Advancing Conservation through Educating and Empowering Women Farmers and Landowners in the Southeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2022: $49,998.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2024
Grant Recipients: American Farmland Trust; Black Family Land Trust, Inc.; Kentucky State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Gabrielle Roesch-McNally
American Farmland Trust
Lillian Alexander
Black Family Land Trust, Inc.


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, networking
  • Natural Resources/Environment: climate resilience
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures, farmland preservation

    Proposal abstract:

    Roughly two million non-operating landowners (retired farmers, farm widows, and family members who have inherited farms) own ~38% of America’s farmland. Women compose 37% of this non-operating landowners’ group. Based on the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, 35% of farmers in KY and 33% in NC are women. This project will engage and educate women non-operating landowners and farmers who have been overlooked by conservation practice and land access programs. Additionally, Black and other farmers of color have been explicitly and implicitly disenfranchised by U.S. farm programs. Racial discrimination, coupled with gender discrimination, can lead women of color to feel left out of conversations and initiatives regarding farmland preservation, stewardship, and land access. 

    American Farmland Trust (AFT) utilizes an innovative approach to greater conservation practice adoption focused on peer-to-peer networking gatherings: Learning Circles. Women landowners (both operators and non-operators) and farmers share their experiences, network, and learn from each other and agricultural technical service providers about conservation practice adoption. Additionally, agricultural technical service providers are trained to serve women landowner and farmers’ unique needs. The Learning Circle model, which is successfully used nationwide, is gathering momentum in both NC and KY. By educating partners, women farmers, and landowners in these states, including historically underserved women, tailoring our approach to the regions’ needs and sharing our learnings, we will advance access to conservation resources and greater adoption of sustainable agricultural practices.   

    We have three ambitious objectives: 

    1. Engage women landowners and farmers in Learning Circles on conservation practice adoption, soil health, and climate resilience, topics previously identified through scoping. We will implement 4 Learning Circles, 2 each in KY and NC, focused primarily on Black women farmers and landowners. Since around 18-24 women and agricultural service providers participate in Learning Circles, we aim to reach ~75-100 women farmers and landowners. 
    2. Support women landowners and farmers in KY and NC in accessing resources and information on conservation practices, soil health, climate resilience, and farmland preservation strategies via the deployment of 4 virtual Learning Circle trainings, 2 per state. These will focus on agricultural service providers who want to develop strategies for effectively reaching women landowners and farmers, especially the socially disadvantaged. Partners include NRCS, SWCD, Land Grant University Extensions, and local non-profits. The key partner in NC will be the Black Family Land Trust, and in KY, KY State University. We aim to reach 20 practitioners in each training and ~ 80 service providers. 
    3. Provide resources to foster ongoing success with outreach and engagement of KY and NC women farmers and landowners. We will produce a curriculum and toolkit of resources that will extend the value of our events and promote sustainable agriculture practice adoption among women in the region beyond the scope of this project by enabling our partners to deploy their own Learning Circles. We will also develop an online forum for continued networking and engagement among women and technical service providers in each state to help regional partners maintain these connections after the grant’s duration. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project objectives include:

    1. Conduct 4 Learning Circles in KY and NC (2 in each state) to engage 75-100 women landowners and farmers, primarily those that are African American, on conservation practice adoption, soil health, and climate resilience. 
    2. Conduct 4 virtual Learning Circle trainings in KY and NC (2 in each state) for 80 agricultural service providers on how to effectively reach women landowners and farmers and help them access technical resources and information on conservation practices, soil health, climate resilience, and farmland preservation strategies. 
    3. Position partners for ongoing success in engaging women farmers and landowners in KY and NC through developing a curriculum and a toolkit of resources to conduct Learning Circles and an online forum to foster the continued connections of women and technical service providers in each state. 
    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.