Annual conference highlights female farmer strength, capability

Manitoba Farm Women’s conference features speakers from near and far

women standing in a field

When Beth Connery’s husband died suddenly in the summer of 2012, through the grief, she still had to think about the harvest. She asked her kids if they wanted to continue farming and they said yes. So the family got to work.

“The reality of a farm, especially in summer, is that there is a job to do. You can’t just leave the crop out in the field, you have to take care of it.”

After spending a lot of time reflecting last year, she decided she is ready to talk publicly about her experience.

Connery, one of several speakers, will share her story at this year’s Manitoba Farm Women’s conference and provide some advice on unexpected succession.

Other speakers include Jolene Brown, a corn and soybean farmer from Iowa, professional home economist and television personality Marilyn Smith, Manitoba Canola Growers’ Ellen Pruden and Johanne Ross from Agriculture in the Classroom.

This year’s theme is “family farm divas celebrate the International Year of the Family Farm.”

“If you look up the definition of ‘divas’ in the dictionary, it’s not very complimentary,” said Carol Dalgarno, chair of the organizing committee. “But our committee wants to focus on the strengths of the women behind the family farm so we’re putting our own spin on the word ‘diva.’ We want to show that farm women are strong, capable and competent.”

Connery, a longtime conference attendee who also served on the organizing committee, certainly fits the description. She runs the family business now, selling asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cooking onions and U-pick strawberries, with the help of her children, her father-in-law and employees.

She stresses the importance of talking openly about mental health issues and points out that living in a rural community has its advantages.

“People talk about how everyone knows your business, but everyone knows your business,” she said. “And they’re willing to help.”

Connery works and farms in the community in which she grew up. She said the farm women’s conference is the perfect place to share her story because the audience will be full of women whom she either knows personally or who will understand her experience.

When asked what advice she would give someone in the same situation she was two years ago, her response was simple.

“Ask for help if you need it. Because you will find there will be resources and support around whether that’s family or friends or neighbours. In my case I had all of those things, which was wonderful.”

The Manitoba Farm Women’s conference is November 16, 17 and 18 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon. Early-bird registration ended October 15.

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