2016 Annual Conference Highlights WFAN's Impact on Women's Lives

Tour of Arbor Day Farm.

by Leigh Adcock, Conference Coordinator

“Leadership should be more participative than directive, more enabling than performing.” -- Mary D. Poole

When women gather to focus their power on a topic they care passionately about, they transform themselves and the women around them. I watch it happen every year at the WFAN annual conference, and the ripples just keep expanding throughout the year ahead.

About 165 women (and a few men!) gathered Nov. 4 and 5 for the 2016 WFAN annual conference at Lied Lodge & Conference Center in Nebraska City, NE. On Friday, as exhibitors set up their displays, those who had registered for field tours or on-site intensives arrived to join their groups. More than 100 of this year's registrants took part in Friday afternoon activities, which ranged from a tour of local orchards to a tour of urban ag projects in Omaha and women-owned farms in Lincoln, as well as intensives focused on permaculture and eco-feminism/women's leadership.

"The Permaculture Intensive was incredible!  It was amazing to put all the pieces together, and better understand the processes and their integration with our needs!  The presenters were excellent and provided manageable steps for restoring health to the land."

Farm-to-table tasting.

That afternoon at 5, as groups returned from their tours, many of us socialized at the tasting of Arbor Day Farm wines, and a group of about 70 walked to rustic Steinhart Lodge across the street for the farm-to-table tasting created by Lied chef Jeffrey Miller. Kudos to him and his staff for being extremely responsive to our dietary requests, and for sourcing most of our meal ingredients from local farms.

After the tasting, more women arrived and a group of about 90 viewed the permaculture film INHABIT, followed by a brief community discussion led by Karryn Olson-Ramanujan, our keynote speaker (and panel moderator for the permaculture intensive Friday, and tech wrangler in one session room, and courier of people and essential medicines en route from Omaha.... truly an all-around inspiration and pitcher-in!)

Saturday morning we gathered bright and early at 8 to hear Karryn's keynote address: "Co-Creating Our Regenerative Future: Why Permaculture? Why Women? Why Now?" She referenced the work of our popular 2015 speaker, Robin Kimmerer, and donated her Q & A time to the First Nations women in the audience, who graciously called on us to hold in our hearts the Women of Standing Rock opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline's route through their sacred waters -- and to help their efforts in all the ways we can. Thank you Lilian, Barbara, and April, and those WFAN members who drove directly from our conference to Standing Rock to join the protest.

Saturday lunch.

After another amazing meal (the chickpea-pepper salad with raspberry vinaigrette was my personal favorite), WFAN board members asked us to stand if we had accomplished a variety of acts and milestones in our lives over the past year. One surprise for me was the number of women who stood when asked if this was their first WFAN conference! Next came a truly powerful and moving activity in which women simultaneously shared their stories of how WFAN has impacted their lives and raised more than $4,000 for the organization's ongoing work. Brava!

After lunch, we attended a final session and then picked up a snack to go. WFAN board members welcomed those who wished to stay a bit longer to a meet-and-greet in the Library Lounge, which turned into a happy, noisy, crowded affair that drove some Husters fans from the TV set!

Next year we will gather in Madison, WI, and celebrate TWENTY YEARS of WFAN empowering women in healthy food and farming. Sign up for our updates to keep up with these plans.

Check out our growing Facebook photo album from the conference, and check the conference page for presentations and handouts, which I'll post as speakers submit them to me over the next couple of weeks. You'll receive an online evaluation form by email in the next few days, so please give us your feedback so we can make next year's event even better!

WFAN's founding mothers, board, and (some) staff.