Over one hundred and fifty women from across Manitoba registered for the Manitoba Farm Women's Conference (MFWC) held in Winkler November 21st, 22nd, 23rd. Three days were set aside to "Educate, Encourage and Empower" farming women. There were tours of local agricultural spaces, plenty of learning opportunities ranging from mental health and getting organized to succession and building a healthy credit history along with time to network, to interact and to put on the cowboy boots to line dance.

Wednesday's Keynote Speaker, Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel farms with her family in Mossbank, Saskatchewan throughout the year but has found herself advocating for the farming industry as a speaker for a variety of audiences during the winter. Her topic for this particular crowd was "Promote rather than Defend."  

"What I found in my career over the past 15 years, we, in the agriculture industry, have begun to engage with the public about what we're doing on the farms, but it's been in a very defensive way that can have a really negative connotation. The opposite of that is promoting the industry. So, how can we share the values that farmers have, the values that the agriculture industry was built on, and promote the industry?" 

Nagel spoke about the privilege public trust affords farmers and the relationship between Agriculture, Economics and Society to create Ag Policy, which she equated to, "Farming is the sport and Ag policy is the rules." 

She admits she hasn't always been open to conversations about farming with those who don't understand the practices but recognizes she, and all farmers, need to overcome this to help build a stronger public trust.  

"The public doesn't have access to farmers on a very regular basis. Farmers are not as active online and in social spaces. And in the Age of Information, everybody is Googling all of the fun facts they want to learn rather than asking a farmer. And so, that's the space we haven't really held very well. So, that has eroded some of the trust we really need to function in the agriculture industry."  

Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel

She empowered women listening to not feel they need to be experts on all topics, quoting Theodore Roosevelt, " No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." 

"Sending a link to somebody who's opposed to glyphosate when it's a 400-page study, isn't going to get us anywhere. So, it was really a matter of getting more in touch with our value systems and sharing the reasons why we make these decisions outside of all that scientific expertise, which is valuable too in its part, but in terms of conversations, our values are much more effective." 

With humour sprinkled through her presentation, Nagel struck a chord with the room as she left them with some homework. 

"Definitely to get involved, find a way for you to communicate that feels really good for you. Sometimes that's just going into the local schools. I don't think there's a better way for us to think about the future of agriculture than educating young kids about where their food comes from and all the decisions that farmers are making. Plus, on the side of that, there's an enormous number of careers that are available in the agriculture industry. Then, the more we can convince young people that all the 'cool kids' are in agriculture, the better it's going to be for the industry."    

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Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel