Women Caring for the Land: Improving Conservation Outreach to Non-operator Female Farmland Owners
Women now own or co-own nearly half the farmland in Iowa (Duffy and Smith, 2008). We estimate a similar percentage in other Midwestern states, although no current data exist. An increasing number are sole inheritors 65 and older, who may be new to making management decisions, but express strong conservation values in meetings and surveys.
WFAN has developed an innovative learning-circles-based program, Women Caring for the Land (WCL), to inform and support these women in working with their tenants to improve soil and water conservation on their farmland – increasingly crucial in the face of high grain prices and pressure to crop erodible land. Attendees rate the peer-to-peer format highly; 50 to 66 percent of survey respondents work with their tenants to implement at least one new conservation practice within one year.
This two-year project will provide 60 conservation agency and non-profit staffers in Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin with a professional development program to train them in the WCL rationale and methodology, using the 96-pp. curriculum manual and activities we have developed. In year 1, WFAN trainers will hold day-long training workshops with the teams in each state, which will include women farmland owners; in year 2, subsets of these teams will hold three pilot women landowner meetings in their states with help from a WFAN facilitator.
WFAN will provide the trainee group with written evaluations following the workshop and pilot meetings, providing training team observations and recommendations to help strengthen and sustain the new state programs going forward.
Development activities for the two years are as follows.
WFAN staff and state project partners in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri will hold a planning call, and create a trainee group of 20 participants per state, comprising conservation agency and non-profit staffers and two women farmland owners. The landowners will be identified and contacted by the state partners.
WFAN staff will hold one full-day professional development training in each state at a central location for the 20-member trainee group. Trainings will include a morning discussion to present the background, rationale and methodology of Women Caring for the Land(SM), and an afternoon field tour demonstration to showcase conservation practices on the ground – on a women-owned farm if possible.
WFAN will provide each trainee with a print copy of the 96-pp Women Caring for the Land(SM) curriculum manual, which contains all the information and activities needed to conduct successful conservation meetings with women landowners, from outreach and recruitment of participants, to planning and implementing meetings, to evaluation and next steps.
WFAN will provide each trainee with a sample set of the targeted conservation outreach materials developed especially for this audience. These include two brochures and a booklet on cover crops, and a booklet on hunting and wildlife management. (These publications are currently available as free PDF downloads on the Women Caring for the Land(SM) website, or in print for cost plus shipping.)
Our intention is that the subset of trainees who wish to hold pilot meetings in Year 2 will identify themselves at the workshop when asked. If that does not happen, WFAN’s team will work with the agency project partner in each state to identify 3 pilot meeting partners.
WFAN will provide one trainer to help facilitate 3 pilot women landowner meetings in each state, sponsored by members of the trainee group. We expect 15 landowners to attend each meeting for a total of 45 per state, a total of 135 for the project.
WFAN will provide up to 5 hours of follow-up support and individual coaching by telephone for members of the trainee group in each state. The calls will be open to any conservation partner in that state who wishes to participate, whether or not they attended the training meeting. The calls will be publicized by the state project partner(s).
Our expected outcomes for this project include the following.
Short-term: A total of 60 conservation professionals in Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin (20 per state) receive professional development training in delivering effective conservation outreach customized for female non-operator farmland owners. At least 80 percent will indicate on post-training surveys that they have increased both knowledge and confidence in delivering this outreach to women farmland owners.
A volunteer subset of the 60 conservation professionals who received training (6 to 10 per state for a total of 18 – 30) will work with WFAN staff to conduct three pilot meetings with women landowners in their state in year 2 of the project, resulting in increased knowledge and confidence about conservation management for 45 women landowners who attend the meetings. Eighty percent of the landowners will indicate on a post-meeting survey that they have increased both knowledge and confidence in managing their land for conservation in cooperation with their tenants.
Intermediate: At least 75% of the conservation professionals who attend the one-day workshop will host a women landowner conservation meeting in their area within 12 months of completing the training. They will use these experiences and the recommendations provided by the WFAN team during pilot meetings in year 2 to build and sustain ongoing outreach to non-operator women farmland owners in their states.
Conservationists who participated in the Iowa WCL training in February 2013 were enthusiastic about the methodology and the opportunity to improve their outreach efforts to women landowners. They recognized the importance of doing a better job of serving non-operator female landowners, and felt the training in particular helped them understand the differences in communications styles of men and women.
WFAN staff and state project partners in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri held a planning call, followed by trainings in MN and WI that had excellent attendance, comprising conservation agency and non-profit staffers. Women farmland owners were also engaged in our trainings through tours that were part of each training. The training in Missouri simultaneously reached conservation agency and non-profit staffers and women farmland owners during a Women in Agriculture fall gathering. The landowners will be identified and contacted by the state partners.
WFAN staff held a full-day professional development training in MN and WI for the trainee groups. Trainings included a morning discussion to present the background, rationale and methodology of Women Caring for the Land(SM), and an afternoon field tour demonstration to showcase conservation practices on the ground. The WCL concept is much newer to Missouri and working with the state partners we felt it would be more effective to introduce the concept to a broader audience gathered for a conference and we touched more lightly on the training aspects in order to build support and interest among women who will be more likely to pick up the conservation meetings for women both as attendees and hosts.
WFAN provided each trainee with a print copy of the 96-pp Women Caring for the Land(SM) curriculum manual, which contains all the information and activities needed to conduct successful conservation meetings with women landowners, from outreach and recruitment of participants, to planning and implementing meetings, to evaluation and next steps.
WFAN provided each trainee with a sample set of the targeted conservation outreach materials developed especially for this audience. These included four brochures and a booklet on cover crops, and a booklet on hunting and wildlife management. (These publications are currently available as free PDF downloads on the Women Caring for the Land(SM) website, or in print for cost plus shipping.)
Because WFAN has held some WCL meetings in Minnesota and Wisconsin in years past, there was more awareness of the program from project partners who had someone attend a prior WCL meeting and they were ready to step forward after the professional development training to hold meetings in Year 2. We have been working with those partners during fall and winter to pick dates and locations for meetings and have 4 out of 6 meetings set up in MN and WI. We are working to build more capacity for hosting meetings in Missouri, both in terms of project partners and among women landowners, and we expect it may take more of year 2 to accomplish the three meetings there.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We have had good feedback from state partners regarding the professional development training and their understanding of how to proceed. Several women expressed an interest to host meetings for year 2, and we have been providing assistance for the planning of their meetings. For other participants that are not directly participating in these upcoming meetings, they have all they need to hold meetings on their own and help outreach for our upcoming meetings. We were also happy to have men attend the trainings, as they are often in critical decision-making positions who need to have experience with our model to be strong supporters.
Evaluations of the professional development meetings have been strong with increased awareness of how women’s communication preferences impact their uptake of conservation information, and increased confidence in hosting a meeting. They have appreciated having copies of the manual and printed publications they can show to others in their respective agencies and organizations.
Participants represented their knowledge gains from the training on a continuum line and increased their knowledge about improving conservation outreach to women landowners by 31% and increased their confidence in working with women landowners by 23%.
Two comments were:
“I enjoyed the group of professional women being able to get together, not often a possibility.” Wisconsin participant – that meeting only had women in attendance.
In response to the question: what will you adopt or change in how you work with landowners. “The Tips and Tricks with engaging women landowners throughout the session has been eye-opening and will be used in our future meetings.” Minnesota participant.
Ass't State Conservationist for Operations
375 Jackson St STE 600
ST PAUL, MN 55101-1854
Office Phone: 6516027930
Soil & Water Conservation Program Dir.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 176
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Office Phone: 5737517143