The University of Georgia will host delegates from 13 states during a summit that will shape national policies and programs related to gender equity and leadership development in agriculture.
Presented by the UGA Women’s Leadership Initiative and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the inaugural Southern Region Women’s Agricultural Leadership Summit is scheduled for Feb. 8 at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will deliver the keynote address.
“Promoting diversity and inclusion is a priority for the university, and I am pleased that UGA is hosting this important event to foster women’s leadership in the agricultural industry,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Deputy Secretary Harden is an outstanding alumna, and the university is honored to welcome her back to campus.”
Leaders from 13 Southern states working in all sectors of agriculture — from environmental research to production agriculture — will gather in Athens for the daylong series of panel discussions, group work sessions and networking events focused on developing women’s leadership in agriculture and agriculture-related fields. An interactive research dialogue among participants will provide input for policymakers as well as scholars.
Harden was sworn in as the deputy secretary for the USDA in 2013 after unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate. A native of Camilla, Georgia, and a UGA alumna, Harden created the Women in Agriculture Mentoring Network in 2015 to help women advance in all sectors of the industry.
“As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of farmers and ranchers are educated, encouraged and empowered to take on the challenges of meeting the world’s growing food, fuel and fiber needs,” Harden said. “That is why USDA is creating tools like the recently launched www.usda.gov/newfarmers to help new and beginning farmers and ranchers succeed. I’m excited to return to my alma mater to discuss the importance of diversity in agriculture and promoting women’s leadership.”
According to 2012 Census of Agriculture statistics, there are 969,672 women farmers in the U.S. that lead more than 30 percent of U.S. farms. The 13-state Southern region contains 117,650 female-run farms, which are responsible for $4.9 billion in sales and account for 22.4 million acres of farmland.
“With 47 percent of agricultural-related degrees today going to women, we are excited to help jump-start a conversation about how women contribute to agriculture and STEM research and businesses,” said Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for UGA Extension for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “This convocation of female leaders in agriculture will help generate a full picture of how women work in agriculture, the challenges they face and their dedication to providing support to future generations in solving the most pressing issues of the 21st century — strengthening global food security while protecting the environment.”
The summit is organized by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences with assistance from the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach. The opening session, which includes a women’s leadership panel discussion at 10 a.m., is free and open to the general public, as is the final closing session at 3:30 p.m. For more information, see www.caes.uga.edu/events/womensagleadershipsummit.
“Women already play critical roles in all aspects of agriculture — from production and policy to research and development,” said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “By bringing delegates from across the region together to share ideas and inspiration, we can build on this tradition through leadership development programs and help keep our nation at the forefront of agricultural productivity and sustainability.”