Women’s Leadership Conference has plenty of reasons to celebrate

By Heather Carlile

CHASKA, Minn. — Sue Kruger’s story came full circle last week.

As a keynote speaker at the Women’s Agricultural Leadership Conference in Chaska, she spoke of how she attended the conference for the first time a few years ago. She had left feeling motivated by the speeches she listened to and the women she met. Her momentum led to convincing her husband to start a biomass heating business, Eagle Bio-Fuels, on their farm. Today the business is growing and she’s the CEO.

At the end of her story, she said the conference inspired her to take on the leadership role.


"I hope I did the same for other women today," she said.

The conference is a networking and fellowship opportunity for women in all aspects of agriculture, with sessions on leadership, current events, agriculture issues and skill-building opportunities. Participants may also attend student presentations, which give a viewpoint of the up-and-coming members of the agriculture industry.

This was the conference’s 10th anniversary. Doris Mold of Sunrise Agricultural Associates and past-president of Minnesota Agri-Women, has worked with the conference since the start. She said the idea for a women’s ag conference was prompted by a study that found there weren’t many women actively involved in leadership roles in the state’s agriculture industry.

At that time, Mold was on a leadership committee for the Minnesota Ag Project with Robin Kinney, assistant commissioner of agriculture. Mold, Kinney and others knew they could put an event together that would encourage women to step into those roles.

Over the last decade, the conference has grown in power and impact, Mold said. She’s seen new business ideas — like Kruger’s — emerge and relationships formed.

When Kinney addressed the attendees, she urged them to become agriculture advocates to expand the knowledge base and appreciation for the industry.

The conference also honors agricultural mentors. This year’s mentoring award winners were Steve Pooch of the Minnesota State Fair, Marie LeFebvre of the Minnesota State Fair, Susan Anderson of the University of Minnesota’s Agriculture in the Classroom program, Leah Addington of the Minnesota FFA Association, Sen. Steve Dille and dairy producers Jerry and Linda Jennissen.

Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau presented Mold with a certificate signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and herself, that recognized the conference’s long-running history. She also commended the group for their contributions to Minnesota, a state where one in five jobs depends on agriculture.


Mold said there’s still work to do to get more women involved.

"Remember to be mentors yourself," she said.

The conference isn’t for, or organized by, any specific organization. This year’s event was coordinated by District 11 Agri-Women and supported by many organizations and businesses. Major sponsorship partners were AgStar Financial Services and the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

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