More than 30 percent of U.S. farmers and ranchers are women and their numbers continue to grow.

Fortunately, opportunities for women involved in today’s agriculture are virtually unlimited.

But some challenges still remain. That is why the Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee strives to empower women to use their enthusiasm, dedication and talent to change perceptions about agriculture, family farms and ranches and the role of women in these arenas.

Our efforts to influence perceptions include coordinating educational programs in rural communities in addition to offering leadership development programs that are open to all Farm Bureau women.

Women’s Communications Boot Camp, which we have held annually each summer since 2007, is one opportunity we provide for women in agriculture from across the country to improve their skills.

All of those selected to participate share the same goal, to become better communicators.

An impressive group

An impressive group of 16 women participated in two and a half days of intensive training this year, pulled together by AFBF’s professional staff, who take a great interest in helping Farm Bureau Women improve their skills.

It was amazing to see a group of strangers come together, bond through sharing intense training exercises and leave just a few days later with friends that will last a lifetime.

Although we strive to keep the program fresh each time it is offered, public speaking, media training, effective use of social media and tips for seeking elected office are among the staple topics covered each year at Boot Camp.

One of the most exciting things about Boot Camp is hearing from the participants about how they plan to use their skills to reach out to consumers who have questions about food production and what they do on their farms and ranches.

We’re also very interested in how graduates of earlier classes are using their skills, which prompted us to launch a Boot Camp group on Facebook. It has been gratifying to see women posting in their own words about what they took away from the program and the creative ways they’re reaching out to consumers.

“It opened my eyes to just how powerful our personal experiences are to those who are several generations removed from the farm or ranch,” explained Melinda Marley Jackson of New Mexico.

“It is one of the most life-altering workshops I have ever attended. It was so worth the time!” wrote Kim Allegood Brown of Georgia.

“I am still using everything I learned,” said Cindi Allen of Nebraska.

Giving hope to those with a very common fear, public speaking, Katie Ramagos of Louisiana noted, “It’s fast-paced and a lot of information, but worth every second of it. I am now comfortable speaking to any size group and really enjoy it.”

It’s clear that women continue to be a rich resource for agriculture, Farm Bureau and their local communities!

(Kentucky farmer Terry Gilbert chairs the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee, which sponsors Farm Bureau Women’s Communications Boot Camp each July.)