What Women Want: Women Farmers and Food Entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest

Presented by Dr. Lisa Benson, Executive Director, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation; Amy Gilroy, Development Manager, Oregon Department of Agriculture; Spring Alaska OlsonOwner and Principal Ecologist-Indigenous Agriculturalist, Sakari Botanicals

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation conducted a survey in 2019  with women farmers and entrepreneurs in Oregon and Washington State to better understand the current status of their businesses and their future goals. NASDA Foundation administered the survey in partnership with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Washington State Department of Agriculture. In this session, we’ll describe what we learned about women entrepreneurs and farmers, and the opportunities and obstacles they’re facing. We will also share strategies on how to better support women farmers and entrepreneurs with business development training and resources.

Featured Sponsor: Energy Trust of Oregon

Click here to view a recording of the session.

Dr. Lisa Benson
Executive Director, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation

Dr. Lisa Benson joined National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in December 2017 to lead the NASDA Foundation as the organization’s first executive director. Previously, Lisa worked for the American Farm Bureau Federation as the director of Rural Development. She supported 1,000 rural entrepreneurs with over $500,000 in startup funds, mentorship and national publicity. Lisa connected rural entrepreneurs with ag tech businesses to venture capital funds and accelerator programs. Benson earned a PhD in agricultural and Extension education from Virginia Tech, and worked for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida for over 10 years. Lisa grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska where her father was a fisherman and bush pilot.

Amy Gilroy
Development Manager, Oregon Department of Agriculture

Amy Gilroy is a development manager at the Oregon Department of Agriculture in the Agriculture Development and Marketing Program. Amy helps producers, processors, ranchers, and distributors develop food service markets and provides support for farm and food businesses ready to scale and grow. In her free time, she likes to wander around art museums, backpack Oregon’s canyonlands, and get her hands dirty on her friends’ fruit and vegetable farms. 

Spring Alaska Olson
Owner and Principal Ecologist-Indigenous Agriculturalist, Sakari Botanicals

My name is Upingakraq (time when the ice breaks). Spring Alaska Schreiner is the owner and principal ecologist-indigenous agriculturalist managing all things glorious on Sakari Farms related to growing, giving, teaching, and keeping the beautiful farm in order. Sakari Farms is in Tumalo, the heart of Central Oregon. The farm works in collaboration with the Central Oregon Seed Exchange as a unique Deschutes County based cold climate seed bank, offering free seed and agricultural education to the public. Sakari Farms also host Sakari Botanicals, our value-added product culinary and healing tribal business. The farm houses a unique NW Tribal Seed Bank dedicated to our regional and national Tribal Members only. Sakari Farms is unique in that we grow Native American Tribal foods, offer on-farm technical assistance through on-farm classes, and implement research-based tribal seed production, contract and wholesale growing. Our current products consist of specialty tribal peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and one-of-a-kind native flowers. Our farm practices organic and biodynamic growing practices and holds the Intertribal Agricultural Council’s “Made by Native American” patent certification. Spring was born and raised in Valdez, Alaska and the daughter of Chief Helmer J. Olson of the Valdez Native Tribe. Inupiaq lineage allows a unique/diverse cultural perspective of use of historical food systems ranging from Alaska to Oregon and regional tribal lands on Turtle Island. Spring serves on multiple regional and national agricultural boards and educational committees and serves as an advocate for local farmers and tribal members. Spring was the recent recipient of the 2019 NASDA Women Farm to Food Award, honoring her achievements regionally in value-added food production and small farm education. She participates in the USDA Indian Agricultural Council, Made by Native American Export Food Program, Indigenous Seed Keepers Network, First Nations Development Institute, Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, American Indian Housing Authority, Warm Springs Indian Tribe Community Garden, High Desert Food and Farm Alliance, Deschutes County Noxious Weed Advisory Board, and many other regional educational assistance programs.