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Demetria Mosley, Published July 13 2012

Growth potential: Program aims to get more women into farming

If you go

What: L.I.FE (Ladies Investing in Farm Education) Tractor Safety class

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Valley City (N.D.) Winter Show Building

Info: The event is for women only and free of charge. RSVP to Andrea or Jillian at (701) 252-0580 by noon Tuesday.

For more information on LIFE visit Facebook.com/jamestownimp or contact Andrea Gefroh at agefroh@jamestownimp.com or calling (701) 252-0580.

WEST FARGO - Women have long lent a helping hand on the farm, often learning as they go on the job.

As of 2007, about 13 percent of the 32,000 farms in North Dakota had women as the principal operators, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I think a lot of women are interested and want to get into farming, but I know hardly any that really get into it,” said Trina Kalm, vegetable farmer and owner of Hildebrants FM Farmers Market in West Fargo.

Kalm grows her crops on an acre of land on her father’s farm near Grafton.

“I’ve been farming since I’ve been a little girl, so all my experience has been hands on,” said Kalm.

Now a new program is providing women – like Kalm – formal farm training.

This spring, Andrea Gefroh and Jillian Coppin started an event called LIFE – Ladies Investing in Farm Education.

“We had women fill out surveys, and we found that they wanted to know more about how to do general stuff on the farm,” said Gefroh, integrated solutions consultant at Jamestown Implement. “We want women to become more involved on the farm so they can be seen as a partner.”

LIFE events are for women only and free of charge, giving more women the opportunity to come, said Gefroh.

About 20 women attended the first event in May on farm safety.

“We did some demonstrations on how to be safe with dummy dolls and let me just say the dummies did not make it,” said Gefroh.

On Tuesday, the second event will focus on tractor safety, maneuvering and operation.

“The women will first do some classroom work then head outside to an obstacle course with the tractors. If anyone feels uncomfortable about driving, they can sit next to someone in the buddy seat,” said Gefroh.

Upon completion of the event, each person will receive a certification that verifies that they went through a tractor training course.

Coppin and Gefroh hope to host events like these four times a year with each one teaching a different skill.

“We want every LIFE event to be new information, so having the same classes over and over is not what we want to do,” said Gefroh.

For Kalm, she’s open to some formal education on farming, but she’s says most women are still learning by doing the work.

“I may go to a few winter seminars to learn new things, but I don’t know any woman who really goes to school for it,” said Kalm.