JAMESTOWN—Women who attend a leadership development conference in September will have a rare opportunity to taste food from the Washington, D.C.-based Founding Farmers restaurant.
The first annual Women in Leadership Development (WILD) conference kicks off in Jamestown on Sept. 21-22. The conference is one of a variety of educational programs hosted by the Farmers Union for its members.
Carla Edinger, member operations coordinator for North Dakota Farmers Union, said in recent years the Farmers Union has really developed its women development programs.
The North Dakota Farmers Union and Agraria, LLC own Founding Farmers restaurant, which opened in 2008, just blocks away from the White House. Its purpose is to bring fresh farm-to-table American cuisine to customers from products sourced to family farms and ranches.
Chefs from Jamestown College are working closely with the restaurant’s culinary staff to replicate food from the popular eatery. A live webcast also will allow conference participants to interact with chefs in a cooking demonstration and virtual tour of the restaurant.
North Dakota Farmers Union built its first restaurant in 2006, called Agraria, in the District’s Georgetown neighborhood. Major flooding destroyed the restaurant in 2011, but rebuilding is underway
Due to the success of Founding Farmers, a third farmer-branded restaurant opened in Potomac, Md in November 2011.
All three restaurants are committed to using family farm-based ingredients from U.S. producers, including those in North Dakota.
“The menu for lunch is just as enticing as our packed conference program,” said Edinger.
Along with a gourmet lunch, a professional trainer from Fred Pryor Seminars will give valuable communication tips for women to build their speaking confidence. Motivational speakers and breakout sessions will cover parliamentary procedure, precision agriculture, farm programs, ND 2.0: The Next Chapter, women and cooperative boards, and running for elected positions.
“This is an opportunity for women of all walks of life to learn from one another and enhance their leadership skills, and we’re going to mix it up with a batch of fun,” said Edinger. “The event theme, Find Your Voice, Tell Your Story, is designed to empower women to become more involved in their communities and organizations.”
The conference begins Friday at 6 p.m. with a pre-conference party at the Quality Inn. Free appetizers and wine will be provided until 9 p.m.
The conference continues Saturday at 8 a.m. with a welcoming, and keynote speaker, Jessie Veeder, gives her address at 8:30. Lunch featuring menu items from Founding Fathers will be served at 11:30, and the remainder of the afternoon will feature speakers and sessions, ending at 5 p.m. A speech by North Dakota Congressional candidate Pam Gulleson ends the day’s activities.
Veeder, of western North Dakota, will speak to participants of the WILD conference about her success as a musician, writer and rancher. Her ability to advocate for her passions, agriculture and music, is the focus of her keynote address.
Rhonda Lura, of Carrington, plans to attend the conference for the workshop and also as a vendor. She sells Wild Tree products, which is an all-natural food line, containing products without msg, preservatives and chemicals.
She is also excited to hear inspirational speakers and socialize with other women.
“I’m always looking for ways to improve my speaking skills and ways I can be stronger as a woman,” she said.
Lura attended a WILD supper in January and was inspired by hearing stories of other women being stronger and having better leadership skills.
She said she wants to run for a position on the Foster County Famers Union Board, and feels the WILD events will help her succeed at that.
Lura encourages all women to attend the conference.
“This might give (women) the strength to speak up,” she said. “I think we have a lot to bring to the table. I think there’s probably some women out there, who, once they hear that one inspirational story, it might be a life changing thing to them.”
The conference is open to all women. Conference partners include the Farm Service Agency, Red River Valley Research Corridor, Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives, and USDA Rural Development.
Those interested may register online at www.ndfu.org/wild  or call (800) 366-8331 ext. 127.