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Women in Agriculture Ranch Meeting and Luncheon Draws Crowd

By Melissa Blair, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist

More than 100 women and 45 men were in attendance at the Women in Agriculture Ranch Meeting and Luncheon held September 15th at the East Foundation’s San Antonio Viejo Ranch, south of Hebbronville. This was the largest adult event ever held at the East Foundation’s ranch.

“The workshop came about after women from Duval County attended the 10th Annual Minority Landowner magazine conference in San Antonio in February 2016,” said organizer Jessica Benavides-Paredes, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil conservationist and Texas Federal Women’s Program manager. “They wanted a similar event in south Texas to help other ranch and farm women expand their knowledge on agriculture resources and options for their property.” USDA-Farm Service Agency and NRCS staff visit with workshop attendees at their booths.

The free workshop was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, East Foundation, Dow Chemical, Texas Farm Credit, Texas Farm Bureau, Zapata Soil and Water Conservation District, Loma Blanca Soil and Water Conservation District and Starr Soil and Water Conservation District. Continental breakfast was provided by Wildlife in Focus and South Texans’ Property Rights Association.

“Even though this workshop was specifically targeted for women, we were excited to see many husbands, nephews and sons attend the conference as well,” said Benavides-Paredes.

The agriculture workshop was part of the USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative, of which Texas is one of 21 states within the initiative. This event exemplifies the initiative’s mission of providing assistance to individual and communities in persistent poverty areas for improving their quality of life and creating conservation opportunities in rural communities and tribes across the nation. 

Attendee, Nelda Garcia, a rancher in Ben Bolt said, “The topics provided by the speakers in the program covered many of the questions that have been asked by attendees, such as how to continue the operations of the family business or how to begin an operation on a parcel of land inherited with little or no knowledge in ranching.”

Speakers included Tyler Campbell, chief program officer and principal scientist, and Tina Y. Buford, education project manager, at East Foundation.Tyler Campbell, shares about East Foundation's research, education, and outreach.

“The East Foundation supports wildlife conservation and other public benefits of ranching and private land stewardship through research, education and outreach,” said Campbell. “Significant progress has been made toward the East Foundation’s program priorities, which are to conduct research that makes a difference; improve university programs; expand education opportunities in South Texas, and lead effective outreach efforts.”

Buford said, “The East Foundation appreciates the opportunity to partner with like-minded organizations such as NRCS to support South Texas producers. Information sharing empowers landowners to make informed decisions that will benefit both them and the land they steward.” 

Dr. Brodie Miller, Region 5 director with the Texas Animal Health Commission gave an update on fever ticks in south Texas. He explained how these ticks can transmit disease pathogens that cause bovine babesiosis and anaplasmosis, can kill cattle and how cattle raisers can take steps to protect their herds.

Eric Garza, wildlife biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department shared about Chronic Waste Disease (CWD) and its impacts on hunting and deer breeding.

Attorney at law, David T. Garcia, shared about legal aspects of ranch ownership including estate planning, taxes and the process to follow if land or property is damaged by undocumented immigrants. Ranch and estate planning offered through Texas Farm Bureau was covered by Kari Hendricks, with Texas Farm Bureau Insurance of Alice.

Bruce Hoffman, chairman of the board for Wildlife in Focus, shared how the program raises public awareness and promotes wildlife and habitat conservation within Texas through an annual photo contest with professional photographers and ranch owners in which the outdoors is captured in all its splendor. Kritters 4 Kids is the educational component using the Wildlife in Focus books in the classroom and at camps to teach children about the environment and photography.Zachary Lowe, NRCS rangeland management specialist, shares about benefits of conservation planning.

Charlotte Hellen with South Texans’ Property Rights Association shared the importance of being a member of the association and the partnerships they have with state-wide organizations, as well as partnerships at the federal and state levels.

Attorney David T. Garcia shares about estate planning with landowners.​Roel Garza, farm loan officer with USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided information about low interest loans and other financial assistance programs that are available to help with farm ownership, improvements and expansion, and even youth with an agricultural project, such as livestock for showing in FFA or 4-H.

Yvonne Garza, assistant area director with USDA-Rural Development, talked about the Value Added Produce Grant, which helps agricultural producers enter into value added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. She also discussed generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities and increasing producer income which are the goals of the program. Other programs included the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Programs that provide guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements.

Zachery Lowe, NRCS range management specialist in Zapata, shared about the agency’s voluntary conservation planning and technical assistance focused on wildlife and livestock, plus the benefits of a conservation plan.       

For more information, contact Jessica Benavides-Paredes at (361) 325-2236 ext. 109.