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Sturgis rancher attends national women’s conference

Mary Ellen Cammack, (right) a rancher from Sturgis, attended the National Farmers Union Women's Conference this January. She is pictured with North Dakota Farmers Union member, Deb Dressler. Photo courtesy South Dakota Farmers Union

Initials and brands cover the inside wall of a barn on the Sturgis ranch Mary Ellen Cammack operates with her husband, Randy.

“It started back when my dad was doing daily chores. If you helped him milk and feed bucket calves, he would carve your name or initials into the barn wall,” she explains.

The family continues the tradition of raising quality Hereford cattle on the ranch. When family and friends visit, they ask to contribute to the wall – it’s become a tradition of sorts. After attending the National Farmers Union Women’s Conference recently, Cammack says the barn will be getting some new text – her family ranch’s mission statement.

Inspired by a speaker she heard during the conference held in Clearwater Beach, Fla., Cammack is going to visit with her family and craft a mission statement for their ranch that exemplifies the, “reason we get up every day.”

“Women are an important, growing and dynamic component of production agriculture – it’s important that organizations realize this and provid us with the ability to build a support network.”Mary Ellen Cammack, South Dakota rancher

“It’s the first time I have heard anyone explain it that way – and it really made sense,” she says. “Once we have it figured out, I am going to put it above the barn door.”

In addition to being inspired to create a mission statement, Cammack says the opportunity to network with other women agriculture producers from across the nation was valuable. “Women are an important, growing and dynamic component of production agriculture – it’s important that organizations realize this and provid us with the ability to build a support network,” she explains.

The conference also provided Cammack and the other attendees with breakout sessions which focused on leadership training, financial planning and Farm Bill programs.

“This conference offers women of all ages the opportunity to come together to network, refine their leadership and farm management skills, and learn from agricultural experts and leaders,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Family farm operations and agribusiness board rooms alike benefit from the views and ideas provided by women in our industry.”

Participants also heard from special guests, including: Lilia McFarland, new farmer coordinator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Bridget Holcomb, executive director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network; Dr. Shannon Ferrell, associate professor at Oklahoma State University; and Gary Matteson, vice president for Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach at Farm Credit.

Cammack and other participants also went on several farm tours, including one to Dancing Goat Farm, where owner, Pam Lunn operates a mini-dairy in Urban Tampa. She sells products like goat milk, goat yogurt, goat kefir, chicken, duck and quail eggs and goat milk soap.

One aspect of her operation Cammack found interesting is the hands-on farm work opportunities Lunn provides to local 4-H and FFA youth. “In order to work on her farm, students have to maintain a certain grade point average and she has a waiting list of youth who want to work for her,” Cammack explains.

To learn more about Dancing Goat Farm, visit thedancinggoat.net. To learn more about the National Farmers Union Women’s Conference, which was sponsored by Farm Credit, CHS Foundation, FUI Foundation, NFU Foundation, and AgrAbility, visit nfu.org.

–South Dakota Farmer Union


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