Nancy Adrian of Washington County Extension Receives Award for Her Work With Women in Ag
By Madeline Schultz
Congratulations to Nancy Adrian of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Washington County office on her award for her work with Women in Ag! Nancy received her award for Professional Excellence in Agriculture and Natural Resources Programming at the annual Agriculture and Natural Resources Conference on April 5, 2017.
Engaging women in learning more about their agricultural businesses is a long-term commitment for Nancy Adrian, Washington County Extension Director. In 2004, Washington County Extension and Outreach held the very first Iowa Annie’s Project, in which Nancy participated. Since that time, the county has hosted two more Annie’s Project courses, a Women Marketing Grain course, and a Managing for Today and Tomorrow farm transition planning course for women. In all, 98 women participated in the five courses. Women continue to request additional opportunities for learning more about agriculture and business.
As fate would have it, another opportunity to provide education to women in agriculture was just around the corner.
One summer day in 2015, , Julie Foster Van Camp from the state of Washington, contacted Nancy to see how she could help educate current and future farmers and encourage agriculture sustainability. She flew to Iowa to meet Nancy and others she gathered in September, 2015. “When I answered the phone that day, I had no idea where this would take us,” says Nancy.
Out of this grew a 30-member Women in Ag Advisory Board of women farmers and landowners, extension council members, business people, USDA employees, and extension specialists. They meet regularly to brainstorm challenges for women in ag and how to meet individual needs. “I think the fact that we have an advisory board is HUGE,” says Nancy. The diverse makeup of the board allows them to access information from different sectors and address issues facing women in all facets of agriculture. “The board gives women and other members of the ag community a forum for voicing their issues or concerns, and improves the flow of knowledge and communication on agricultural issues throughout the county,” says Nancy.
The board develops new programs that benefit farmers and rural communities in Washington County. They help bring new sources of funding to extension programming. The board worked with Hills Bank and Trust and obtained a $4,000 Riverboat Foundation grant in support of the new women in ag conference. The board reaches out to individuals who have attended past extension programs to ask for feedback and spread the word about what they are accomplishing. “One of the surprising benefits of the advisory board is that women on the board are gaining the confidence to become more involved in the decision-making process on their home farms and are asking more questions about their family farming operations,” says Nancy.
Helping women become better farm business partners and prepare for unexpected events is important to Nancy. She is representative of the 67 percent of farm women in Iowa who hold off-farm full or part-time jobs and may or may not know much about managing the farm business. In the spring of 2007, Nancy’s husband, Bob, was on a grain truck, leveling out corn that had been loaded, when he fell 13 feet, suffering a traumatic brain injury. As he recovered from the accident, Nancy had to step up to new challenges and learn to manage their 500 acre farm.
With this personal experience and her all out dedication to educating women in agriculture, Nancy and her advisory board brought Rebecca Vittetoe and Meaghan Anderson, ISU Crops Specialists, to the county with their Agronomy in the Field for Women program in 2016. More than 30 women benefited from the summer meetings at the ISU Southeast Iowa Research Farm in Crawfordsville. Based on surveys completed by participants, agronomic learning continues in the classroom throughout the winter in 2017 and plans are already underway for summer-time sessions back at the research farm.
The board also brought Ryan Drollette, ISU Farm Management Specialist, to the county to lead a young farmer group, which usually draws 20 people, including several young women. “The group helps prepare young people to become the next generation of farmers in our county,” says Nancy.
Washington County started a farming book club with seven girls and young women with events in winter 2015 and 2016. The county held a series of agriculture workshops for women in winter 2017. Extension specialists and other local professionals covered topics selected by the advisory board. The first two programs were attended by a total of 40 women.
On March 25, 2017, Washington County Extension and Outreach and the Women in Ag Advisory Board hosted their first Women in Agriculture Conference, “Cultivate Connections.” The keynote speaker was Jolene Brown, an Iowa farm woman and international expert in farm family succession planning. More than 100 women from across Iowa attended the event.
Nancy’s passion and commitment for educating women in agriculture is evident. “We are pulling out all the stops this year so we can have a very successful event!”