National leadership: Geis selected as ANCW vice presidentWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Gillette – Gwen Geis, a fourth generation rancher in Campbell County, has been involved with her local cattlewomen’s organization all of her life. She has been involved at the state level for nearly 15 years and at the national level since 2010.
In January, Geis was elected to be the vice president of American National CattleWomen (ANCW), after having already served in all of the offices at state and local levels, as well as chair for the Board of Directors for ANCW in previous years.
“I think we are headed in a really new direction with the organization, focusing on beef promotion with the women in agriculture,” Geis notes.
ANCW is currently putting an emphasis on two focus areas, including leadership and the collegiate program.
“For our women’s leadership programs, we are putting together a workshop to be held in Denver, Colo. with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) convention. It will be for ANCW state president-elects to give them an idea of how they can connect with the national organization and feed it back down to the local level,” she explains.
In April, members of ANCW will also be attending a legislative conference in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with NCBA. They will be visiting congressional candidates from each state and going through training for how to speak with congressional delegates.
ANCW is also progressing from their high school level beef ambassador program to work with college level students, who may not be as limited in their abilities to participate in program events.
“If we can give some collegiate students some advantages, help them make some connections with business partnerships, find internships and connect with possible employers down the road, I think it will be some really good, positive steps forward – moving them into building leadership positions for women and teaching them to be leaders in their community, as well as on a national organization basis,” she says.
Members of ANCW are part of a professional network of women associated with the beef industry who impact beef promotion, legislation and youth development.
“Membership can be as much or as little involvement as members want. Our fees are very nominal, $60 for the year for national members, and that includes the connection to the people that are talking to congressmen, help with talking to state or local government and access to all of the tool kits that we have available. ANCW has the resources to help members reach out, solve problems and get pointed in the right direction,” describes Geis.
The organization currently has about 1,800 members nationwide, and the group is working hard to increase involvement across the country, building on the traditional and evolving roles that women have in agriculture.
“A lot of women don’t feel comfortable in a large organization, but being women, we can all come together and share a common bond. We all know where we are coming from as mothers, daughters and sisters. We can also go out to talk to the consumers who can relate back to us much more easily a lot of times,” Geis explains.
As the typical consumer becomes further removed from agriculture, beef producers strive to promote the healthiest product they can, and producers want to be able to portray that message to the consumer, according to Geis.
“It’s an important connection to reach out and know that although our problems may not be exactly the same in, say, Wyoming or Georgia, they are the same when it comes down to the basics. We deal with agriculture day-to-day, and many of our consumers do not,” she continues.
One of the ways the ANCW assists members in reaching out to consumers is through a series of online tool kits that outline potential beef promotion events, such as a 5K race, dinner parties and classroom initiatives.
A 5K race tool kit, for example, outlines a planning timeline, the people who should be involved and other building blocks that provide a step-by-step guide for hosting the event.
“Just Among Friends is a program where cattlewomen invite their friends in and cook dinner, talking about how to prepare beef and showing their friends how they can cook it,” mentions Geis.
Other activities include going into classrooms to read with students, working with county groups to host ag expos, doing farm tours and more.
“CattleWomen started in 1952 in Arizona, and Wyoming was the first state to organize as a state. We have a long history of women wanting to support our industry,” Geis describes.
Often, Geis continues, women don’t realize how much they can do to support and promote their industry and livelihoods. ANCW provides cattlewomen a chance to network with each other at local, state and national levels to share their passion for beef.
“Twice a year, we have national conventions in conjunction with NCBA. State presidents can come together and talk about what’s happening in the industry and they can pass that down. ANCW also tries to get our communication to the state level on a monthly or weekly basis, depending on what’s happening, through e-bulletins, to keep them informed,” she adds. “Members can also always reach out to us if they need anything.”
Geis is looking forward to her new role at ANCW, and she encourages other women to get involved.
“Being able to share our stories and the friendships we can make across the country are just invaluable,” she says.