After almost 30 years, hundreds of friendships and thousands of memories; the Farm Women’s Symposium (FWS) has brought much more than knowledge to women in the agriculture industry.
Formed in 1992, the FWS had a simple focus in mind; educate female farmers so they in turn can better serve the public. In addition to the FWS’s mission of providing information about current topics in the agriculture industry, the symposium is an outlet for women to connect with other farm women, catch up with old friends and let themselves unwind.
The 2019 FWS took place March 6 through March 8 in Benton Harbor and over 100 farm women, including GreenStone members and employees, attended. GreenStone is an annual sponsor of the symposium and offers scholarships for members attending. The scholarship reduces the registration price from $150 to $30 and this year alone GreenStone provided almost $7,500 to lower the cost for attendees. Employees Emelee Rajzer and Wanda Skinner have passionately volunteered on the FWS Executive Board each year since 2012 and enjoy planning the event for women.
“It’s vital that GreenStone continues to provide outreach for both farm women and young farmers,” Emelee explains. “It’s important GreenStone supports rural communities in Michigan and northeast Wisconsin. Our involvement in the agriculture industry goes further than the products and services we offer.”
The symposium kicked off Wednesday with multiple inspirational and educational speakers including, Katie Dilse, Dann Sytsma, Erica Burke, Matt Schilling, Trevor Meachum, Kathy Maitland and former Senator Judy Emmons, followed by an evening reception and banquet. On Friday morning, Pauline Wendel and Dr. Alexandra Soloman spoke followed by a comedy performance by Denise Gutenschwager.
“After all the planning and hard work the committee puts into making the FWS a success, it brings me pure joy to know this event affects each woman so deeply,” Wanda, FWS Co-Chair says. “It’s powerful to see the speakers’ impact, the realness and raw emotions of the women and to know we are helping them.”
Each year the event is held at a different location and includes an all-day bus tour of local agricultural sightings. Emelee co-chairs the tour and coordinated the different stops this year.
“We had so many places we wanted to visit this year we had difficulty in narrowing down the stops. There were two separate busses, with one heading south and the other one north. We stopped at local wineries, Sawyer Home and Garden Center, Hop Head farms and North Berrien Historical Museum,” Emelee says. “It’s about giving women the chance to experience all of these other aspects of agriculture they aren’t exposed to and understand the diversity of agriculture across the state.”
The FWS continues to be an informative, yet highly-anticipated event for farm women and a chance for them to take a break from their daily duties, enjoy themselves and recharge. If you are interested in learning about the Farm Women’s Symposium or attending next year, please click here or contact your local GreenStone branch.