Louisiana has approximately 3,500 farms primarily operated by women. Female farmers, ranchers and women in all fields of the agriculture industry gathered for the Louisiana Women in Agriculture conference in late February in Alexandria, La.
“This is tailored to the needs of women in agriculture,” said Amy Robertson, state public affairs specialist with the Louisiana National Resource Conservation Service and organizer of the conference. “We are creating a network across the state and across agriculture to help women.”
Sarah Calhoun, founder of Red Ants Pants, was the morning’s keynote speaker. She started her company, which bills itself as women’s workwear to fit, function and flatter, because she was tired of wearing ill-fitting men’s work pants.
Calhoun also started the Red Ants Pants Foundation, which offers grants and provides leadership opportunities mainly to women in rural communities.
“We are helping women build self-reliance while preserving and supporting working family farms and ranches,” Calhoun said.
Lynda Danos, the Louisiana Ag in the Classroom coordinator, conducted a breakout session about the Ag in the Classroom program.
Danos said with so many people now generations removed from the family farm, consumers are uneducated about the business of agriculture. The program aims to improve agricultural literacy by adding agriculture lessons into the K-12 curriculum.
“The rise and fall of civilizations can be directly tied to agriculture. You can do a whole history lesson on it,” Danos said.
The conference also featured Kimberly Ratcliff, a Texas rancher who quit her job with Bloomberg New York to help keep her parent’s ranch in the family.
She encouraged the participants to tell the story of “what you are farming for.” She also said she is working with other producers to keep farms in families.
“A career in agriculture is more than a job. It’s a way of life that the agriculturalists love,” Ratcliff said.
Rachel McKinsey, a physicist, attended the conference because her family recently purchased a tract of land.
“I am here to gain more knowledge about agriculture and see what resources and options are available to us and our property,” McKinsey said.
The LSU AgCenter and LSU College of Agriculture sponsored a breakfast for the conference.
“Seventy percent of our students in the College of Agriculture are women,” said Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture. “We fully support engaging women in agriculture and developing strong female leaders in the industry.”