Kentucky Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles on Tuesday discussed the importance women have played in the Commonwealth’s farming sector. The Kentucky Women in Agriculture (KWIA) Conference was held at the Owensboro Convention Center, where Quarles addressed a large crowd of young women from high school and college age.
Quarles also proclaimed October 11 as Women in Agriculture Day across the Commonwealth.
This year’s theme for the conference was “Rooted in Community.” By empowering women through education, involvement, and action, KWIA has a positive influence on Kentucky agriculture.
The influx of younger women is something that Quarles said he and the organization have been trying to accomplish.
According to Quarles, 36.7% of farmers in Kentucky are women, which ranks first across the country.
“The number of women farmers in Kentucky and across the globe keeps growing,” Quarles said. “Their influence, knowledge, and strong leadership skills are a genuine bonus for agriculture and its future. Acknowledging that is the purest form of gratitude we can show those who give of themselves on our farms, for their families and for our own.”
In Daviess County, he pointed out that examples of female leaders in agriculture can be seen in several different places, especially Cecil Farms. He also pointed to Chaney’s Dairy in Warren County. After a season of tough times, two of the daughters came back from college and were able to save the family dairy farm.
“As of today, their milk is in 40 different Kroger stores so they’re growing back the famous business. It was done because of female leadership,” Quarles said.
Ultimately, Quarles said his inspiration and passion for female farmers goes back to his mom’s influence in his life. He said she taught nursing at Kentucky State University for 30 years and would come home every day to her second full-time job as a farmer.
“Every time I think about her, it’s those lessons she taught us both in the house and in the classroom as an educator, but also as a full-time farmer herself. That I really carried with me. She put a work ethic in me,” he said.
KWIA’s membership includes women who own and operate farms and agribusinesses, as well as agriculture entrepreneurs, state and federal personnel, ag educators and students, and consumers.
“Each year, the Kentucky Women in Agriculture organization brings together a community of like-minded female leaders in and around farming industries to learn from, collaborate with, and to promote one another,” said Babette Overman, President of KWIA. “We are so appreciative of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s support of our conference and our young women’s scholarships.”