WFAN’s Harvesting Our Potential (HOP) program gives participants access to 1) mentorships, pairing women who want to farm or expand a farm business with successful women farmers; 2) Learning Circles, whereby they learn about resources, can ask questions in supportive environments, and meet women like them; and, 3) other networking and educational opportunities, including farm visits, retreats, WFAN’s conference, and additional educational resources. HOP participants gain increased confidence in their ability to be economically self-sufficient through sustainable agriculture careers and build connections with other women, which is vital for sustaining and growing businesses and agricultural economies.
While there are projects in the U.S. that focus on aspiring farmers and others designed for women farmers, we know of no other program that combines both components in the same program. Our innovative model is important and needed because women thrive when they feel supported and have a network of women to be part of.
With 2021 NCSARE support we expanded HOP into Ohio and added innovations including farm sitting and skill-building mentorships. With this proposal, we will continue in Ohio, Iowa, and one other to-be-determined NCSARE state and pilot mentorships for urban farming, a rapidly growing form of community-based, sustainable agriculture.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Address access barriers to needed information and skill building and employment/entrepreneurship while increasing likelihood of womens’ farm success through 11 paid mentorships, with at least one-fourth of matches focused on urban farming.
- Increase participant network and familiarity with resources to start or sustain a farming career through networking events, including a Learning Circle, retreats, and access to the WFAN annual conference.
- Provide mentors with opportunities to leave the farm while their mentees farm sit; providing mentees with experience to strengthen their skills and confidence and mentors time off or chances to get additional training.