BOZEMAN – Thanks to a cooperative effort between faculty in the Montana State University College of Agriculture and a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the inaugural Summit Celebrating Women in Agriculture will take place on the MSU campus on Saturday, Oct. 12.

The summit will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Norm Asbjornson Hall Room 165 and is free and open to the public. Irene Grimberg, research associate professor and Deputy Coordinator for the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program; Tracy Dougher, associate dean for academic programs in the College of Agriculture, and Tracy Sterling, department head of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, collaborated to make the event a reality, along with professor Lisa Rew, associate professor Jane Mangold and Flathead Valley Community College’s Heather Estrada.

The first Summit Celebrating Women in Agriculture will take place on the Montana State University Campus on Saturday, Oct. 12. (MSU Photo)

“The purpose of the summit is really to showcase all of what’s going on in agriculture in the state, and the involvement of women in those systems,” said Grimberg. “It will be a dialogue of different people and perspectives.”

The summit is an outreach component of the larger Empowering Women in Agriculture project, which also incorporates programs and activities that highlight MSU’s tripartite land-grant mission of education, research and outreach.

The educational component of the project included the development of an online course in collaboration with Flathead Valley Community College. The course examines opportunities for women in the 21st century agricultural workforce and is structured to address five key elements and career fields of agriculture, said Grimberg: research, Extension, policy, marketing and production. So far, the course has been offered twice, with a total of about 30 students.

“This event is here because there’s a void of women in leadership in agriculture in those five areas,” said Dougher. “That was the major purpose of the grant: to dig a little bit into why that is and to find ways to help women step into more leadership roles.”

The research component of the project consisted of a survey conducted on the outlook of women in agriculture, which received responses from across Montana and the nation. The survey addressed perceptions of agricultural stakeholders, both male and female, on how women perform in agriculture in terms of leadership, access to capital, knowledge and other metrics. The paper reporting the results of the study is in the works, said Grimberg. The project also funds internships for current MSU students to partner with agricultural operations across the state.

The Oct. 12 event will include a welcome address from MSU Vice President for Agriculture Sreekala Bajwa, along with panels focused on the online course at Flathead Valley Community College, food security and food access, and a recent video project, “Stories from the Field,” that tells the stories of female Montana producers and their views on the future of agriculture.

Vincent Smith of the Department of Agriculture Economics and Economics will give the keynote address, focusing on domestic and international agricultural policy. Submissions to the Women in Agriculture photography contest will also be on display and various exhibitors from local agriculture-related organizations will be available to talk with attendees.

“What I’d really like to convey is a sense of the complexity and richness of agriculture,” said Grimberg. “We were lucky to capture that, and it’s the importance of that agricultural work that we want to highlight.”

Light refreshments and lunch will be provided. A full agenda and more information on the event can be found at http://www.montana.edu/empowering-women-in-ag/summit/index.html. Online registration is encouraged and can be found at https://www.montana.edu/cope/rsvp/front-end/rsvp.php?unique_id=5d82b35faa5165d82b35faa556.

-By MSU News Service -