There's an old joke about a man who meets a farmer on the road. The farmer's carrying a bag marked "chickens." "If I guess how many chickens are in the bag, can I have one?," the man asks. "Shoot," the farmer says. "If you guess right, you can have both of them."
That joke might not work if the farmers were women. According to Margaret Viebrock, chair of WSU Extension's upcoming Women in Agriculture conference, farming women don't play guessing games. They're eager to share their knowledge with other women trying to farm successfully.
"They like to cooperate and do things together," says Viebrock, WSU Douglas County Extension director. "They don't think twice about sharing parts of their business plan."
Viebrock's led workshops in which women have traded information that men might consider proprietary. They've disclosed the best way to transport produce to market, and passed along contact numbers for talented web developers. Viebrock hopes this month's conference will provide a foundation for additional networking.
In previous years, the annual conference has been held in Wenatchee, but "women were saying it was too far to drive." So Viebrock obtained a grant for a teleconference: Sixteen sites statewide will broadcast the keynote speeches and host panels of local experts to steer in-person discussions.
Nearly 400 women have registered for the event, doubling the conference's attendance record. Registrants include a group of Latina farmers in Mount Vernon, who will participate with the help of a translator.
The majority of registrants have consented to have their names printed in a directory which will be distributed to all conference-goers, Viebrock says. The directory will function as the state's first index of female farmers, and allow women to continue conversations about financing, marketing and balancing work and family.