Women for the Land: New Voices for Conservation and Water Quality in Virginia

Project Overview

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2019: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: American Farmland Trust
Region: Southern
State: Washington, DC
Principal Investigator:
Jamie Mierau
American Farmland Trust

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    The "face" of American agriculture is changing, bringing with it new challenges and impressive opportunities to protect farmland, promote sound farming practices, and keep farmers on the land. Nearly 301 million acres of U.s. land -- about a third of the nation's land in farms -- are now farmed or managed by women. Many more acres are in the hands of women who are "non-operators", leasing their land to neighboring farmers. These women control the future for millions of acres of farmland in America. In the next two decades, about 371 million acres of farmland are expected to change owners as aging farmers retire or transition their land to the next generation. It is predicted that women may own 75 percent of this transferred farmland. Virginia mirrors these national trends with 51 percent of the farmers more than 65 years old. Despite their growing numbers, women are under recognized for their tremendous contribution to farming and fundamentally underserved by the programs that provide farmers with the advice, funds, and resources they needed to be successful stewards of working landscapes.

    This project will integrate women agricultural landowners in Virginia into an approach that informs them on opportunities for sustainable agriculture and engages them in implementing practices on their land. Graduate of American Farmland Trust's Conservation Learning Circles are women farmland owners who have completed a three-part program learning about local conservation agencies and have spent time planning a holistic future for their land that integrates sustainable farm practices with increased conservation actions. In the process, they build confidence and strategies to work with tenants, professionals, and agency staff to achieve their goals. These Conservation Learning Circles have an impressively high rate of success in increasing women's confidence in communicating their desires for improving conservation on their land and implementing conservation measure. Fifty percent of Learning Circle participants take a conservation action on their land within one year.

    Over the 24 months, 56 women landowners will graduate from one of four Conservation Learning Circles, and be poised to implement conservation measures upon their land. Twenty female professionals, employed by conservation agencies, and AFT's partners, will partner with AFT staff during the Conservation Learning Circles, learning the strategies and methods to work directly with women landowners. AFT will also work with its steering committee and local and state-level partners, to lay a foundation for a sustainable Virginia Women Landowner program that is embraced by the conservation agencies as a strategic part of their outreach and implementation activities.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • 56 women landowners will graduate from one of four Conservation Learning Circles, and be poised to implement conservation measures upon their land.
    • 33 women will take a conservation action on their farm within the first 6 months following the training.
    • Through training, women landowners will demonstrate new knowledge, confidence and relationships with peers and agency staff that they need to improve conservation and productivity on their land, current farm assets and areas needing attention.
    • 48 women landowners will complete a Farm Inventory that will help them assess how they want to involve themselves in the farming operation, identity objectives for the farm.
    • 20 female and male conservation professionals employed by conservation agencies, and other organizational partners will recognize the importance of gender relevant training and the efficacy of the Learning Circle approach to working with women non-operating landowners.
    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.