Ag News

Women in Ag Summit equips attendees to dig in for agriculture

by Jennifer Whittaker

Posted on Nov 16, 2023 at 17:59 PM

By Jennifer Whittaker

Women representing numerous sectors of Georgia agriculture had a blast at the Georgia Farm Bureau Women in Agriculture Summit where they spent Nov. 2-3 “Diggin’ In” to gain advocacy, relational and professional skills.

Held in Savannah, the event drew farmers, Extension agents, ag teachers, USDA staff, county Farm Bureau staff and volunteers, showing the many roles women have in the industry. The range of farm commodities attendees produce and ag sectors represented at the summit indicate how varied Georgia’s agriculture community is.

Most of the attendees enjoyed a pre-conference tour of the UGA Marine Education Center & Aquarium on Skidaway Island the afternoon of Nov. 2.

UGA holds the designation of being a Sea Grant University, which means it is tasked with doing research and educational outreach about coastal issues just as the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences & Fort Valley State University are land-grant universities that study issues pertaining to agriculture.

Tour attendees learned about research UGA Marine Extension is doing to develop oyster farming in Georgia, toured the center’s aquarium and learned about the four types of reptiles found in our state.

That evening, the summit kicked off with a “Desserts & Dancing” social. Attendees vied for a variety of delicious desserts in a cake walk. Some enjoyed line dancing. Ranch-themed props were available for attendees to take souvenir photos in front of a backdrop of a herd of cattle.

Workshop presenters gave tips for giving an effective television interview, advocating for agriculture with legislators & consumers, and teaching students about agriculture. Other workshops covered working with school nutrition staff to integrate local food or produce from school gardens into school meals; myths about meat; and how to work effectively with coworkers from other generations.

“I hope this is just the beginning of a chain reaction in our Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership  programs,” said Kathy Sanders, who chairs the GFB Women’s Leadership Committee, which hosted the event. “Please take the things you have learned here back to your counties and share what you have learned.”

Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall praised the ladies attending the Women in Agriculture Summit for everything they do to promote agriculture. He thanked his wife, Jane, for the role she plays in serving as GFB First Lady and on their Elbert County farm.

"I get it as to how important ladies are in farmers' lives and running the farms across the state," McCall said. "I couldn't do this without Jane."

He encouraged women to run for local and state elected offices saying many of his most effective colleagues in the Georgia General Assembly were female when he served.

"We need people in the legislature who understand agriculture. I'd even like to think that one day one of you may hold my office as GFB president," McCall said. "Y'all are doing so much stuff across the state promoting agriculture and we appreciate your efforts.

Ten Principles for Living

Inspirational speaker Lisa Smartt delivered the keynote speech at the summit. The room was rolling with laughter as Lisa shared her 10 principles for living. Each principle was illustrated with an anecdote funnier than the last.

“The people business is a lot like losing weight,” Smartt said. “It’s an easy thing to understand but a hard thing to apply.”

To understand Smartt’s heart, consider that the Tennessee Farm Bureau member lists friend on her business card before her titles of being a speaker and author.

Smartt’s 10 Principles for Living are:

1)     Never think you’re superior to anyone else. Even if you think it, DON’T treat anyone as being inferior.

“Wealthy and poor people face the same four basic problems: troubles with relationships or marriages; rebellious children; addiction issues; and financial problems,” Smartt said.

2)     Realize there are two types of people: Type A who push people to get things done & Type B who forget to turn things in on time.

“The two types of personalities need to respect each other. God gives us each other so we can help each other,” Smartt said. “We need the Type A people, so we have completed projects, and we need the Type B people to love on us and encourage us.”

Each type of person, Smartt said, needs to extend grace to the other.

3)     Don’t replay hurtful or untrue things people have said about you in your mind.

“When we’re sad or get down, we have a tendency to replay negative, hurtful things people have said about us,” Smartt said. “To get along well with others we have to be able to walk into a room with confidence. PBS has lied to children by telling them ‘If you can dream it, you can be it.’ That’s not true. We can’t all be professional athletes or super models. We can only be the people God intended us to be. Be the best YOU that you can be. Be the person God destined you to be.”

4)     Assume the best when you communicate with others.

“Don’t be oversensitive. If you’re a person who gets your feelings hurt 10 times a day the way to solve this is to wake up and be about other people. I promise you won’t get your feelings hurt so easily,” Smart said. “Society tells us to think about ourselves, but we need to think about others. When people say something to us that’s a little snappy, filter it through love.”

5)     People will disappoint you. Help them anyway.

“Sometimes you have to help people even when they did something stupid and messed up,” Smartt said. “Do it because it’s about your integrity and not theirs.”

6)     Own your mistakes.

“You can’t grow from a position of an excuse,” Smartt said. “Yes, there are reasons why we struggle with things, but you and I are the ones responsible for our lives.”


“This is for all of you workaholics out there. Picture your friends and family who will sit in the front row at your funeral,” Smartt said. “When it comes to work and commitments outside your family, ask yourself, “Am I jeopardizing my relationships with the people who will sit in the front row at my funeral for someone who won’t even attend my funeral?”

8)     No gossip.

“It doesn’t matter what name you give it, don’t do it,” Smart said emphatically.

9)     If you can’t forgive & forget, forgive every time you remember.

“There are some things people do to us that we can’t forget,” Smartt said. “Choose to forgive every time you remember so you don’t drink the poison of unforgiveness.”

10)   Be merciful & gracious.

“Be the person who gives second chances,” Smartt said. “Everybody who has an addiction wishes they had chosen a better way to deal with their struggles than choosing their addiction,” Smartt said. “I’m not saying live and let live. I want you to love me enough to hold me to a standard, but be merciful about it. If you’re good with something that’s the area where you’ll tend to be judgmental of others.”

Smartt ended her speech by encouraging the audience to follow American basketball coach John Wooden’s advice to “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Workshops cover A to Z topics

Elise Stoddard Cruce, AFBF Sr. Director of Media & Advocacy Training, provided tips for “Tackling Tough Topics” with friends & family who may think differently than we do about GMOs, eating meat and how farmers produce their crops.

Taking time to listen to the other person’s point of view and concerns and asking them what they want to know about how their food is raised is an important first step to building trust with someone who has a different view about agriculture and food than you have.

“You’ve got to show that you are genuinely interested in their concerns first and find common ground before you start telling them what you want them to know about farming and trying to change their mind,” Cruce said.

WTOC-TV Producer/Reporter Simone McKenny shared tips on how to promote your farm or agribusiness during an interview. She said interviewees should stand still but not rigid, should look at the reporter instead of the camera and should not move their hands about while doing the interview.

Dr. Alex Stelzleni, with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Animal Science Department, debunked some of the common misconceptions consumers have about eating meat.

Kennedy Elementary School Teacher Monica Massei shared how she uses Ag in the Classroom curriculum in her classes to teach students about agriculture while meeting curriculum standards. Monica was the 2022 GFB Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year and she was one of four teachers nationwide to be recognized as a 2023 National Ag in the Classroom Teacher.

Anna Leigh Peek, with Nutrien Ag Solutions, delivered an insightful presentation highlighting the strengths each generation brings to the workplace or Farm Bureau. She also discussed how each generation has different communication preferences and how to bridge the gap between our differences to benefit our workplaces and volunteer organizations. Anna Leigh represents GFB's 3rd District on the GFB Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. She grew up on a cotton farm in Alabama. Visit to read more about the different perspectives each generation has and how they can work together.

Georgia Farm Bureau Advocacy & Policy Development Specialist Keaton Griner Walker encouraged conference attendees to advocate for agriculture when interacting with others as we go about our daily lives in our roles as parents with other parents, at church and when talking to our non-farming neighbors and friends. GFB Governmental Affairs Specialist Adam Belflower gave conference attendees an overview of issues the GFB Public Policy staff are working on such as raising awareness of the economic loss deer eating crops is costing farmers and efforts to control deer.

Donna Sapp, School Nutrition Manager for the Laurens County School District, shared her experience of working to integrate fresh, locally grown food into school cafeteria menus.

During one of the summit sessions attendees made 16 no-sew fleece blankets that were donated to the Savannah Ronald McDonald House. The GFB WLC has supported RMH through various projects for about 25 years.

The Networking Luncheon gave summit attendees a chance to visit with other ladies who work in the same agriculture sector or produce the same commodities. Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp, who has made promoting Georgia agriculture one of her platform issues, delivered an inspiring address via video. Jamie Worsley Head and Madison Foglio, co-anchors for WALB News 10’s Today in Georgia show, attended the summit and spoke at the luncheon. Worsley, who grew up in Calhoun County around agriculture, and Foglio, a native of Long Island, New York, shared their different perspectives of farming but their shared passion for meeting and telling the stories of farmers.

Kudos to GFB Leadership Programs Coordinator Breanna Berry & the GFB WLC Committee for hosting such a wonderful conference!

Members of the 2023 GFB Women’s Leadership Committee are:   Chairman Kathy Sanders, Laurens Co., 6th District; Vice Chairman Melanie Hendrix, Evans Co., 7th District; Andrea Sims, Catoosa Co., 1st District; Stephanie Branch, 2nd District;  Kaylee Paterson, Paulding Co., 3rd District; Patsy Spear, McDuffie County, 4th District; Amy Moncrief, Crawford County, 5th District; Vickie Brown, Turner Co., 8th District; Julie Hardy, Thomas Co., 9th Dist.;  and Mary Elizabeth Branch Pridgen, Coffee County,10th District.

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