After taking a year off due to COVID-19, Women, Land and Legacy of Southwest Iowa returned with its annual Women Gaining Ground conference. The event took place on Saturday, March 5 at Glenwood High School in Glenwood, Iowa. The planning committee hosted 90 attendees, vendors and presenters for a fun-filled day of education, entertainment and interaction.
The event started with a light breakfast and plenty of time to browse the various vendor stalls. Vendors this year included Color Street Nails, Scentsy, Pampered Chef, Usborne Books and More, SeneGense, Avon, Plunder Design, Overall Buddies, real Time Pain Relief, Home Grown, City Meets Country, Bee Quilty Designs, and the Alzheimer’s Association . After breakfast, everyone was welcomed to the auditorium and this year’s keynote speaker, Juli Burney, was introduced. Juli, named Nebraska Artist of the Year, was both entertaining and motivating as she reinforced the concept that laughter is the best medicine!
This year’s informative speaker was Jon Bakehouse, a fifth-generation farmer who operates near Hastings, Iowa. Jon shared information about his regenerative farming practices including no-till, cover crops and rotational grazing.
The first of three breakout sessions took place before lunch. Choices included Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia, a presentation by Deborah Petersen, an Alzheimer’s Association volunteer; Land As Your Legacy, presented by Cindy Bojanski, a Certified Retirement Income Professional; Windbreak Well-Being, a session on planting and managing a successful windbreak led by Lindsey Barney, a district forester with Iowa DNR; Manage stress with Etta Murphy, a Shenandoah Certified Mental Health Counselor; Right Here, Right Now: Defend Against Human Trafficking, an overview of the current realities of human trafficking right here in Iowa, presented by Malvern Occupational Therapist Jill Cuff-Wade; What’s a Charcuterie Board?, a beginner’s course presented by Mandy Maher, member of the Women, Land & Legacy committee; and Seed Starting Tips, a session hosted by Betsy Maryott, Glenwood science teacher and local master gardener.
Attendees were treated to a delicious lunch prepared by Stadium 34 in Red Oak. A variety of sandwiches, salads and mini cheesecakes were enjoyed by all. The lunch break provided the perfect opportunity to visit table mates and shop with vendors. It was also the perfect time for the committee to hand out prizes, including a $100 beef certificate presented by Fremont County Cattlemen, a generous variety of produce donated by participating vendors, and beautiful clover plants provided by Red Oak Greenhouse.
The second breakout session included some new offerings. The conference was joined by Karen Smith and Patty Albright, volunteers from Fontenelle Forest. They brought an owl, a hawk, and a falcon with them for the session, Backyard Birds of Prey. Deborah Petersen gave a new presentation, but this time focusing on discussions of dementia. Tiffani Pinkerton of Heartland Family Services taught attendees how to Teen Proof Your Home, highlighting the many risks for today’s teens and how to help them navigate them successfully. What is a Charcuterie Board? was presented again, but this time by Brenda Grave, owner of Bodega Victoriana Winery near Glenwood. Ruth Blomquist, USDA Soil Health Specialist, also presented. His session was titled The Science of Soil Health.
Session three saw the return of several previously featured sessions, including Backyard Birds of Prey; Land as inheritance; Protect your teenage home; The science of soil health; Here, Now: Defend Yourself Against Human Trafficking; and what is a charcuterie board? After the third breakout session, attendees were invited back to the auditorium for a closing presentation by Mike Connolly, a retired New York City Fire Department lieutenant. Prior to his promotion, he served as a firefighter with 18 Squad under FDNY Special Operations Command, one of the first to respond to the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11. Mike shared his experiences from that fateful date. Thousands of lives were lost that day, including 343 fellow firefighters.
At the end of the day, participants were asked to reflect on their day by completing an evaluation form. Most respondents gave excellent ratings, almost all said they would attend future Women Gaining Ground conferences, and all agreed that the conference met their expectations. One review summed it up nicely, saying, “I always like the conference – it’s a fun time with interesting women.
Women Gaining Ground would not be possible without the support of its sponsors. Sponsors enable the committee to compensate speakers, ensuring the highest quality of experts in a wide variety of topics, and ensuring good value for attendees. The planning committee would like to thank its presenting sponsor, Farm Credit Services of America. This year’s gold sponsors are Mills County Farm Bureau and Glenwood State Bank. Silver sponsors include United Farmers Cooperative; Hillcrest Sales, LLC; Federation of Fremont County Agricultural Bureau; and West Pottawattamie County Soil and Water Conservation District. Other sponsors include the Montgomery County Farm Bureau Federation; Arbor Bank; State Bank of Houghton; East Pottawattamie Farm Bureau Federation; Mills County Soil and Water Conservation District; Fremont County Soil and Water Conservation District; Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District; Page County Soil and Water Conservation District; red oak greenhouse; and Iowa State University expansion and outreach to Fremont, Mills, Montgomery, and Page counties.
Photos of the day’s event can be viewed at www. facebook.com/womenlandlegacywgg/. It’s also the best source for announcements about future events and next year’s Women Gaining Ground conference!
Women Gaining Ground is a one-day educational conference planned and administered by Women, Land & Legacy of Southwest Iowa. WLL is an education and awareness program designed to empower women. Programming is developed by a leadership team comprised of USDA representatives and local women farmers. Committee members at the time of the conference included Kelsey Blodgett (NRCS District Conservationist), Dee Dino (ISU Extension and Outreach Page Co.), Corrine Jenkins (Montgomery Co. SWCD), Stephanie Vinton-Pollock (Farm Credit Services of America) , Mandy Maher (ISU Extension and Outreach Fremont Co), Abby Sorensen (ISU Extension and Outreach Mills Co.), Janet Wade (local producer) and Melanie Wilgenbusch (Hillcrest Sales, LLC). The committee strives to bring relevant information, speakers and resources to the region to help women make positive changes in their communities. Southwest Iowa WLL serves Fremont, Mills, Montgomery, and Page counties. At least three events are held each year, in addition to the annual Women Gaining Ground (WGG) conference.
WLL is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation requests, go to https://www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext.
For more information, please contact Fremont County Extension at (712) 374-2351, Mills County Extension at (712) 624-8616, Montgomery County Extension at (712) 623-2592, or Page County Extension at (712) 542 -5171 .