Monday, March 14, 2011

The Importance of Networking.

Last week I attended a presentation at a neighboring town's library by a Community Fund, based in Albany.  I had heard a great deal about groups like this - a good, local source of both training and funding for small businesses.  The small room was packed with people from youngsters to oldsters.  The trio who presented the information were relaxed, well-informed, and well-spoken.  They teased questions from the audience - as I'm sure a lot of you know, small town, rural folks tend to be less inclined to speaking than they are to listening.  But the Fund people were very good at what they do, and before long, hands rose around the room and frustrations bubbled up about regulations, confusing terms, fear of business plans and red tape, the lack of good employees.  The Fund people encouraged discussion and made notes, their goal being to go back to their office and put together answers to our questions and needs. 

One of the themes that kept circulating around the room, was the need for a way to network with the many talented people in a community.  As everyone around the room introduced themselves, there appeared an accountant, a business plan writer, a lawyer, a handyman, a housecleaner, a school bus driver, a couple of farmers, a family with entrepreneurial sons, a mechanic.  It was clear that there is a need for a venue for networking in the community.

That got me thinking (and talking to Mel, who attended with me) about how great it would be to form a network of farming/homesteading women as a resource to all.  There are so many smart, creative women out here that know so much - have worked out all the kinks and have found better ways to do things.  As is apparent from all the homesteading wannabes (myself included) and fledgling farmettes, this seems to be a trend that is gaining strength.  There is a lot of mis-information out there as well.  That is one of the drawbacks of trends.  When something is hot, everyone wants in on it and pretty soon the market is flooded with books and blogs and t-shirts from people who can sure market themselves, but don't have the sense to come in out of the rain.  Or bring their livestock in either.

I am curious as to how many of you have had or have been mentors.  I am very lucky because I have smart, creative friends who have had a headstart on me and have been willing and generous with their knowledge.  What do you think about such a project - a network of farming women?


  1. I LOVE this idea! Are you thinking local chapters or a nation (world?) wide thing? Web-based? If everyone who wanted to "join" would contribute a stipend, I'd be tickled pink to set it up (on the Internet) and do the administration of it.

    Mentors: in a small way, I suspect that I am that to some folks. And, I've taught "Chickens with Mama" (ha!) at the local folk school. As far as HAVING mentors goes, tho: Mama and Papa Pea are there for every single homesteading / farming question I could have! I'm a lucky, lucky girl. :)

    And, you couldn't have hit the nail more squarely on the head with the following:

    "There is a lot of mis-information out there as well. That is one of the drawbacks of trends. When something is hot, everyone wants in on it and pretty soon the market is flooded with books and blogs and t-shirts from people who can sure market themselves, but don't have the sense to come in out of the rain. Or bring their livestock in either."

    I think that MISinformation does WAY more harm than a complete LACK of information ever could!

  2. This is a great idea. I have learned so much from reading blogs written by women who have lots of experience to share and those learning like me. I went to a lambing clinic this past weekend, and it is really great to connect with fellow shepherds of different experience. I have 2 women I think of as mentors, they are priceless.

  3. I would love something like this. I have always wished there was someone local who would be a go to when we got lost on something, or even just someone to swap ideas with. I have found that most people think I am off the deep end, not at all interested in this type of life. The only place I have found like minds is online.It is comforting to know you guys are out there.

  4. I think this is great idea! I've yet to find many like-minded folks in my physical geographic area (yet?) or a mentor but at I've drawn great strength from the blogging community. I hope one day to be able to mentor someone -- give back, come full circle, and all that.

  5. Chicken Mama - I would not be surprised if you were not a mentor to many. Thank you for your offer -- I will be in touch!

    Heidi - Thank you for commenting! I would love to attend a lambing clinic, as opposed to doing this by the seat of my pants. I am lucky to have two friends who are pros at lambing/kidding and are nearby, since I have to leave for work in the mornings.

    Jane - Ditto, my dear. I have gotten so much positive energy from all of you. It's like a lifeline.

    Fiona - For all the excellent things about living in a rural area on a farm, there are drawbacks in that people have no place to meet anymore. I think things like knitting and spinning groups are a great way to connect - especially when those knitters/spinners raise their own wool-bearers. I like the idea of coming full circle, and paying ahead.

  6. While we can't currently do all we want to because of the military, we do intend to go back to a homesteading way of life, (me, anyways - hubby is new to it, although he grew up in hippie Oregon so he likes living frugally LOL). I'd have to say my mentors are my family, since I grew up on a farm and had the advantage of seeing all the bad with the good, so I know what I'm in for :) I think the networking thing is a great idea, but you are right about the "wanna-bes", sure would be nice to keep the riff-raff away - i.e. those that are doing it to be "trendy". Wow, trendy is definitely not what comes to mind when I remember moving to grandma's house one month because the fuel oil truck couldn't get to the farm to fill us up due to the snow...LOL