Plate to Politics Educates Over 160 Women this Spring through Empowering Workshops

by Ash Bruxvoort

WFAN’s Plate to Politics program provided skills based political leadership training to over 160 women in food and agriculture this spring. Our spring workshop tour visited Des Moines, Iowa; East Troy, Wisconsin; Falcon Heights, Minnesota; and Tucson, Arizona.

The one-day workshops trained women how to lead and motivate people to action by sharing their unique stories. A well practiced stump speech is the number one tool candidates and activists will use when announcing their campaign, raising money, and moving people to action.

“It was very obvious that women in food and agriculture were ready to ramp up their advocacy this spring,” said Ash Bruxvoort, WFAN’s Plate to Politics Coordinator. "We're excited to serve more women through the program and provide ongoing resources through our national partner, VoteRunLead."

WFAN’s Plate to Politics program offers leadership development training to women so they can channel their passion for healthy food and farming into serving on boards and commissions and running for state and federal legislative office. Since its inception in 2011, Plate to Politics has empowered nearly 900 women through in-person trainings, and produced a series of 11 webinars featuring nationally recognized women leaders, watched by more than 1,000 people to date. Women report that the trainings have ramped up their leadership, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Workshops Empower and Demystify

Jenetta Hargrove, FoodCorps service member and chef in Des Moines, primarily came to learn about policymaking and supporting women running for office.

“I learned that NOW is the time for women’s leadership and for women to support one another,” said Jenetta. “After this workshop I will encourage my friends to run, become more politically active, and actually consider running myself, which I hadn’t expected.”

Additional feedback from participants included…

“I found the workshop demystifying and loved hearing from other women already in politics. It makes me feel more confident that I have the skills to be a leader.” -Audra Christophel, participant in Tucson, Arizona

“What I discovered during the exercises was a place for me to seek out, which is an appointment to a state advisory board. The appointments are made by the Governor.  I will definitely move ahead and give it my best shot.” -Anonymous Minnesota participant

“It’s great to take a look at ourselves and what we’re all capable of. I loved hearing stories of empowered women. I liked getting up and practicing my speaking skills. I don’t often have the opportunity to do that and I don’t think most women do.” -Effie Truchon, participant in East Troy, Wisconsin

Learning From Women in the Field

Every workshop featured a panel of women in politics and leadership, as well as an inspirational keynote speaker. Sarah Lloyd, dairy farmer and 2016 congressional candidate, spoke to her experiences as a candidate at the Wisconsin training. She said the exercises in the Plate to Politics training helped prepare her for campaigning.

For women interested in running for office at any level, Sarah strongly suggests working on your stump speech. Working on this through a training like Plate to Politics is particularly helpful because we don’t get many chances to practice stump speeches, get feedback, and be timed unless we make time to do it. But a good stump speech is essential. It is the main way you communicate when running for office, and it is your first fundraising tool: inspiring people to donate to you.

“Even though I didn’t get the overt win of winning the congressional seat, there were lots of other wins that I will bring on to my next endeavor and to the larger project of building a broader network and making things better. You meet all the cool people,” she said. “You go out and talk about things that you are deeply passionate about, and guess what? People who are passionate about these issues will come out of the woodwork to talk to you. How else would you get that in normal, everyday life?”

Future Trainings

“We originally planned on doing three trainings and added a fourth when Debbie Weingarten contacted us about doing a training in Tucson," said coordinator Ash bruxvoort. "We’re very excited about the growth of this program and the potential for women in food and agriculture to gain seats at all levels of government.”

The next scheduled Plate to Politics workshop is at the WFAN Annual Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, November 2-4. This year's conference is our 20th anniversary celebration and our conference theme is Rooted in History, Growing for the Future. Women working in food and agriculture are invited to attend the conference, which features workshops on advocacy and leadership, business management, production, conservation, and land management. Registration is open here.

Interested in Hosting a Workshop? Contact Plate to Politics Coordinator Ash Bruxvoort.