Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference

Final report for MW16-002

Project Type: Enhanced State Grants
Funds awarded in 2016: $52,533.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Maud Powell
OSU Extension
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Project Information


The Oregon State University Center for Small Farms is seeking a Western Region State Enhancement Program grant to help host the 5th National Women in Sustainable Agricultural Conference in Portland, Oregon in November, 2016. A steering committee of twenty-two agricultural professionals and producers from around the country are meeting by conference call on a monthly basis to organize the conference. Based on prior conferences, 350 women producers and agricultural professionals are expected to attend, with approximately 200 of those from the Western SARE states. The conference will include a one-day train-the-trainer session for agricultural  professionals on developing educational  programs for women farmers and ranchers; one day of tours of sustainable farms;  and one and a half days of workshops, intensives, keynote speakers and panel discussions. There will be a total of 42 ninety-minute workshops on topics in sustainable agriculture, taught by both professionals and producers. Additionally, food safety trainers will provide two half-day intensives on navigating the Food Safety Modernization Act; GAP certification; harvest and post-harvest handling; and developing a food safety plan. Two of the workshops offered will address cost analysis and profitability. Fifty agricultural professionals who attend the train-the-trainer session will reconvene on the last day to evaluate teaching methods used during the conference. Evaluations will be collected upon completion of the conference. Additionally, participants in the train-the-trainer conference, food safety intensives and cost analysis workshops will be surveyed six months and one year after the conference to determine mid-range  impacts and  behavior changes resulting from the conference.

Project Objectives:

April- November 2016: Conference organization including program development; recruitment of keynote speakers, panelists and workshop presenters; outreach to agricultural professionals and producers; securing sponsorships and conference vendors; arranging and finalizing venue details; organizing farm tours; preparing curriculum  for train-the-trainer one day event, Cost Analysis and Profitability workshops and  Food Safety  intensives; and managing registration.

August- October 2016: Recruit two women sustainable agricultural professionals from each of the Western States to attend conference who will receive attendance and travel stipend. Recruitment will happen with the cooperation of SARE state coordinators.

November 2016: Fifty agricultural professionals will attend one day train-the-trainer workshop which provides technical assistance to professionals interested in developing and delivering programming to women producers.

November 2016: Two hundred agricultural professionals and producers will attend a day-long tour of sustainable farming operations in Northern Oregon. Participants will choose between five tour options which will highlight orchards; food hubs; research farms; urban farms; and CSA vegetable farms.

November-December 2016: Three hundred and fifty agricultural professionals and producers will attend conference with two keynote speakers; forty-two workshops on sustainable agriculture; a panel discussion; and opportunities for networking.

November-December 2016: One hundred and ten agricultural professionals and producers will attend two half- day intensive on Food Safety. Topics include updates to the Food Safety Modernization Act; GAP certification, including group GAP training fur small producers; and best practices for harvest and post-harvest handling. Fifty of those agricultural professionals and producers will attend both intensives and receive a certification for completing one day of food safety training.

November-December 2016: Eighty agricultural professionals  and  producers will attend  two workshops on Cost Analysis and Profitability. Workshops will highlight enterprise budgets; relative cost of production; and how to increase profitability.

December 2016: Conference organizers will evaluate the conference through surveys of participants. Surveys will help determine short-term impacts of the program including information learned and intentions for adopting new practices.

May 2017: Conference organizers will conduct an online survey of participants of the Food Safety intensives. Surveys will collect information on the mid-range impacts of the intensives, including how many agricultural professionals have gone on to provide educational programming in food safety and how many producers have written a food safety plan.

November 2017: Conference organizers will conduct on-line surveys of participants in the Food Safety Intensives, train-the-trainer session; and Cost Analysis and Profitability workshops to determine long-range impacts including adoption of enterprise budgets; passing third party audits; and offering educational workshops for women farmers and ranchers.


The most recent USDA Census of Agriculture reports women comprise 14% of principal operators and 30% of all farm operators. The number of U.S. farms operated by women nearly tripled over the past three and a half decades, from 5 percent in 1978 to 14 percent most recently (Census of Ag, 2012).

The increase in the numbers of farm and ranch women is not without some challenges. Many women are drawn to farming as a way to support their family and to strengthen local community yet more than 90% of women-operated farms reported sales and government payments of less than $50,000. Women operators are still not applying for and utilizing agricultural programs as effectively as their male counterparts and the businesses of many beginning farm and ranch women are not surviving the first five years (Peabody, 2015).

As the number of women operators increases, so does the number of programs developed to provide education and technical assistance to them. While these programs develop successful tools and techniques for addressing the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers, there are many areas where women remain under-served. This project will serve to provide women farmers with opportunities to learn about specific topics in sustainable agriculture, as well as to train a group of agricultural professionals in working with women producers engaged in sustainable agriculture.

According to the publication Creating Farmer Networks: A Toolkit for Promoting Vibrant Farm Communities, "data suggest that when farmers convene, new opportunities arise for increased economic viability, improved quality of life, and greater community interaction" (Matthewson 2012). This project will bring together women farmers and ranches from across the Western states to engage in learning and networking.

The project has some similarities with SARE funded projects Building the Capacity of ANNIES Educators to Help Women Farmers and Ranchers Improve Agricultural Sustainability in both the South and North Central regions. These past projects trained agricultural professionals to increase the amount of education in sustainable agriculture offered to women producers. This project will also train agricultural professionals seeking to work with women farmers and ranchers, but within the context of a larger conference on sustainable agriculture targeted both to producers and agricultural professionals. Professionals will have opportunities to witness and engage in the delivery on sustainable agriculture education while they are learning about pedagogy and adult learning styles.


Educational approach:

Four hundred agricultural professionals and producers attended the conference which included two keynote speakers; forty-two workshops on sustainable agriculture; a panel discussion; and opportunities for networking.

Workshop proposals were solicited six months before the conference, and an education subcommittee chose forty-two of the best proposals.

Education & Outreach Initiatives


Convene 350 women farmers and agricultural professionals at a 2.5 day conference.


The twelve member steering committee emailed all of their lists of farmers and agricultural professional colleagues about the conference. A three-member outreach committee created a flier, logo, and tagline, which was distributed through emails, on social media and on fliers that were distributed at four sustainable agriculture conferences held prior to WISA. 

Outcomes and impacts:

Our goal was to have 350 attendees at the conference. We ended up filling up weeks before the conference and had 400 attendees. Outcomes were a well-attended conference with engaged participants and enough revenue to make the conference financially sustainable.


Educational & Outreach Activities

2 On-farm demonstrations
1 Published press articles, newsletters
8 Tours
47 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

52 Extension
7 Researchers
27 Nonprofit
21 Agency
8 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
241 Farmers/ranchers
40 Others

Learning Outcomes

400 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
140 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

240 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
160 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

In a survey taken nine months after the conference, 26% of respondents said that had applied a new skill, technique or practice learned at the conference, 24% had taken action on an issue of policy or advocacy, and 49% used information learned in teaching, outreach or work. 

In terms of networking that took place at the conference, 10% collaborated with another attendee on a project, grant, or program after the conference, 10% sought or received technical information from someone, 8% consulted with another attendee to solve a problem, 10% made a business contact, and 23% made a professional contact. 

Additionally, 65% of attendees reported that attending a conference specifically for women had significant advantages over other more general agricultural conferences you have attended while 43% reported that there were some advantages. 

Success stories:

"Substantive, inspiring, dense with sessions, impressive cross section of national female  professionals-AWESOME!"

"The conference was exceptional. It was well-organized. The speakers and moderators stayed on schedule and were experts in their fields. The content of the sessions was very relevant and practical."

"This conference was the best I've been to this year. All seminars were interesting, engaging, and rich with valuable, new information that was directly applicable to bettering my understanding of farm operations. The main speaker the first night had an impactful message, the food was healthy and tasty, and the atmosphere of the entire conference was that of support, solidarity, and professionalism. I felt that many of my colleagues, male and female, would have benefited from attending. I will highly recommend this conference to others and hope to attend next year as well."

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

SARE was acknowledged for providing funds to help run the conference in conference materials and during the conference welcome.

SARE had a table in the exhibition hall with information about grant programs.

400 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
200 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.