Women's Leadership Boot Camp Teaches Communication Skills
The American Farm Bureau Federation honored 16 farm and ranch leaders as graduates of the organization’s ninth annual Women’s Communications Boot Camp. The group of agricultural leaders was recognized after completing an intensive three-day course featuring sessions on working with the media, public speaking, testifying and social media. Boot Camp graduates are encouraged to go back to their own communities and share their messages about agriculture with the non-farming public. Rhonda Boyd from Alder was selected to participate in this important conference. “This boot camp provided an excellent opportunity to learn how to improve our skills in communications as agricultural producers. We benefitted from the training on developing speeches, using social media and interviewing with newspapers, television and other media outlets,” explained Boyd. Each participant selected a topic to research, with Boyd choosing Water of the U.S. (WOTUS). “I’ve been doing my homework on WOTUS because water affects all of us whether you have an irrigated farm, a ranch raising cows and calves, or as a consumer.”
Boyd says the greatest skill she honed was confidence. “Often you’re a ranch mom in an isolated location and you are not necessarily building those communication skills. You need to get confidence to let your voice be heard,” she said. “I believe people want to hear from us, more than from a lobbyist or spokesperson for an organization or company. Often you must explain why what you do directly affects them. For instance, if you’re a farmer who has to wait for a certain permit, you can’t put in your crop. If you don’t have a crop to sell, you go out of business and that affects communities and consumers.”
Meeting with Congressmen in Washington, D.C. was part of the training. Boyd visited about WOTUS with legislative assistants in Representative Ryan Zinke and Senator Tester’s offices. “I told them how WOTUS would affect our ranch and agriculture in Montana,” said Boyd. “Representative Zinke’s staff explained where he stands on that issue. I believe we need to help Senator Tester understand that we have excellent relationships with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and with the Natural Resource Conservation Service. We don’t need more federal oversight. We are doing a good job protecting water quality. I believe WOTUS is a slap in the face of producers and to each of those program administrators who work hard on water quality issues.”
Boyd’s favorite part of the training was the camaraderie and passion for agriculture no matter what commodity or region the other women were from. “Whether you raise produce for a farm stand south of Seattle or run a large ranch in New Mexico, there is a bond of spirit and support. Sometimes I think we feel alone and wonder if anyone else understands. I now realize there are others out there who do, thanks to my experiences at this conference.”
The AFBWLC sponsors the Women’s Communications Boot Camp. The program has more than 140 graduates and is open to all women involved in Farm Bureau.