Soil Sisters: Increasing women farmer-led education and opportunities through local network building and learning circles

Project Overview

ONC20-072
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $39,976.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Renewing the Countryside
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Jan Joannides
Renewing the Countryside

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, study circle, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, agritourism, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, farmers' markets/farm stands, marketing management, new enterprise development, value added
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, organic certification, permaculture
  • Soil Management: composting, earthworms, nutrient mineralization, organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community development, community planning, community services, employment opportunities, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, food hubs, infrastructure analysis, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, public policy, quality of life, social capital, social networks, sustainability measures, values-based supply chains

    Proposal abstract:

    In this project, Soil Sisters, a program of the Minnesota-based non-profit Renewing the Countryside (RTC), will launch eight new women-led local networks and learning circles in Minnesota and Wisconsin alongside creating a Toolkit for women farmers anywhere interested in establishing such a peer-based network. 

    Soil Sisters originated in southern Wisconsin in 2012 thanks to an NCR-SARE Youth Educator Grant as a single tour day championing women farmers. It has grown to one of the largest and longest running sustainable agriculture women farmer networks nationally  with over 240 members and was awarded the 2019 Top Rural Development Initiative by Wisconsin Rural Partners. Renewing the Countryside is now the fiscal agent for Soil Sisters and that original tour day is a full annual weekend of on-farm events on women-owned farms.

    Given Soil Sisters’ successful track record, this project will support the eight-member Farm Partner team to replicate this Wisconsin network concept in their local communities, collectively hosting 24 meetings involving 400+ women farmers.  This project will also create a Toolkit curating best practices to support additional network launches, stemming from the dozens of women farmers beyond our partner team wanting to start a Soil Sisters group and asking RTC for resources.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Establish 8 new women-farmer led networks (5 in Wisconsin; 3 in Minnesota).

    • Facilitate 24 learning circle educational network meetings. Each of the eight women farmer partners will lead 3 sessions, providing feedback and input.

    • Directly involve 400+ women farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. This will be accomplished by each of the 8 new networks reaching 50 women farmers in their region, roughly an hour radius.

    • Capture best practices and ideas from the Soil Sisters Wisconsin group and our Farm Partners team into a downloadable Toolkit that will compile curriculum/meeting topic, agendas, tour day ideas, outreach learnings.

    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.