By Garrett Simmons
Women are the backbone of any family farm operation.
More often than not, they are the glue that holds it all together. Mothers, grandmothers and sisters often provide those vital organizational skills. They celebrate every success on the farm but also feel the stress and anguish when things go awry.
But the contributions of women on the farm sometime go unnoticed, a fact the Celebrating Women in Farming Conference aims to change.
The event, set for Oct. 12 at the Readymade Hall is designed to offer women on the farm a unique experience, complete with resources, connection and plenty of relaxation.
“We hope women leave with an understanding of how appreciated and valued they are in their community, and understand they are not alone,” said Lorena Ahmadi, Farm Family Outreach Worker for Family and Community Support Services.
Another goal of the event is to encourage woman, and farm families in general, to reach out for outside assistance when times are tough.
“A lot of farmers are struggling and there are a lot of stressors, so we just want to let them know that they are not alone,” said Ahmadi.
“I think overall, it’s a survival mechanism and it’s worked for a long time for families to rely on themselves and on their direct family members. But life has gotten harder and a lot more complicated for everyone so we just want farm families to know they can come to us for help,” added Kori Kuryvial, Farm Family Outreach Coordinator for FCSS.
The concept for the conference was formulated through interactions with farm families in southern Alberta, according to Kuryvial.
“Women are so important to the region and they do so much for their families and for their farm, and we thought a conference would be a good place to make some connections and to also recognize their work.”
Kaitlynn Weaver, Outreach Services Supervisor for FCSS, added women are responsible for much of the emotional labour of dealing with stress on the farm, combined with duties such as cooking, transportation and of course, work in the field. It can all be a little overwhelming for even the most organized family farm.
“With that in mind, we thought it might be a good time to recognize women and celebrate their contributions,” said Weaver.
Oct. 12 will feature an entire day dedicated to those who make these very important contributions.
“The day will start off with a keynote address from Billi J. Miller, a farmer who has done many interviews with Albertan women in farming,” said Ahmadi.
Miller, a current farmer, avid storyteller and Albertan author, will take the morning to highlight the remarkable roles of women and the extraordinary life family farms offer.
A catered lunch will break up the day before an afternoon session with Leadership Coach Diana Ward.
“The leadership session is not necessarily about agriculture but will highlight the fact that women are leaders in their community, on their farms, where they work and in all facets of their life,” said Weaver. “The workshop will empower the folks who are attending and also recognize the fact they are leaders and provide insight on how they can continue that into their own lives.”
Following the workshop, participants will have the opportunity to unwind.
“We’ll end the day with relaxation stations – mini massage, some self-care options people can try out,” said Ahmadi. “We want to give back to women in agriculture and give them time to have fun, make some new friends and connect with other people.”
FCSS staff will also be on hand to relay information about its services and to hand out swag bags, complete with valuable resources.
Tickets are $30, and registration can be completed online, through the FCSS website (https://fcss.ca/event/celebrating-women-in-farming-conference/) or by phone at 403-795-4627. There are 60 conference spots available, along with 18 childcare spots.
The conference is funded by the Canadian Red Cross and the Public Health Agency of Canada.