Harvesting Our Potential: Mentoring New Sustainable Farmers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2023: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2024
Grant Recipient: WFAN
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Stephanie Enloe
Women Food and Agriculture Network


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, feed formulation, feed management, feed rations, grazing management, grazing - rotational, herbal medicines, heritage breeds, parasite control, pasture fertility, preventive practices, rangeland/pasture management, vaccines, watering systems, Direct marketing bulk purchases; loading and moving animals
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, beekeeping, catch crops, conservation tillage, cover crops, crop improvement and selection, cropping systems, crop rotation, drought tolerance, fertilizers, food processing, food product quality/safety, forest farming, greenhouses, high tunnels or hoop houses, intercropping, low tunnels, no-till, nutrient management, organic fertilizers, pollination, pollinator habitat, postharvest treatment, row covers (for season extension), season extension, seed saving, silvopasture, water management
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, apprentice/intern training, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, e-commerce, farm-to-restaurant, farmers' markets/farm stands, farm succession, financial management, labor/employment, land access, market study, new enterprise development, value added, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: compost extracts, cultural control, row covers (for pests), soil solarization
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: composting, green manures, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: community services, employment opportunities, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, quality of life, social networks, social psychological indicators, sustainability measures, urban agriculture, values-based supply chains

    Proposal abstract:

    Harvesting Our Potential (HOP) will provide access to 1) paid mentorships; 2) virtual educational events; and, 3) networking opportunities for aspiring or beginning women and non binary (WNB) farmers/ ranchers in the North Central region. Participants will build skills, relationships, and confidence to become successful growers.

    In 2017, women represented ~30% of principal operators in the U.S. (USDA NASS 2017). Women have struggled against structural barriers (e.g. land access, credit) and sociocultural barriers; farming/ ranching remain gendered occupations where women often lack access to knowledge and rarely see themselves represented (Leslie et al. 2019). WFAN’s experience reflects research demonstrating that non binary people also encounter similarly gendered challenges, though we recognize these are not identical to those faced by cis women (Leslie et al 2019). 

    HOP aims to remove social and financial barriers to WNB accessing agricultural knowledge and social networks. We will create educational opportunities for aspiring and beginning WNB growers who express the need for safe spaces. Further, we will recruit mentors who are dedicated to teaching mentees how to create farms/ ranches invested in social and environmental sustainability. By providing stipends, we will recruit skilled mentors and support mentees to invest time in a mentorship.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our goal is to increase the number of WNB who have the necessary skills and social networks to succeed as sustainable farmers or ranchers. We will:


    1. Provide paid mentorships wherein participants practice technical and hands-on skills and/ or receive one-on-one guidance for managing a new farm or ranch business.


    1. Host educational and networking events where participants build relationships with other WNB farmers/ ranchers and learn in a supportive, collaborative environment.


    1. Support off-farm learning opportunities for mentors and mentees by providing financial support for skill-share partnerships, farm visits, and farm sitting.
    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.