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Women Farmland Owners Improve Conservation through WFAN Program
Iowa Ag Connection - 05/25/2010

Women farmland owners in eastern Iowa have made significant improvements in soil and water conservation on their land over the past year, as a result of participating in a pilot program offered by Women, Food and Agriculture Network in early 2009.

About 45 women farmland owners in Linn, Johnson and Jones counties took part in a series of meetings and a field tour with WFAN's Women Caring for the Land program, which brings women together in informal, peer-to-peer meetings facilitated by a female conservation professional to discuss the conservation goals they have for their farms and to provide them with resources and information.

Nearly half of Iowa's farmland is currently owned or co-owned by women. A growing number of them are older women inheriting farms from spouses or parents. Most of the women in the pilot group rent their land to a tenant; the women often report that they do not have the knowledge or confidence to bring up conservation issues with tenants.

A one-year follow-up survey was conducted in April 2010. Nearly half of the participants returned surveys. Results showed that after participating in the Women Caring for the Land pilot, 14 of the women took direct action to improve soil and water conservation on their land, including:

-- writing conservation practices into their tenant leases

-- enrolling in state and federal conservation assistance programs

-- requiring tenants to keep cattle away from waterways

-- improving buffer strips, creating burn plans, and re-seeding grassy waterways

"I felt much more comfortable dealing with my tenant who is cash renting farmland," one woman wrote. "I also felt even better informed about land management in general."

The women owned an average of 180 acres of farmland each. Many said that they planned to continue making improvements and that they would appreciate further opportunities to meet.

WFAN is continuing to offer Women Caring for the Land meetings in various locations around Iowa. For information on bringing one to your community, please call 515-460-2477.

Funding for the program in 2010 is provided by Ben & Jerry's Foundation. An expanded pilot including Nebraska and Wisconsin will begin in the fall of 2010, with funding from North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE).

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