HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will sponsor the second annual "Women in Agriculture Day" at the 2006 Pennsylvania Farm Show. The conference is Tuesday, Jan. 10, in the Farm Show Complex banquet hall from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Women represent the fastest growing segment of Pennsylvania's farming community. According to the 2002 federal Census of Agriculture, the number of women listed as the "principal operator" of a Pennsylvania farm rose nearly 18 percent from 1997-2002.

Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff said this event focuses on the information women need to grow new or established businesses.

"Women play a significant role in Pennsylvania agriculture, both on farms and in agribusinesses," said Wolff. "Women in Agriculture Day brings women from across the state and varying agriculture sectors to Harrisburg where they learn about the many resources and support programs available to them. This conference provides them with the tools and insight they need to succeed from some of the leading professionals in the state."

This year's Women in Agriculture event is themed "Looking to the Future of Women in the Commonwealth and the Trails Yet to Be Blazed." Exhibitors will provide information on everything from marketing tools and acquiring farm products, to state and local agriculture support networks.

"This type of exposure is especially important as the number of farmers nearing retirement age increases," added Wolff. "Having a well-prepared, educated workforce to fill their shoes is essential to ensuring the industry's success. Those attending this conference represent a major force in agriculture's future, and will play an important role in developing tomorrow's policies and market opportunities."

According to a recent census, 27 percent of all farm operators are women. Nationally, the number of farms operated primarily by women has increased 86 percent in the last 25 years. This phenomenon has started to gain national attention. ABC News reported on the Pennsylvania trend earlier this month and National Public Radio began covering the story last year.

A reception will immediately follow the speakers' panel from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The 90th anniversary Pennsylvania Farm Show runs Jan. 7-14 and will welcome more than 400,000 spectators to the one-million-square-foot Farm Show Complex. The Farm Show features some 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibitors. In addition, more than $370,000 in premiums will be offered to exhibitors. Admission is free, and parking is $5.

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Farm Show news release.