CONKLIN — Western Michigan apple grower Helen Dietrich was among a group of 16 Farm Bureau women who recently completed the American Farm Bureau Federation's ninth annual Women's Communications Boot Camp.
The group of motivated agricultural leaders from across the country was recognized this week for completing the intensive three-day course featuring sessions on working with the media, public speaking, testifying and messaging.
"I had a great experience and enjoyed meeting women from all over the U.S. who share a common love and enthusiasm for agriculture," Dietrich said. "By preparing a speech and presenting it three times—and having feedback each time—you could see improvement in confidence and ability."
Dietrich and her family are members of the Ottawa County Farm Bureau. Together they operate Ridgeview Orchards near Conklin, in the heart of western Michigan's fabled Fruit Ridge region.
"Boot Camp graduates are encouraged to go back to their own communities and share their messages about agriculture with the non-farming public," said Sherry Saylor, an Arizona farmer and chair of the American Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee.
"Food is a hot topic in our country—in everyone's lives," Saylor said. "As farmers we need to be transparent about what we do to produce food on our farms and our ranches, and continue to work to build relationships with consumers."
The other 2015 Boot Camp grads are Rhonda Boyd, Montana; Megan Dwyer, Illinois; Brenda Frederickson, Rhode Island; Debbie Freeland, Alabama; Carol Guthrie, Idaho; Tracey Harding, North Carolina; Sarah Harward, Utah; Heidi Humphries, New Mexico; Heather Keenen, Arkansas; Kacie Luckett, Louisiana; Rosella Mosby, Washington; Katie Reichling, Wisconsin; Sheryl Seib, Indiana; Anna Trapani, New Jersey; and Lisa Wherry, Pennsylvania.
AFBF's Women's Communications Boot Camp now boasts more than 140 graduates and is open to all women involved in Farm Bureau; participants are selected through an application process.