It was a day of celebration and education for several hundred Northeast Nebraska women gathered for the 13th annual AgCeptional Women's Conference at Northeast Community College’s Lifelong Learning Center.
The event on Nov. 19 including a welcome from Northeast Community College President Leah Barrett.
“We are so proud to be the host of this fantastic event,” Barrett said.
Joan Ruskamp, Dodge, who was named named the AgCeptional Woman of the Year 2021, was introduced through a video presentation. The video gave testimony to her leadership roles and service in her family, her work on J and S Feedlot, her service in her church, community, commodity organizations and where help was needed as an EMT.
Ruskamp works with CommonGround to educate consumers as to how their food is produced. Her husband, Steve, and family members were present.
Keynote speaker Erica McBeth explained how not talking about things in a family, such as depression, can be hurtful. McBeth described her battle with depression beginning as a 10-year-old child — how negative thoughts would take over her life, becoming a reality until she could see no light.
Her story told of how she recovered through therapy, social contact and helping other people.
“In looking to help other people, I healed myself. The world around me hadn’t changed, but I changed my view,” she said. After recovery she discovered depression was a family secret.
“Our modern world communicates a culture of isolation. In 2019 the highest rates of suicide were in rural states,” she said.
McBeth went on a mission to speak to individuals on a one-to-one basis, and then she wrote an insightful book about the importance of social contact. She challenged listeners to reach out.
Twenty-one educational workshops covering 15 topics were given in three one-hour sessions. Topics included a brief history of corn and sweet corn breeding and genetics, and economic opportunities for value-added sorghum processing in Nebraska.
Comparison of real beef vs. meatless plant-based meat, using an air fryer to cook healthy food, tax-related issues, controlling back pain, communicating appreciation and how to avoid skin cancer were workshop topics. Seasons, home decorating, succession farm planning and clean water were studied in depth.
Dr. Amelia Breinig, who is from Merck and formerly worked with the Trump administration, expressed optimism for the recently passed $65 million allotment by Congress for rural broadband and $100 million for rural roads and bridges.
Breinig spoke of the next Farm Bill, which is written every five years, the next in 2023.
“This Farm Bill will be different. Of note will be the interconnection of human health and animal health. Technologies we haven’t seen before are here, like having readers in sales barns to read cattle tags. Animal welfare is what we see today. Consumers want to know,” she said.
“We have a unique opportunity. Be open, have conversation. Speak up. Tell your stories. Don’t let the rural/urban divide become larger,” Breinig said.
Plans are already being made for the 14th conference, scheduled for Nov. 18, 2022, at the Lifelong Learning Center.