“It’s one of the times during the year where women get to meet on things of interest to them”
Farm women have their own unique concerns and issues, and the Grande Prairie Farm Women’s Conference has been an opportunity for women of all ages to discuss them. The 32nd annual event last month was attended by women from throughout the Peace including Fort St John, Fairview, Grande Prairie, La Crete and Manning.
In an interview, marketing director Pat Roessler said the event is a chance for women to get together to share information, make new friends and learn new and different things.
“It’s one of the times during the year where women get to meet on things of interest to them,” said Roessler. “It’s a way of exchanging values and beliefs that are pertinent to women.”
The conference is open to farm women of any age, “It’s one of the best sources for passing information down to the generations,” said Roessler. Farm women used to meet regularly over coffee or sewing clubs and the conference helps keep this tradition alive, she said.
Roessler says farm women have the unique challenge of working alongside their spouses. They have to know how to manage short funds in difficult times and occasionally deal with the challenge of having spouses who have to leave the farm to find off-farm work to make ends meet. The isolation of working from home or living a long way from others is also a challenge.
Over 90 women attended this year’s conference. Most have made it a part of their annual schedule. This year’s conference was run by a core committee of eight women who program the event. Some of the core group members are farmers while others are active in other aspects of the agricultural industry, said Roessler. Many have been involved for years, and some of the core committee members have attended over 20 conferences.
Each conference includes keynote and closing speakers and several sessions.
“We ask the ladies what they’re interested in and get suggestions of things that they’d like to have at the conference,” said Roessler. The women on the committee then network and go through the conference history to find speakers and facilitators for the sessions.
Sessions this year ranged from straight agricultural sessions such as “You and your horse” and “Garden Pests” to other sessions such as “helping a depressed friend,” balancing goals and “banking demystified.” The sessions balance between ones that women can attend for pleasure and personal interest, such as Thai massage or Irish dancing, and those they can attend for professional development. The conference organizers always try to include two crafting sessions, and also host an evening banquet with entertainment.