COLUMBIA, Mo. – The number of women owning farms tripled from 1978 to 2007. “More women are breeding cows and processing pigs, as well as owning the farm,” said Marcia Shannon, University of Missouri Extension swine specialist.

A new program, “Pearls of Production: Women in Agriculture,” will be held Nov. 8-9 at MU.

“This is for women producing livestock,” Shannon said. “It’s an underserved audience.” Recent USDA numbers show that of 3.3 million farms in the U.S., women own 1 million.

“It’s a workshop for boots and jeans,” Shannon said. “The second day we call ‘Hands-on, Down-and-Dirty Production.’” Women will palpate reproductive tracts of cows. They also will do necropsy on pigs or trim hooves on goats.

The working topics are beef, swine, sheep and goats, and forage and pasture management.

Big issues and hot topics in animal agriculture are covered the first day. Those range from food and health to genomics to advocacy for agriculture.

The program goes from general to specifics, Shannon said.

The opening session will be “Connection Between Food and Human Health” by Gretchen Hill of Michigan State University.

Next is “Genomics in Today’s World” by Sally Northcutt, American Angus Association, St. Joseph, Mo.

Before lunch comes “Consumer Demand for Meat Products” by Collette Kaster, Farmland Foods.

The first day ends with technologies that make life easier, marketing, leasing and banking, and animal health.

This isn’t the first time extension helped women in agriculture. The “Pearls” program is a descendent of “feminine farrowing schools.” Those were farm wives teaching farm wives how to save more piglets.

Recently calving clinics have attracted 100 women at a time.

The instructors, all women, range from farm owners to academics to ag industry leaders.

“We aim to encourage, and train, farm women to speak up for agriculture,” Shannon said. “Women can do that, as they recognize misinformation being spread about meat production.”

Sign-in on Nov. 8 starts at 8:30 a.m. at the MU Bradford Research Center, east of Columbia. The farm is part of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

The second day, breakout sessions are held at MU farms in Boone County. Beef session is at the MU Beef Farm. Pork will be in the MU Swine Teaching Barn at South Farm. Small ruminants and forage and pasture sessions are at Bradford.

The women will network in social times in the evening and on breaks.

Bradford Research Center is at 4968 Rangeline Road. From Columbia, go east 6.5 miles on Broadway/Highway WW to Rangeline Road. Signs at the intersection point south 2 miles.

The registration fee is $100, with a $25 discount before Oct. 9.

Register through the MU Conference Office at or by calling toll-free to 877-682-6663.

The fee includes meals featuring new beef and pork products. Breaks and educational texts are also included.

Program details are available at, or from Shannon at 573-882-7859 or [email protected].

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