The image of a farm wife in a kitchen with steam hovering over the boiling canner, wearing a flour sack apron and a beatific smile is the stuff of old movies and 1950s television.
Women play every imaginable role on a farm, from management to marketing, and also in the parallel universe of community service. The Women’s Leadership Committee of the Farm Bureau has a long history of service in New Jersey.
At their table at the Farm Bureau Convention in Princeton, Samantha Jany, former secretary of the WLC, said they were collecting donations toward its hunger program. The group supports soup kitchens in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
“We represent all sorts of agriculture,” Jany said, “daffodils to dairy. Grain, alpacas, produce.”
Besides the soup kitchens, the WLC “runs a lot of educational programs,” Jany said. Two important ones are safety programs for farmers and for children, she added. “We talk about sun safety, both on and off the farm,” she said, adding they deal with many other safety aspects as well.
Vilma Hockenberry, chair of the WLC and an active member for more than 25 years explained members go into schools to teach children about the importance of locally grown food.
“We start with the children,” Jany said. “We are very focused on education in our local communities and bring a different perspective of agriculture.”
“We set up displays at fairs and events and reach out on Facebook,” she said.
They also work at the college level teaching teachers to instruct children about agriculture.
“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,” Jane Brodhecker, a long-time member and officer said. “We always send someone to the National Agricultural Leadership Convention.”
Another long-time recipient of WLC largess is Ronald McDonald House.
Hockenberry said early on 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, cookie 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.
The WLC is short members in several counties, Brodhecker said. The group is made up of two representatives from each county, plus officers.
For information, contact http://njfb.org/womens-committee/ .