Denise O'Brien, founder of Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN), became an activist on behalf of family farmers in the 1980s. During that decade, she directed the Rural Women's Leadership Development project at Prairie Fire Rural Action organization, but this project was not sustained. The initial impulse to form WFAN grew out of conversations between Kathy Lawrence and Denise O'Brien during a post-conference in 1993 following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. They formed the Women, Food, and Agriculture Working Group to sponsor a two-week workshop and represent the interests of women in agriculture at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995. After Kathy Lawrence left the Midwest, O'Brien organized a rural women's workshop for the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, Italy. Recognizing the need for a network of rural women to sponsor workshops and amplify women's voices in agriculture and development, O'Brien began conceptualizing a network for women in agriculture. In February 1997 at the Women's Gathering of the Practical Farmers of Iowa, Betty Wells, Danielle Wirth, Virginia Wadsley, Shelly Gradwell, Rhonda Yoder and Denise O'Brien met to consider forming an organization. After two further meetings, they coordinated a three-day workshop "Rural Women, the Economy, and the Environment" in July 1997. By October 1997, charter members of Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN) had written a mission statement, goals and objectives. Funded by grants, WFAN has continued to meet bi-annually, publish a quarterly newsletter, and maintain an active electronic listserv. Members include women farmers, educators, and extension agents and activists. Denise O'Brien has acted as paid and/or volunteer director of WFAN since the founding.