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Serving: WI

WFU Hosts 'Tools for Stepping Out' Women's Leadership Retreat

Wisconsin Farmers Union Women's Leadership Retreat held earlier this month.

More than 30 women from across the state gathered at the Wisconsin Lions Camp in Rosholt earlier this month to discuss women in leadership in agriculture. The Wisconsin Farmers Union Women's Leadership Retreat's theme was "Tools for Stepping Out". Participants learned from stories of other women who had stepped out to take leadership positions in their co-op, their government and their community and also participated in leadership training sessions conducted by nationally renowned consultant Marilyn Hurt of Dakota, Minnesota .

The retreat was held on Nov. 7-8. Guest speakers joining WFU President Sue Beitlich included Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), Co-op Care President Tracy Dudzinski and board member Mary Ann Aker, Progressive Majority Political Director Kristen Crowell, UW Center for Cooperatives Assistant Director Anne Reynolds, and WFU Education Director Cathy Statz.

Vinehout spoke about her campaign for the Wisconsin State Senate. She said at first she was reluctant to run for the legislature.

"I had no money, I had never run for public office, and no one knew my name," said Vinehout. "I went from being a full-time dairy farmer to being chair of the Ag Senate Committee in about two years."

Many of the leaders who spoke at the conference talked about the difficulty they had in stepping up to leadership. Beitlich shared with the audience that it was a women's leadership conference at National Farmers Union that convinced her to run for the WFU board of directors in 1996 and subsequently president in 2003.

"The women's conference in Bailey, Colorado was a real turning point for me. Prior to that conference, I had not thought about being on a board nor did I recognized the traits in myself that others did that I could be a leader," she said.

The WFU Women's Retreat Planning Committee plans to hold future events in different areas of the state. This year's planning committee included Robbi Bannen of Stockholm, Katrina Becker of Athens, Karolanne Hoffman of La Crosse, Joy Kirkpatrick of the UW Center of Dairy Profitability, Lori Swanepoel of Emerald, Sarah Lloyd of Wisconsin Dells, and Carol Roth of Soldiers Grove.

Sponsors of the retreat included the CHS Foundation, The Cooperative Foundation, Landmark Services Cooperative, Gordy's IGA True Value in Chippewa Falls., Dairyland Power Cooperative and Wisconsin Farmers Union Specialty Cheese Company.

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