November 28, 2016
Women in agriculture are one of a kind. They love the land and the animals, they love their families and give to their communities and they are changing the world. On my trip to North Carolina, I had the pleasure of meeting April Shaeffer, a woman in agriculture who is doing all of those things and empowering her peers.
Back in 2005, while working in her extension role through North Carolina State University, April would attend cattle handling workshops around the state and began to notice a trend. The women involved in the cattle business would attend but overall, they wouldn’t participate as much as their male counterparts. So she hatched a plan. What if she could create a women’s only workshop. A place where the women could feel comfortable stepping out of the shadows, participating and ultimately learning more than they currently were. She started talking to others about this. Finally, after some hesitation, she got the go ahead to do it if she could find funding. Thirty minutes later, this persistent and passionate woman had the funding and the first workshop was in motion. That workshop filled up and was a complete success. So she planned more. Now, years later, the workshops have become a regular offering and are helping women from all over the country. That’s right, women come from around the country to attend these two-day events.
They learn the basics of moving cattle, administering vaccines, running hydraulic chutes to keep the cattle and themselves safe, how to tie a lead, how to drive a tractor, tractor safety, how to hook up and back a trailer, how to change a flat tire, the basics of pasture management and so much more. These women come to learn and that they do. But they also are building strong networks and connections with the other women there. They are coming to learn and leave with new friends.
April, the woman who not only noticed the issue, but acted on it isn’t stopping there. She has built a solid program for these women in North Carolina and is working with her peer, Sarah Blacklin to expand the program. Blacklin has started her own revolution, training women working in the meat business. These women have teamed up and are working on funding to take April's cattle workshops (from gate) and Sarah's meat workshops (to plate) to their peers throughout the south.
April Shaeffer is a passionate woman. She saw a problem, created a solution to that problem and is making inroads for women in the cattle business everywhere. She is empowering women to help themselves on the farm and connecting them to the resources they need to not only survive but thrive in agriculture.
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