Agronomy in the Field: A Women’s Cohort for Increasing Capacity of Agronomic and Conservation Principles

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2017: $29,999.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Angela Rieck-Hinz
Iowa State University


  • Agronomic: clovers, corn, grass (misc. perennial), hay, medics/alfalfa, oats, rye, soybeans


  • Animal Production: grazing management, manure management, pasture renovation, rangeland/pasture management
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, cropping systems, fertilizers, no-till, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, technical assistance
  • Pest Management: economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: dryland farming
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health


    The problem addressed was to be able to provide women farmers and landowners their own series of programs to increase agronomic capacity and decision-making for long-term farm sustainability.  This was pursued by developing four cohorts located in four different areas of Iowa. The cohorts were open to all interested women.  Each cohort met once or twice a month from April through September to address specific, in-field practices as well as once a month October, November, January, February and twice in March for a statewide, 2 hour program offered by ZOOM teleconferencing.  The educational approach employed knowledge base of extension and research professionals, NRCS staff, research farm staff and farmer to farmer learning.  Farmer adoption practices were by documented by verbal comments and feedback provided at the end of the series in surveys.  Adoption of such practices is difficult to measure due to the cyclic nature of farming where some practices may not be adopted or implemented up until a year or years later.  This bears the need for more follow-up. 

    Project objectives:

    The objectives of this project are:  1) Increase agronomic skills of women landowners and farmers to strengthen and validate their decision-making for sustainable crop production.  This was accomplished by holding 2 hour, in the field session every other week (at at least monthly for two cohorts) where participants were taught specific agronomic skills which were followed up with discussion on economics of such practices.  

    2) Provide Exposure to Conservation practices and water quality challenges to improve environmental sustainability. This was accomplished with tours of various water quality practices such as cover crops, strip-till or no till, buffers, bioreactors, etc., where each practice was described and impacts on water quality were discussed.  In one cohort each participant was given a RetaiN Kit so they could return to their farm or work with their tenant on measuring nitrate leaving in tile drainage. 

    3) Through experiential learning opportunities created through partnerships with Extension staff, university research farm, experienced women farmers and the formation of a cohort participants could increase confidence in communication with spouse, farming partner, ag retailers, tenant, landlord ensuring overall goals for sustainable farming systems can be met.  This goal was achieved by explaining terminology, exposing participants to a wide-range of practices and offering time to develop social networks amongst the participants.  

    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.