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Top Story, Dec. 1, 2015

Farm Bureau women’s committee seeking members


AFP Correspondent

The Women’s Leadership Committee of the New Jersey Farm Bureau is seeking members in several counties around the state.
Members of the committee had a table at the annual Farm Bureau Convention in Princeton.
They were collecting donations for their hunger program but also seeking more members.
Samantha Jany, outgoing secretary of the New Jersey committee, pointed out women play every imaginable role on a farm, from management to marketing.
They also play a large role in community service. They support soup kitchens in all 21 counties, but don’t have representatives from 12 of those counties, including some of the more rural.
Jane Brodhecker, past president of the committee, said there are no regular members from her county, Sussex.
The executive committee is separate from the regular membership which is ideally made up of two representatives from each county.
Middlesex and Gloucester counties are each short one member and several others, including Atlantic, Bergen and Camden, have to representatives at all, Brokhecker said.
“We represent all sorts of agriculture,” Jany said, “daffodils to dairy. Grain, alpacas, produce.”
A full complement of members would make their work easier throughout the state.
Soup kitchens represent an important, but small, part of the WLC’s community service.
Chief among them are the educational programs, Jany said.
Among the educational commitments of the group are safety programs for farmers and for children, she added.
Safety includes many components, from on-farm safety around machinery to less specific matters. “We talk about sun safety, both on and off the farm,” Jany said.
Another focus is on education in the local communities. “We bring a different perspective of agriculture,” she said of the committee’s ventures into schools.
They teach children about the importance of locally grown food.
“We set up displays at fairs and events,” Jany said.
They don’t stop with elementary and high schools, they also work at the college level teaching teachers to instruct children about agriculture, according to Vilma Hockenberry of Hunterdon County, the chair of the committee.
“We are often asked to come back,” Hockenberry said. She is proud of the WLC work in public awareness.
“We try to help women become better spokespersons for the agricultural community,” Brodhecker said. “We always send someone to the National Agricultural Leadership Convention.”
Another long-time recipient of WLC largess is Ronald McDonald House.
Hockenberry said in her first years on the committee the only Ronald McDonald House in the state was in Camden. The group sponsored a bedroom, providing linens and any other item needed by the house as families come and go.
“Then we heard about one starting in New Brunswick,” Hockenberry said.
The group sponsored the kitchen with pot holders, cookies trays, small appliances and other needs.
The newest Ronald McDonald House in the state is in Long Branch.
The WLC provides bread and dairy products monthly to that house as well as to the other two.
There are 20 bedrooms in the Camden house, eight in Long Branch and six in New Brunswick, but the WLC and other organizations are working to raise funds to double the size of the New Brunswick house.
That house has served families of critically ill children at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital but another critical care trauma facility opened in the city and the house needs to serve families there as well, Hockenberry said.
Hockenberry said the structure of the WLC has changed since she first became involved, specifically term limits on officers which she said helped bring new blood and new ideas into the organization.
For information on joining, contact