in a predominantly male industry — all the more fascinating.

Some of Ohio’s women farmers gathered March 1 to attend If Farming’s My Job, Where is My Paycheck, a conference hosted for women seeking to make a living and run a profitable farm business. The conference, held in Athens, Ohio, was delivered by Innovative Farmers of Ohio.

Business network

The conference covered an assessment of resources and goals for each farm, and methods of sustaining the farm. Dave Miller, farm business consultant, spoke about accounting and the importance of assessing costs, and keeping records of profits and expenditures.

As the women explained ideas for expanding their farms and improving profitability, they received praise and advice from the other women in attendance. Although their farming operations were of various locations, sizes and products, each woman had a significant thought or bit of experience to contribute.

The day’s sessions were peppered with simple tips and contact information regarding various techniques and resources, shared by participants.

Her story

When discussions turned to money, for example, Stacy Hall, of Big Rumen Farm in Athens County, was one of the participants who contributed. She started Big Rumen Farm in 1993 with 23 cows. Today, along with Big Rumen Farm, Hall’s domain has grown to include The Brick, about 300 acres of pasture located in Meigs County.

These farms, which previously had been diversified variations of livestock and crops, are now intensively managed pastures. The Brick’s pastures are divided by one electric fence, and the cows are directed to pastures based on a systematic schedule. Hall said this method is successful for her because it requires little machinery and limited capital assets.

Collaboration

A reoccurring theme throughout the day was that of collaboration and mentoring programs.

Hall also elaborated that her farm was a member of the Prograsstinators, a group of about 17 farms nationally that meets three times per year.

One of these meetings is a three-day visit to a host farm for that particular year. The first day includes a tour of the host farm, the second day features a program, and the third day culminates with a “hot seat” evaluation.

During this evaluation, members constructively criticize the host farmers. This constructive criticism, coming from such a close group of people, is effective in breeding improvement in a noncompetitive way, Hall said.

This method of collaboration, which fuels the development of business and friendship relationships, is also emotionally stimulating, she added.

Thinking of future

Surprisingly, the participants said they didn’t experience discrimination and discouragement from men as much as they did from other women. It seemed that other women can’t understand why any woman would subject herself to such hard work.

But the participants said they sincerely enjoyed what they do. Many of the women conveyed their wishes to sustain their family farms, and see to it that they are kept in the family.

Several of the women expressed that they didn’t see other farmers as competition, and that they genuinely wanted to contribute a quality, locally produced product to their community.

The day’s collaboration should serve as an empowering source of inspiration, not only to women, but to farmers everywhere.

(The author is a student at Ohio University.)

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