Did you know that nationally, 36% of all farmers are women?
And that 96% of farms and ranches in Minnesota are family-owned?
I didn’t know these things until recently when I got to dine and chat directly with women farmers in Minnesota!
March is Women’s History Month, where we celebrate women and their contributions to America, and I was honored to be part of a special evening celebrating Minnesota women in agriculture.
CommonGround Minnesota is a nonprofit organization made up of women in agriculture who volunteer their time to talk with others about food and farming. This event was a private dinner at the Lynhall in Minneapolis with a small group of women influencers and foodies.
I had been part of a dinner event with CommonGround Minnesota once before and I shared about it here. It was so interesting and enjoyable that I knew I couldn’t miss another opportunity with them.
Who are the women of CommonGround Minnesota?
They are a passionate group of women who work in agriculture all across Minnesota. They volunteer their time to share about their farming lives and experiences in conversations with others one-on-one. Often these take place as dinners where everyone gets to enjoy locally grown food.
This particular dinner was at the Lynhall in Minneapolis, one of the best places I’ve dined here in the Twin Cities.
After we enjoyed some appetizers, drinks and conversation, we were seated for a 3-course dinner with a local greenhouse salad, homemade semolina pappardelle (an amazing pasta), sirloin and vegetables.
And of course, there was dessert to follow. A chocolate creme and a fruit, fluffy custard with whipped cream with cute little spoons that I was sure to lick clean!
Talking with Local Women Farmers
As we dined, we all sat and chatted at tables with 3 women farmers who were present. The three women, from left to right in the right picture below, were Barb Liebenstein from Wolf Creek Dairy in Dundas, where I had visited before at a previous CommonGround dinner; Katie Brenny, a 5th generation cattle farmer in Mazeppa, and Rachel Gray, a 5th generation farmer, wife, mother and grandmother in Blackduck.
Rachel was at our table so we had a great time talking with her. She and her family run a heifer development business in Blackduck which is in northern Minnesota. (Heifers are young female cows that have not yet had a calf.) She became a farmer full-time after teaching 14 years, taking over farm operations as the third generation of women in her family to do so.
At our table there was great conversation as she shared successes and challenges of her life as a farmer. She is truly a boss babe – she is highly respected and knows her work well, traveling all over the country to buy and sell cows, and meet with ranch owners to teach them about best practices. She truly is an inspiration as a woman farmer! Both she and her husband travel year-round, and they live and work near several generations of family, so there is never a dull moment in their lives.
The evening was so educational. We learned so much about farming that we didn’t know. For example, farmers respect each other no matter their differences in methods or techniques, such as conventional or organic.
One SUPER interesting thing we learned is about how cows are labeled and traced from birth – everything from their genetics to what they’re fed to where they have lived – so every detail about the beef we eat and where it comes from is fully recorded and accessible.
I saw this firsthand at New Day Dairy GuestBarn in Clarksville, Iowa when we visited there earlier this month. Each cow had a name and a tag, and everything about their lives was recorded by the farmers and traced by a computer. Some things were recorded automatically by machines like the milking machine.
And at this dinner event, each woman farmer talked about a woman who was an inspiration for them in their lives, which we could also read about on cards on the tables!
It was such an inspiring and informative evening. It helped me appreciate so much where the food we eat comes from, and I am so glad for the amazing women who are contributing to agriculture. Women really can do anything.
When we left we got goodie bags with wildflower seeds and wine from a Minnesota woman-owned winery called Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery.
It was so great to spend a whole evening celebrating women in agriculture.
Learn more about women farmers and agriculture in Minnesota on the CommonGround Minnesota website!
More about farming on my blog!
Read about my dinner with CommonGround Minnesota in 2017 at a dairy farm in Dundas!
Read about our recent visit to New Day Dairy GuestBarn in Clarksville, Iowa!
Read my review of the Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook!