Farmland owners who rent their land have tremendous sway in making agriculture more sustainable, but their power is going largely unused. One reason for this is that many of these non-operator landowners are women, who often feel at a disadvantage to their tenants or their families. Our work with women landowners shows they prioritize conservation, transitioning the land to the next generation or to beginning farmers, and thinking outside the box for the land to be economically sustainable. By empowering these women to make the changes they want, sustainable agriculture will take a substantial step forward.
We want to address this issue directly. We want to change the narrative of women landowners being invisible to active change agents who understand the sustainable agricultural practices needed on their land, and we want this new narrative to be led by women.
This project, led by a group of women farmland owners, will put women front and center in discussing land management. This will include media, speaking at various agricultural events, and women-focused events on land management. As a result, more women across the region will engage with their land, ensuring more land stays in agriculture, there is more conservation, and agriculture diversifies.
A team of Sustainability Ambassadors will determine their training needs for speaking to agricultural audiences and speaking to the media, and create a curriculum for women to tell their stories of implementing sustainable practices for the land they manage. Six Ambassadors will test this curriculum.
Ambassadors will speak at agricultural events.
Ambassadors will be featured in media.
Ambassadors will host women-focused meetings on land management. Attendees will increase their knowledge about sustainable practices.
We will promote this model to other states in the NC SARE Region.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Our two-year grant project moves into its second year on schedule. We had a host of personnel changes in our original proposal that gave us a slower start than planned but we have a fantastic, excited team of women Sustainability Ambassadors who have hit the ground running and who will have found and presented at two meetings within two weeks of the media training. We were careful to make the replacements in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Partnership award and have not diminished the goals and products we will produce in any way. We have accomplished the task of training ourselves to work effectively with groups and media.
Our first target was to co-create a training curriculum. We opted not to use the webinar format and instead met in person to put the training curriculum together and learned what strengths each of us has as we tackle the challenges of getting out the message about what landowners can do to foster sustainable agriculture practices. We learned the finer points of working on telling our stories and sharing presentations in groups and working more professionally with media. We are working on generating follow up materials requested by the group to share and enhance their ability to provide presentations.
During the project’s second year, the Ambassadors will speak at a minimum of 18 events and carry the message of what difference landowners can make towards improving soil health through supporting and encouraging farmer adoption of cover crops and no-till practices. Two of these have already happened.
During the second year, Ambassadors will also engage in media – social media and earned media requests. We have started this through Facebook with a group, and some ambassadors already have materials written suitable for blog posts and more.
In the second year, Ambassadors will host women-focused meetings on land management. We will host 3 Women Caring for the Land meetings in Iowa where we will be able to evaluate the learning and empowerment of the women participants.
When we have some evidence of the results of using this model we will share it with other states in the NC SARE Region after year 2.
We held a training for our Ambassadors on February 19 -20 and we feel this was successful in that we were able to identify and support ourselves with sufficient content to launch our own presentations, and we bonded as a group to be able to reach out and support each other going forward. We will work towards making the curriculum more explicit so that others could follow our lead. Already two Ambassadors have given presentations in the two weeks since.
We had to replace some of our original Ambassadors as they or family members faced health challenges. The roster has the full complement of 6 Ambassadors as promised and they are landowners/farmers with experience supporting sustainable agriculture practice adoption by farmers. As such they are authentically credible carriers of the message of “what can landowners do” to support change.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We will have more to report after our Ambassadors have had time to conduct their outreach.