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Promoting agriculture Zimmerman discusses ANCW and presidency

Written by Heather Loraas

Casper – Penny Zimmerman, American National CattleWomen (ANCW) president, spoke at the Nov. 27 luncheon for the Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous reminiscing on her time as the ANCW president and serving the organization.

“It has been exciting to meet people and CattleWomen across the country,” said Zimmerman.

Background

Zimmerman is originally from Minneapolis, Minn. but went to college at Arizona State University, where she met her husband. They lived in Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Nevada over the course of 12 years.

She was an elementary school teacher for 28 years before she retired to focus on being ANCW president.

“My family grew used to the West and the culture, which is obviously different from Minnesota, but we enjoyed meeting people very much,” Zimmerman said. “We moved back to Minnesota, and my kids became involved in 4-H. I started them off with sheep because they are smaller and easier to handle than cattle.”

Now, consumers are two or three generations removed from agriculture, which Zimmerman believes is a problem because they have no idea what agriculture is and how they are affected by it every day.

“I remember my daughter had friends over one night, and they laid on these small square bales of hay in the barn watching our sheep during lambing season. My daughter didn’t think much of it, but her friends, who were not involved with agriculture, watched a few lambs be born. They would go, ‘Oh cool’ or, ‘Oh yuck,’ but they were learning about the basics of life,” she told the crowd.

ANCW

Zimmerman detailed how she has had the opportunity to travel through many states, meet new people and attend multiple annual CattleWomen meetings.

“ANCW has promoted and supported CattleWomen across the country since the early 1950s,” she mentioned, noting ANCW has 26 affiliated states.

She said going into classrooms to talk with kids about agriculture is a great experience and urged the crowd to use tools provided by ANCW to educate consumers, help them learn more about the industry and get them to tell agriculture’s story.

“We need to tell our story,” Zimmerman emphasized.

She recommended people interested in teaching or promoting agriculture share their stories and said people interested in legislation can help, as well.

“We can be involved in what’s happening in Washington, D.C. by connecting with state senators and congressmen. We have those opportunities as women with a passion for the agriculture and the beef industry,” urged Zimmerman.

She mentioned ANCW is a grassroots organization that spreads the word about agriculture because there is constant opposition, misinformation and rumors, which portray agriculture badly. 

“I really enjoyed being ANCW president and meeting people around the country as I traveled. I want to thank President-elect Gwen Geis for her support, and it’s been a pleasure to be in Wyoming as the home state of the next ANCW president,” she concluded.

President-elect

Gwen Geis of Gillette will take over as ANCW president in 2018.

About 10 years ago, Geis became involved with Wyoming CattleWomen (WCW) and moved up through the ranks to be vice president and president of WCW.

“I started attending ANCW meetings when I was WCW president and vice president and, after a couple of years, got more involved. I came away from my first ANCW convention as a board of directors member, then just continued to be involved and moved up through the national ranks,” said Geis. “I enjoy working with CattleWomen across the country.”

She got involved with ANCW because she believes agriculturalists need to be able to share their stories, what they do and how they raise their livestock.

“ANCW members are all working towards the same goal, even though our operations are different coast-to-coast,” Geis noted.

When looking towards her coming presidency, she is looking forward to traveling and meeting women in more states across the country.

“The same people tend to be at the national convention and the regional meetings every year. I’m looking forward to meeting people in different states and local members on a more personal basis,” said Geis.

She believes there will be challenges as ANCW president. Currently, ANCW is operating with no staff, so all of the women involved are volunteers.

“Serving on a strictly volunteer basis is a bit of challenge,” noted Geis, adding that maintaining membership and providing programs for members are additional hurdles she will often face in the coming year.

ANCW is a unique organization of women who are in the beef industry, for the most part, according to Geis.

“Members don’t have to own beef cattle, but it’s a good organization to be a part of to learn some leadership skills,” she said. “We have a voice across the country, and people can relate to us. I think some of the younger women are starting to see that about ANCW.”

To become a member, Geis recommended visiting ANCW’s website or contacting any of the state or national ANCW officers.

“There isn’t an ANCW affiliate in every state, but people can still be members without a state organization,” Geis stated.

Heather Loraas is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at heather@wylr.net.