First Women in Ag Summit offers encouragement, how-to
With humorist Jane Jenkins Herlong providing entertainment and groups of panelists offering tips for life, advocacy and literacy, the inaugural Women in Ag Summit focused on improving and enhancing the lives of female agriculturalists. The Georgia Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee hosted the event.
The event, held in Peachtree City Nov. 4 and 5, acknowledged the vital role women play in rural and agricultural life. Activities included a tour of Country Gardens Farm in Newnan and a networking and entertainment reception.
Herlong, following the HER acronym – honor, evolve, rise – shared stories from her life, a journey from being a farmer’s daughter who had only flannel shirts and corduroy pants for clothing to appearing in the Miss America pageant. She shared themes from her new book, Sweet Tea Secrets from the Deep-Fried South.
“You kind of have to do life like you do tea,” Herlong said. “You have to be seasoned. You have to be steeped. And then you have to be steamed.”
The trick, she said, was to work through all this and keep sight of the things that bring joy.
“The thing we have to be most careful of is not to lose sugar,” Herlong said. “I call that the humor in life. What makes you lose your humor? When you get stressed.”
In a breakout session titled The Art of the Side Hustle - Choosing the best ‘Yes.,’ Laura Jensen of Jensen Reserve in Loganville, Wilcox County ag teacher Addie Tucker, and Gordon State College Director of Career Services Dr. Tonya Moore offered their experiences in time and life management. One key: Make room for your life's passions and ways to prioritize involvements so you can pursue your passions.
Tucker, who serves as a foster parent and has two children of her own in addition to her full-time job, long wanted to raise pygmy goats. When she got to the point where she felt she could try it, she realized she did not have enough time and resources to devote to it to make it successful. Then she tried gardening and found her happy place.
“I realized I didn’t have time for goats,” Tucker said. “I didn’t have time for that hustle. The garden fits. You just learn what things work for your life and what doesn’t.”
Moore also serves as the Gordon State athletic director and when she isn’t tending to her duties with the college, she and her husband, Ricky, run a marriage ministry, which she refers to as her ‘sweet spot,’ the thing she’s passionate about and wants to devote time to outside of her main vocation.
“My research shows that if you’re healthy at home, you’re also healthy at work,” Moore said. “Because what you’re doing at home spills over into the workplace. We take it with us everywhere. We just try to help couples build a legacy in a healthy way.”
All three panelists conveyed a need to lean on faith. Jensen, who raises Meishan hogs for her butcher shop and farm store, said for her leaning on faith means taking a step back when a crucial decision is weighing on her.
“There are constantly things coming at me from every single direction,” Jensen said. “What I find is that things that really challenge me and I’m not sure which direction to go, then I just sit back and I look for that sign, that message, that finding your sweet spot kind of thing. Every time I step out on faith, I’m rewarded for it.”
In another session titled Ladies and Legislators – Leveraging Your Voice, state Reps. Patty Bentley (D-Butler) and Beth Camp (R-Concord) shared their experiences in the Georgia General Assembly and ways to approach communicating with elected officials.
The two legislators agreed that while emails, phone calls and texts are valuable, but they should be done in your own words.
“Please do not send a form letter. Those form letters, we get tons of them, and it says the exact same thing,” Camp said. “You telling me why you’re for or against it and signing your name, has so much more impact than a rote message.”
Still, both representatives said the most effective approach is in face-to-face meetings.
“I really like to schedule appointments with constituents to sit down and let’s talk face to face about the situation and come up with a way to resolve that situation,” Bentley said.
They also made it clear that moving from idea to state law is seldom a quick process. Most laws take multiple legislative sessions before they get to the governor’s desk for approval.
“I know that I’ve had issues brought to me that I was not aware of and it lets you get those issues and do some research on it. It could be the greatest idea ever and you can draw up legislation, but it may never see the light of day in committee. It’s a long process,” Camp said.
Bentley and Camp also noted that their jobs mainly deal with issues at the state level. They give referrals to local or federal officials when warranted.
For contact information for your state legislators, visit www.legis.ga.gov/.
The Women in Ag Summit included a session devoted to Georgia Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program. The session, titled AITC is the Key to Ag Literacy, featured 2021 GFB Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year Natalie Murray from Mirror Lake Elementary School in Douglas County.
Murray, a music teacher who was asked to oversee the school’s raised-bed garden, provided tips and techniques for conducting AITC lessons.
“I want to teach students where their food comes from, the importance of caring for the environment and the importance of making healthy food choices,” said Murray, who partners with Mirror Lake art teacher Julia Sweeney.
Murray emphasized that she had no agriculture background when she first started teaching in the school garden, so she brought in subject-matter experts like arborists and the Georgia Mobile Dairy Classroom to provide the best information.
Of course, her delivery includes musical and art elements, too, like YouTube videos featuring songs about food or plants or animals or instructional videos on how to draw ag-related pictures.
On a regular basis, the school has what Murray calls Try Day Friday, where students get to sample food items related to the current lesson.
“Any time you can reach the taste buds, you’ve got them,” Murray said. “Most of all, we have fun. That’s the main thing I want our students to take away is that learning can be fun.”
Session participants were provided copies of the book, Seed Soil Sun: Earth’s Recipe for Food, by Cris Peterson, as well as packets of seeds, informational materials about the GFB AITC program and a poster, The Plant Parts We Eat, from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.
Murray and GFB Educational Programs Coordinator Lauren Goble shared how to find resources for classroom use. To access many of these online, visit https://www.gfb.org/ag-in-the-classroom/about.cms.
A fourth session, titled Crucial Conversations – Right Question. Right Answer. Right Time., was led by author Betty Wolanyk, who showed ways to interact with consumers who have questions about their food.