Women are powerful and effective advocates for agriculture. Lillian Ostendorf, a Powderville, Montana rancher, is a Western Region Representative on the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee. Here are her tips on the resources available to help you develop and refine your advocacy skills!

The 2015 Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Women in Ag Survey (online survey with participants from all over the US) results indicated that 96 percent of respondents say they advocate for the agriculture industry. 89 percent advocate through social media and 57 percent also through traditional media. Farming is the primary occupation of one-third of women respondents. The US Census indicates this number is increasing.

In 2016, the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership will continue to empower women to become spokeswomen for agriculture.

The American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee (AFBWLC) plays a pivotal role in helping women find their voice as agriculture advocates. Here’s how:

Top Five AFB Women’s Leadership Projects from 2015

1) FUSION Conference: WLC worked together with the Young Farmer and Rancher Committee (YF&R) and the Promotion & Education Committee (P&E) to plan and implement the first ever FUSION conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The FUSION conference was held in place of separate leadership conferences for both groups and provided a unique opportunity to share responsibilities, ideas, network, and learn together. In a similar manner we are collaborating with other committees and outside groups of like minds for agriculture promotion and concerns. We did not plan for the weather and an unexpected ice storm!

2) Women in Ag Survey: We formulated a “Women in Ag” survey for women in agriculture, the first of its kind. In the detailed survey report, about one-third of all farms are owned or operated by women. This number is increasing and women farmers feel there is a need for more women leadership roles in agriculture. They feel communicating effectively is important, establishing and achieving goals and strategic planning is essential to success.

3) Our Food Link: Our committee is improving the Our Food Link toolkit in order to easily share ideas between states for advocacy events “linking” people with where their food comes from (not the grocery store!). We are encouraging state’s participation through a competition and prize for unique or new ideas. This year, the Montana Women’s Leadership held a breakfast event in the Montana Capitol to interact with the public and legislature during National Ag Week.

4) Accurate Ag Books: Women Leaders are visiting schools with the AFBF foundation’s Accurate Ag Books to promote and spread the word about agriculture and the certified lesson plans that accompany them. Books are donated to the schools and relationships are built with the teachers. They have a chance to visit with the farmers that grow their food and ask questions. Our committee was privileged to visit schools in DC to test pilot the books. Later, I visited school in Missoula with Montana WL and YF&R leaders to promote accurate agriculture books.

5) Communication Boot Camp: The Communication Boot Camp continues to be a huge success. Farm Bureau Women apply to attend and graduate from this worthwhile communications camp with skills to be spokeswomen for our industry. With the growing number of women operators in farming or farm related businesses, there is an increasing need for surfacing and training women as agriculture leaders, legislative contacts, and spokeswomen for agriculture.

-Lillian Ostendorf