Central Maryland women discuss entrepreneurship
By CARYL VELISEK
WEST FRIENDSHIP, Md. — Entrepreneurship was the main focus of the 2012 Central Maryland Women in Agriculture Forum, held on March 15, at the Howard County Fairgrounds.
Hosted by the Howard County Economic Development Authority, the forum also included sessions on food safety, risk management, and using new technology. It was a day packed with information and enthusiasm.
A Texan by birth, Julie Lenzer-Kirk, of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, talked about how the women entrepreneurs’ time has come.
“Women are good communicators,” she said. “We are intuitive and possess an inner strength. We tend to see the bigger picture, like to talk, are gatherers and listen to our gut.”
The world is changing fast, she noted, and women can be powerful drivers of the economic development.
“The evidence is compelling,” she said. “Counties with women on the board out-perform those that don’t have any. Female participation in top management is strongly associated with the quality of the firm. We can change the world.”
Karen Fedor, senior marketing specialist with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, spoke about the On-Farm Food Safety Plan.
If there is a problem with listeria or e-coli, in the news, as a result of adverse headlines, people won’t buy locally because there is a perception that food is not safe, she told the group.
“When there have been outbreaks with food imported from other places, local growers have even put up signs saying their products were not from the area in question,” she said.
“The GAP — Good Ag Practices — plan is available both nationally and locally and, if followed, reduces the risk of contamination when selling your product,” she told producers.
“GAP certification builds consumer confidence,” she said.
She also emphasized the importance of testing all water sources for bacterial contamination and having them tested periodically.
There is training for producers through grants and Extension, she said.
“A food safety plan is the best defense against lawsuits,” she added.
Shannon Dill, Talbot County Extension ag agent discussed the technology available to producers.
“There is a lot out there today. Devices can make our lives much easier; technology like GPS, Broadband, desktop and laptop computers, smart phones and apps,” she said, adding there are many things to consider when purchasing a device, like amount of memory, screen sizes, keyboard size, weight, online and external storage, warranties and platforms.
“Also, what you will use it for like word processing, credit card sales, Internet browsing, e-mail, electronic books and magazines,” Dill said.
“People are not carrying a lot of cash today,” she said. “Use all the different ways we have available to market. Put yourself on the map.”
“Thinking Outside the Boxstall: Top Ten Ways to Avoid Getting a Real Job”, was an apt subject for JoAnn and Ted Dawson of Fair Winds Stables, in North East, Md.
Their business, which started as a horse farm, has expanded from trail rides to include several other agritourism ventures.
Ted Dawson listed his 10 ways to “avoid getting a real job:”
1. Never turn down business;
2. Do it yourself;
3.Diversify and delegate. When you have a lot of diversity, if one thing goes wrong, you have others to fall back on;
4. Be involved in the community;
5. Market and promote yourself with brochures, websites, radio, T.V;
6. Git ‘er done — write down a schedule for every event;
7. Make money every day;
8. Bargain hunt. Never buy anything new;
9. Be customer friendly. Return phone calls and emails promptly. Go the extra mile; and
10. Choose your partner carefully. Also choose employees carefully and have insurance for everything you do.
Dill also spoke about Annie’s Project, a series of classes designed to empower farm women to manage information systems used in critical decision making processes and to build local networks throughout the state.
“There are 187 women in Annie’s Project in the state,” Dill said. “A lot of women are there to tell their husbands what they learn with the project, some of which are marketing, estate planning and record keeping. When you have more information, you can ask better questions,” she said. “And we try to give women more information through the program.”