Mission & History

A lot has happened in agriculture over the past 25 years.  While we change and adapt to better meet the needs of our participants our Mission remains true.

The purpose of the Farm Women’s Symposium (FWS) is to strengthen agriculture, addressing the ever-changing needs of people involved in farming by focusing on women. It provides opportunities for leadership and professional development; strives to enhance communication and management skills, to build an effective family team, and to develop a network of supportive friendships.  The Farm Women’s Symposium encourages participation from everyone involved with agriculture.


The Farm Women’s Symposium was developed by Michigan State University in 1992 as a result of the “Alar scare”.  Women were requesting technical information about pesticides to assist them in answering the public’s questions about food safety and farming practices.  That first year, topics ranged from pesticide residues to working with the media.  In 1999, committee members Barb Zahm and Sheryl (Smith) Oswalt worked with Kent County Extension Educator, Rebecca Finneran to develop a formal 501(c)5 non-profit organization.  The program is run by a volunteer committee of farm women living throughout Michigan representing several farm commodities. 


The interest in professional development for farm women has continued to expand, and with the help of social media we are now attracting the attendance of participants from outside our home state.  Sponsorship of participants from organizations such as GreenStone Farm Credit Services, county Farm Bureaus and the Michigan Corn Growers Association (just to name a few) has been critical to our continued success.  Donations of cash and silent auction items from participants and businesses help us generate funds allowing participants to attend at a minimal cost.


This conference has a history of lifting participants’ spirits and stimulating their intellects after a long winter, through offering a variety of topics and interaction with University and industry professionals.  The program also hosts entertainers and “ag-vocates” such as Trent Loos and Jolene Brown.


As market fluctuations, weather reports, anti-ag agendas, consumer concerns, etc. circulate instantly now across the nation and world, we in agriculture, as we become fewer in number, must take advantage of tools such as Farm Women’s Symposium to grow and strengthen our collective voice as we strive to efficiently feed and clothe an expanding population.

Still Want More Information?

July 2020 Cultivator

December 2019 Cultivator

Click below to hear Sheryl Oswalt's interview with Wild Bill of WIN98.5 about women in ag on a segment of Farm to Family.