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Jamestown Area Chamber celebrates Women in Ag

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- When Alicia Harstad, Courtney VanDyke and Tiffany Rudolph started thinking about holding an event specific to women in agriculture, they didn't know how the effort would be received.

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Participants at the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce's Ag and Energy Committee's Women in Ag event tour the gardens at Dakota Sun Gardens and Winery on Aug. 3, 2017, while participating in a scavenger hunt. (Jenny Schlecht/Agweek)

JAMESTOWN, N.D. - When Alicia Harstad, Courtney VanDyke and Tiffany Rudolph started thinking about holding an event specific to women in agriculture, they didn't know how the effort would be received.

They planned an Aug. 3 event that would take up to 40 women by bus from Jamestown, N.D., to Carrington, N.D., to tour Dakota Sun Gardens & Winery . The trio set things up, then waited to see whether anyone would be interested in the Women in Ag event.

With almost no advertising, the event sold out. The evening included a scavenger hunt, dinner and wine tasting.

"We really hope people get an opportunity to network and to learn from each other and celebrate their role in agriculture," Harstad said.

VanDyke explained she, Harstad and Rudolph are members of the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce's Ag & Energy Committee. After realizing how many of the committees events were tailored toward men, they decided to put together an event that would be catered to - and exclusively for - women.

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Women, said VanDyke, do the same on-the-farm jobs as men in many cases. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Stutsman County that year had 383 farms and 392 women listed as operators on those farms. Ninety nine of the women were considered the "principal operators."

The event, however, wasn't just for farm or ranch women in the traditional sense, but for women working in any aspect of agriculture. VanDyke, who farms "on the side" with her husband, works in ag lending for Bank Forward in Jamestown. Other attendees worked for implement dealers, insurance agencies, government agencies and other fields of agriculture, along with many who do live or work on farms. VanDyke pointed out that women hold many financial and marketing roles in agriculture, as well as producing many value-added products, from homemade soaps to herbal teas.

"We wanted to be sure to recognize them and have a fun night out for the ladies," she said.

Once in Carrington, the group was met by Dakota Sun owners Bruce and Merleen Gussiaas, who explained their own agricultural background and journey into winemaking. Then, the women set out on a scavenger hunt set up by VanDyke to look for different figurines in the gardens.

Wine tasting and dinner on the patio followed. The evening was unusually calm and temperate, allowing for conversation while tasting 10 of the wines made at Dakota Sun. Afterward, many in the group went to the wine tasting room to purchase bottles to take home. A couple of favorites seemed to be Blackberry Delight and Haskap wines.

When the bus arrived back in Jamestown, the group gave the organizers a resounding round of applause, indicating repeat events likely will find as much of an audience.

That is the committee's plan.

"We hope to continue doing events like this in the future," Harstad said.

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They also used the event to garner nominations for their new Agricultural Women of the Year award. Nominations for the award, for women who live within 75 miles of Jamestown, are due Dec. 31. The award will be presented at the chamber's annual Farmers Appreciation Banquet in February 2018. For more information on the award, call 701-252-4830.

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